Barcelona and Santa Coloma to introduce own local currency in 2017

calculatorBARCELONA will have its own ‘virtual currency’ by next year, despite the Bank of Spain warning the move is ‘ill-advised’.

From January 1, 2017, the town of Santa Coloma de Gramenet will accept its own local currency in 108 shops, restaurants and other business premises.

And the so-called ‘social currency’ will be in operation in the Eix Besòs cluster – the Nou Barris, Sant Andreu and Sant Martí neighbourhoods of Barcelona city – from the same date.
By the year 2019, the whole of the metropolitan area will accept the local money.

Physical coins and notes will not be minted, since payment is entirely electronic – via mobile phones and tablets – and Barcelona will be one of 4,000 cities worldwide to use its own currency.
Bristol, UK, was the flagship city for Europe.

Fernando Restoy of the Bank of Spain said last year that introducing a uniquely-municipal form of money was ‘impossible and unacceptable’ in response to Barcelona mayoress Ada Colau’s election pledge.

The currency in Santa Coloma is not the same as the one that will be in circulation in Barcelona, and the town’s mayoress Núria Parlon has called for residents to give it a name.

It will have the same exchange rate as the euro at all times, and payment in the new currency will be via a web portal or App.

Shops, sports halls and other businesses in Santa Coloma will receive grants from the local council to sign up to the currency, and civil servants in the town can earn up to 30% of their wages in the new money.

Barcelona is expected to follow a similar process.

The community currency is aimed at promoting local business and is part of a wider ‘fair trade’ or ‘social economy’ plan set up in Barcelona with a budget of €24 million.

At the moment, it is just a pilot scheme, but if it works it will be developed further.

Spain’s progression towards non-cash payment is very gradual, but has improved considerably in the last decade or so – although it will take a long time before it ever entertains the idea of going down Denmark’s route of a coin-and-note-free economy.

Centre-right political party Ciudadanos, the fourth-largest in Spain at present, wants to introduce a law whereby all consumers have the right to pay by debit or credit card for purchases of €10 or more – not only for customer convenience, but to clamp down on money-laundering.

Already, nearly all supermarkets in Spain allow card payments for any amount, even one cent, and more and more have changed their checkout systems to permit ‘contactless’ payments with mobile phone Apps.

Published Think Spain17 November 2016

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