Barcelona begins to shape its controversial local currency

Barcelona City Council has set the next half year to carry out the dissemination and design of the future local currency for Barcelona, ​​which could be defined in the spring. A controversial tool -which has the opposition of the Bank of Spain, which a few months ago described it as “impossible as well as undesirable” – whose main objective will be the economic promotion of small and medium-sized businesses and whose content draft seems to be working specialists of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra. From the outset, we work with a concept of digital currency , more operational and less expensive than the paper currency that, among other functions, serves citizens and merchants to buy and sell and that the money stays in the city.

Currently there are many models of local currencies in the world

<br /><br />Currently there are many models of local currencies in the world

although the Barcelona City Council has set itself successful projects such as Bristol (England), Nantes (France) or Sardinia (Italy), each with its idiosyncrasy, as a point of departure for the development of an own model. However, they are aware that before talking about the model to the merchants, the main stakeholders, we will have to explain what it is and what advantages it will bring. “We are going to open a pedagogical process in Barcelona to see which modality can be implemented, explain the proposals that are currently working and create the context so that it can thrive.” It is a mid-term process that society has to make its own. and the administration give their support “, explains the commissioner of Commerce, Miquel Ortega, aware that they still do not have the favor of the commercial sector, very foreign to this type of initiatives. Consulted sources of Finance and the Bank of Spain did not want yesterday to make comments yesterday on the initiative. The lack of specificity of the proposal puts it in a kind of legal limbo. The absence of financial intermediaries in the project and the uncertainty about its scope make it initially difficult to approach.

Oblivious to this situation, the City Council continues working on its currency -whose name will be chosen through a participatory process- it will be digital and will be operated through electronic wallet cards or mobile devices. The physical currency is only provided from a symbolic point of view and even as a souvenir for tourists, who are not discarded as future users. “It would be about making them enter the circuit in a simple way and that would give them an added attraction, that shopping in Barcelona with the local currency would be another element of the city’s identity,” explains Ortega. Like the rest of the local currencies in operation, their value will probably be comparable to that of the euro and can be changed back to the official currency at any time. With it you can pay for purchases at partner stores – the whole project is voluntary. Consequently, sales will occur locally, boosting internal economic activity and preventing the new money from leaving the territory, as is often the case with official money. But in order to compensate its use to the citizen, a system of advantages and bonuses in the shops must also be created.

The key to the success of the implementation of any local currency is that it is a city project.

<br /><br />The key to the success of the implementation of any local currency is that it is a city project.

It can not be just the plan of a mayor, because when she leaves, the proposal will go with her, and here there is enough critical mass for it to prosper,” says Andreu Honzawa, expert on monetary diversity and representative in Spain of the Dutch foundation Social Trade Organization (STRO), the first organization that specialized in local currencies, more than twenty years ago. For this reason, the City Council is now working on the preparation of pedagogical materials and specific guides for traders and neighbors, as well as workshops and workshops that will be held in the coming months. The feasibility of paying certain subsidies through the currency, as well as certain taxes and services such as public transport are also studied. The objective is that the citizens trust in this new money and use it. A coin that, in no case comes, to replace the official. In fact, and in spite of the comments of the Bank of Spain and the Treasury, the experts warn that whenever a new currency is created, the monopoly of the European Central Bank is threatened, there will be no legal impediment, especially if the experiences take place in small territories.

While Barcelona is now beginning its journey towards its own local currency, Santa Coloma de Gramenet has taken the lead and in all likelihood will be the first municipality in Spain to establish it. A currency with which you can channel part of private spending towards the flow of local commerce. According to a study, 75% of the purchases of their neighbors are made in other cities. With the new digital currency “the spending will be loyal,” says the mayor, Núria Parlón, who foresees that the initiative will be fully operational in the first half of 2016, once the public ordinances are modified at the end of the year and the process of participation to choose the name.

Santa Coloma is also a digital model that will incorporate a rechargeable credit card type identification and will allow those who adhere to operate in the city with a payment system over the internet and through mobile devices. Even municipal workers may receive a maximum of 30% of their salary in local currency. Grants to social and cultural entities can also be paid with it. The initiative is part of the European project Digipay, through which the Consistory has received a grant of funds of 132,000 euros. The digital currency will allow the payment of some taxes, such as the IBI, to those businesses that join the initiative. For later there are other proposals such as obtaining microcredits or loans, which for now are not foreseen, “since there is no bank entity” that participates, reveals the mayor. Merchants and restaurateurs welcome the initiative.

The establishment of parallel local currencies began in France in 2010, due to the behavior of the financial sector and as an alternative to the false accounting of growth. The pioneering city was Toulouse, where the sun-violette began its journey in 2011. Four years later, Jean-Louis Ortiz, president of the Faubourg Bonnefoy merchants’ association, which groups 80 shops in that area of ​​the city, confesses completely ignore the local currency: “None of my associates manages it, but I find it interesting, especially for small towns”. In Toulouse there are about 200 shops involved in the sun-violette network; Delicatessen, bookstores, printers, health professionals … “70% of the activity in the local currency is carried out in the food sector and there is 40,000 euros in that currency,”

explains activist Camille Pascual. The sense is to promote local commerce


an economy that respects people and nature, and resist the asphyxiation caused by large stores, he says. A coin, in short, with an added value to the mere exchange value. Florian Belmonte, a Toulouse plumber, has entered the circuit of the local currency that most inhabitants ignore or ignore. Belmonte admits that he has some “accounting problems” and says that it does not have much impact on his activity, but he has embraced the initiative. He has received his first local coins as a tip. The short-term objective is to leave the circle of the “convinced”, consolidate a digital support parallel to paper to facilitate exchanges and enter the services sector; museums, transports, municipal swimming pools, et cetera.

The example of Toulouse has been exported to other cities. Nantes introduced its currency in April, the sound card, a red card that was launched with 150 adhered businesses and aims to reach 3,000 shops and businesses and 10,000 people, 10% of the city, in four years. In Strasbourg, the stück has just been born, with 50 shops attached since the beginning of the month. In Lyon, where the driving group began its activity in 2010, inspired by Toulouse, the local currency, the gonette, will be launched on November 7. Rafael Poch