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Indeed TT, the Sou-Sou (sp) had played a vital role in our Caribbean economy, despite its short-comings of loosing the level of trustworthiness among some of our people. Despite this, it had remained one of the more lucrative approach in circumventing the more rigorous standards of the banking institutions and it became so rooted in our economy, that it was the only tpol available to the average citizens in order to obtain a quick turnaround for cash purchasing.
Surely one can now make a case (as Observer did) as to its feasibility but given the economic environment that existed at the time, where our poor folks literally lived "from hand to mouth" without any support from the banking institutions, the Sou-Sou I would argue, was the best option. It gave one thr opportunity to make a major investment during a shorter period of time and without incurring any lending fees; high interest rate and collateralized backed loans.
On another point, our citizens had fallen prey to an economic model (post colonial era) that did not emphasize the propensity to save. Furthermore, the limited savings which wad derived mainly from a under-paid workforce took several years to accumulate thus loosing any purchasing opportunity that may have presented itself along the way. The Sou-Sou hand drawing and the ability to transfer ownership of the drawing to another based on immediate need was perhaps the most flexible approach to the practice and is one that you will not see, even in today's banking practices .
So it was inevitable that as the banking industry became less stringent in its requirements to obtain loans, the Sue-Sue hand would loose its importance as a cash generating alternative but this un-secured practice was once the corner-stone for raising cash in our economy .
Too bad it had to meet its untimely death.
Try obtaining a loan or paying one back without having to pay Closing Fees and high interest rates.
PS: Nice of you to join us after all these years. I remembered you well as you were at the Southern end of Edward Street while I was at the Northern end.
A Happy New Year to all
AS we all ponders and gives our views to the SOU SOU debate,i can remember as a boy my mother (RIP)ran a SOU SOU,and I have never ever heard anybody complain about never getting their HAND or somebody not paying after they get their hand, but remember folks those were the days of another generation,cause I remember when SOU SOU was a big thing,and die hards use to look forward to their HAND,sometimes to buy school clothes,school books,ETC, AND perharps if we had to go back in time perharps a lot of us would Join a SOU SOU with the same HONEST persons that was around, No disrespect to the not so honest ones,
.......No disrespect to the not so honest ones,.............
Why not, Melo. lol I am certain that some have been toasted in Sou-sous.
There was an article written in one of the NY newspapers about the values and drawbacks of the Sou-Sou. I have not found it but I found this one.
I myself was in a small sou-sou twice and the money came in really handy. The person who ran it got a minimal amount and as it was a small sou-sou (a few relatives mainly and small weekly amounts) it never reached the bank as the money was delivered to the handler and disbursed in more or less the same day/weekend. Nowadays, I assume it is probably deposited into an account and yet will it stay there long enough to collect much if any interest as Observer indicated?
Thing is that most people after they work in an institution that pays them by Direct Deposit or cheques they deposit into a bank account would not join a sou-sou and yet I was surprised when one of my nurse friends told me she was waiting on a sou-sou hand - my eyes opened when I heard the amount. Now, if someone defaults, that is a lot of money to replace. lol
As this article states you have to deal with trusted people indeed. It is not only a matter of being dishonest but life can throw some drawbacks in one's path. I have never found out what happens if one or more of the participants does not continue after receiving a hand, loses his or her job long term, falls ill, or dies. In this article, it states that the person who runs this particular Sou-sou has to put in that missing amount. She is running a large hand Sou-sou too but that is a risk she decided to take so maybe and hopefully she has money put aside for such a happening. Once I was told that the other people pay a little extra to compensate. Maybe the rules differ in each sou-sou.
I think it was Wendell DeRiggs who wrote about a very essential ingredient that made our Grenada of yester-year appear to be so ideal. That ingredient was TRUST which was what our sou-sou was based on. Yes there were times when the handler got burnt, but in general most folks lived up to their obligations which might explain why the sou-sou was so popular and can still be found today. At least that was my experience.
The sou-sou was merely one form of that trust that people had in each other, but it was displayed in many other ways too. One was shop-keepers like my mother "trusting" their customers with goods and hoping to be paid at a later date. Our shop was a story by itself. There were too many "trusts" that are still to this day uncollected in full. If I were able to collect from the many folks who never even bothered to repay her, I might be financially okay today. There were times when she had to "bring-up" this or that person to force the courts to make them pay her.
She gave loans to a few folks to help pay their passages to migrate to England. While the majority repaid her in full with a nice thank you Christmas card and an appreciative small bonus attached, some made a few installments and just stopped paying the balance altogether. A minute number never even bothered to make any payments period! Some said that since she had her shop and boats she didn't need the repayment. Oh well!
At nights as a little boy, I used to sit at the intersection of Upper Depradine and New Street (just opposite the pipe stand), selling groundnuts for Ma. As usual many people trusted from me, and in many cases I simply forgot who they were, and whether they paid or not. So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when during a recent vacation in Gouyave, my nephew called me saying that there was someone downstairs who wanted to talk to me. He didn't know the individual, and neither did I recognize the man when I first saw him. All the fond memories came flooding back in my mind when he told me he was Joe Lewis, one of Gouyave's favorite football players back in the 1950's. Joe Lewis told me that he did not come to look for me only to renew old acquaintance. Hearing that I was home on vacation as he was, he came to repay me the two schilling and six pence that he said he had trusted from me in groundnuts during those masanto-lit nights in Gouyave. To this day I can't recall his owing me anything, but he insisted that he did, and would not listen to my "don't worry about it, it's been too long" protestations. He paid me every penny after some 40-50 years. What a bloke!!!!!
Another form of trust that people took for granted was leaving the doors of their homes unclosed whether they were at home or not. That was just the way it was done, and rarely was there any crisis.
Of course the sou-sou had its own style and place. Since bank loans were almost unthinkable for poor people, folks devised their won form of banking expressed in the sou-sou. They knew that it would help them pay their children's school fees, buy uniforms and books etc. And yes some used it to buy the boards or cement and bricks to build their new homes. When all went well even banking couldn't rival it for sheer simplicity and the surety it gave to its participants. Some even used to take last and first hands when there was an expensive project they wanted to undertake. How else could poor people raise such "enormous" sums to finance whatever their projects were?
But as others have already pointed out the sou-sou could be "cur-cut eat you name" when things went awry. One of those times was when my mother gave me a hand to take to Mrs Bertie Wilson, opposite to the gas-station. Getting involved in a game of marbles, and then football, I completely forgot that Ma had sent me. What happened to the twenty-something pounds or so I had in my pocket, I don't know. Imagine me going home to tell my mother that I had lost it. To make a long story short, she had to replace those pounds from her own personal monies to give Miss Bertie her sou-sou hand.
Simpler times produced simpler solutions. The sou-sou as the supreme expression of trust was no less a reflection of those nostalgic days of "Loyalty," "Labor Reward," "Florida Pride," "Comfort" and "Welcome" among other feel-good and trusting days.
Sou Sou has always been the poor man's way of saving parts of his hard earned money. What was more important was that the advantages one had to use the Sou Sou hand when hed gotten it. The lump sum was actually the participants of the Sou Sou's own money, but it was a reasonable way to save it. The banks were strict with their lending of monies to those who had no collerrals, and even if one had put their money into a savings account in the banks, it would have taken many years to get a ssubstantial interest on it. And also, the banks would've made more on your money, than what they paid you as interest on your money.
Sou Sou is an international thing. It is being held in some of the richest countries around the world. In Venezuela, it was done with the person who ran the Sou Sou getting a complete hand as payment for managing the Sou Sou. I never understood it, but I saw that it was a responsibility for the Sou Sou runner to have, for the times when someone couldn't make the weekly payment,.especially after they'drreceived their hand. That was when the Sou Sou's manager had to fork out money from his/her own pocket to cover up for the shortages of any mishap (bad payment/out of a job person(s), etc.) that might've occurred during the weeks that the Sou Sou was held for.
Around the communities where I live, Sou Sou is done regular by the Jamaicans,.Trinidadians,.and even a smaller number of Grenadians. It has no look to it that the tradition will die soon. Many people prefer to join a Sou Sou, than saving their money in the bank. With the banks, if you don't maintain a certain amount of money in your banking account, you'll have to pay for that. With the Sou Sou, if you are unable to continue making your weekly payments, you can simply drop out of the whole thing, without having the extra worries if paying a fine for you opting out of the Sou Sou.
Sou Sou was a remarkable way for mothers and fathers to see their way through ordinary life. Some folks were able to build their homes, send their children to school, with books and complete uniforms, gave their kids the opportunity to commune and confirm, with a one or two hands drawn from a Sou Sou.
I cannot say whether or not a Sou Sou is better than saving one's money in a bank, but overall, I think that Sou Sou is a much better help for those who have urgent use for money - to get money,.without having to pay huge interest on it afterwards.
By the way, Sou Sou helped Mama to get me started out in High School on a good foot!