Spain Experiments with Alternative Economics

COMMON DREAMS STAFF http://www.commondreams.org

As Spain’s economic recession has continued to deepen,
conditions for people within the country are expected to get
worse following austerity measures that increasingly cut into
everyday economic survival, Reuters reports Tuesday. However,
as many economists grapple over numbers, and search for signs
of hope for a free market revival, many people within Spain
have increasingly started to turn to alternative currency
systems, or parallel euro- free economies — giving up the
ghost of a neoliberal recovery in exchange for a new way.

According to Reuters, following recent extreme austerity
measures, a rush of consumers and firms withdrew their money
from Spanish banks in July, with private sector deposits
falling almost 5 percent, to 1.509 trillion euros ($1.896
trillion) at end-July from 1.583 trillion a month earlier,
signally an extreme loss in faith in the austerity economy.

“Analysts believe it is inevitable that Spain will soon have
to call for a European rescue package to help bring its debt
costs down as austerity measures designed to slash the public
deficit push the economy deeper into recession,” Reuters
reports.

“With much more fiscal austerity in the pipeline and
unemployment at astronomic highs, the risks are clearly
tilted towards a more protracted recession,” said Martin van
Vliet, an economist at ING.

However, as the Washington Post reports today, at a time when
the future of the euro is in doubt and millions are
unemployed, alternative forms of exchange and survival are
springing up in the cracks of capitalism, allowing people to
exchange, barter, and live outside of failing currencies.

One example given by the Post is the proliferation of “time
banks” throughout the country. Time banks allow people to
trade their services amongst one another in a currency of
hours. One provides a service for a certain amount of time
and can ‘buy’ another service for that same amount of time.
Time banks allow people to exchange labor and services
without the need for abstract currencies.

In another instance, residents in the city of Malaga have
established a website which allows individuals to earn money
and buy products using a virtual currency.

In the Catalonian fishing town of Vilanova i la Geltru,
residents are experimenting with a localized currency, which
is worth slightly more than the euro when it is used at local
stores.

“This is a way for people who are on the fringes of the
economy to participate again,” said Josefina Altes,
coordinator of the Spanish Time Bank Network.

“This is part of the cooperatives, credit unions, community
banks, organic farms and recovering factories – the alternate
economy – that the Occupy movement is groping towards”

Similar projects have been taking place in Greece, Portugal
and other hurting euro-zone countries.

“While each social-money project has its own accounting
rules, the basic concept is the same. You earn credits by
providing services or selling goods, and you can redeem the
credits with people or businesses in the network,” the Post
reports.

“These experiments aim to take communities back to a time
when goods and services were bartered, before things such as
interest rates, market speculation and derivatives
complicated the financial world.”

Time Bank organizers say as the crisis deepens more and more
people are signing up for such projects.

There are now more than 325 time banks and alternative
currency systems in Spain involving tens of thousands of
citizens. The projects represent one of the largest
experiments in “social money” in modern times.

Peter North, a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool
who has written two books on alternative currencies, told the
Post that the recent efforts in Spain may last longer than
similar projects in the past because they are connected to
the 15M, or “Indignados,” movement — a protest movement
which began in Spain and helped inspire the global Occupy
movement.

“Instead of just being a desperate way for people to survive
a horrible economic crisis, this is part of the cooperatives,
credit unions, community banks, organic farms and recovering
factories – the alternate economy – that the Occupy movement
is groping towards,” North said.

Anger over austerity measures has consumed Spain over the
past two years. Tensions heightened again in July when the
Spanish parliament passed an $80 billion austerity package,
which included pay cuts for civil workers, an increase in
sales tax, benefits cuts and a raise in retirement age.

The package came in exchange for a $122 billion rescue
package pushed for by Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy,
and approved finally by the German parliament. Following the
deal, protesters took to the streets on a nearly daily basis,
culminating in a countrywide protest of tens of thousands of
demonstrators across 80 cities on July 19, 2012.

The Rajoy government is expected to formally request
additional Euro bailout money by mid-September or October,
and is likely to continue drastic austerity policies.

 

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2 responses to “Spain Experiments with Alternative Economics

  1. There will be many more forms of alternatives to our present-day capitalist economic model, which is failing more people as time goes on. Cooperatives, such as Mondragon in Spain, offer another model. An economy that is based on cooperation, with production for human need, is what we need.

  2. I am pleased to read your post. I was searching for the related topic you discussed in there. Thanks and more power!

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