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Amount saved

More than half of the respondents interviewed in the low-income household survey indicated that they were not saving at all. Of these, female heads of household were the least likely to be saving. Only 46 per cent of female heads were saving, compared with 55 per cent of male and 57 per cent of joint heads (see table 10).

Table 10, Weekly expenditure on savings by different types of households

Type of household

Amount spent weekly on savings




















51 .7











A higher percentage of female heads than other heads were saving nothing at all and a much smaller percentage were saving over $150.

Forms of saving

Apart from saving in a tin can or through similar means, four main means of saving were identified in the survey - banks, building societies, credit unions and Partners. The first three are well known methods of saving that have been institutionalized within the formal sector. The fourth is a product of the informal sector and constitutes the most primitive organized means of accumulating capital in society. The system is largely controlled by female bankers and is therefore of particular interest to this study. A brief description of the way in which the Partners operate is given below.


The Partner is a widespread form of saving within the informal sector and constitutes the simplest form of capital formation in society. Normally, but not exclusively, found among low-income populations, it has long-standing historical roots and is thought to have arrived with slaves brought from West Africa where it is still known by names such as "Esusu" and "Isusu". It is a form of savings that is found in many parts of the world with small variations in its operation occurring in different regions. In Trinidad and Tobago. for instance. it is known as "Sou-sou".

A Partner is run by a banker who is usually either an established and trusted member of the community or a well-respected fellow worker at the work place. With few exceptions partner bankers are women. Partners are thrown daily. weekly. fortnightly or monthly, at which time a regular sum, known as a throw, is given to the banker. Every day, week, fortnight or month, one member receives the draw which is composed of the accumulated throws or hand for that period less one throw which is usually given to the banker as recompense for her services. Sometimes the banker takes the first draw instead.

The banker determines the order in which members receive their draws and will normally give the earlier draws to the longer-standing and more trusted members, leaving those considered least reliable for the later draws. An early draw is effectively equivalent to an interest free loan and there is sometimes confusion over whether the Partner is a loan as well as a savings system for this reason. In cases of emergency, the banker may use her discretion and award a draw earlier than planned. This occurs when there is a death in the family for instance or medical expenses must be paid for a child.

Most Partners are run for periods ranging between three months and a year. At the end of that time a new one will be started by the banker but it will not necessarily be composed of the same members. At any one time a single banker may run several Partners, and members may belong to Partners run by a number of different bankers.

Partners are recognized by the formal legal system and members who have received their draws and then refused to continue paying their throws into the hand, have been successfully prosecuted as have bankers who have collected throws but failed to deliver draws. For the most part however, the security of the system is maintained by means of group pressure, and occasionally by threats of, and even actual physical violence.

The time period between draws is determined by the pattern of income inflows on the part of the throwers. Higglers within the markets, for instance, throw Partners on a daily basis. Wage workers throw them weekly and salaried civil servants throw them on a monthly basis. The amount thrown can be as little at $J2.00 or as great as $J300. There are reported accounts of throws as large as $1000 among the larger and more successful higglers.

The longevity of the Partner is largely determined by the period between draws. Daily Partners normally last two to three weeks. Weekly Partners last for between 6 and 12 months, and monthly Partners normally last a year.

The number of members within a Partner normally ranges between 10 and 50 with the largest Partners being those that are thrown weekly. Any one individual may have more than one throw within a Partner and will be entitled to as many draws, or hands, as she has throws.

All the bankers keep a record book in which members names are ticked off as they pay in their money. When members receive their draw they sign in the record book and also write down the amount that they have received as the draw. The money is usually collected from the members at the work place or at the bankers home if the Partner is community-based. Collections are made at the end of the week in the case of weekly Partners and at the end of the month in the case of monthly Partners. Draws are usually made several days later.

As mentioned previously, bankers are expected to have a certain status within the community or at the work place. and, in many cases, they are asked to become bankers by their potential throwers. In some cases bankers appoint themselves and use the system as their main income-generating activity.

Some of them are self-taught and rely on their own experience as throwers to start a Partner. Others have the backing of older established bankers who teach them the tricks of the trade. Some bankers have an informal network with other bankers, but, most often, they work totally independently.