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Plan V for Greece - A Parallel Currency

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13th Aug 2012

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It's time for Plan V: introduction of a parallel digital currency in Greece that would help it to stay in the Euro and boost local economic liquidity.
'The great austerity' has settled onto Greece and its southern European neighbours like a paralysing fog. Unemployment is ballooning while bailouts propping up the Greek banks (and the related northern European loan structure) fizzle, pouring good money down a deep fiscal well. This capital is soaked up by banks for interest payments and liquidity minimums, never reaching the people themselves. It provokes unprecedented hardship and anger amid a growing consumer liquidity crunch.
At its core, Greece is faced with a solvency problem. It does not have the funds to pay what it owes, and it refuses to implement cuts that would help pay these debts back, knowing in part that the debts are so large doing so would kill the economy for half a generation. A solution to this intractable problem is to adjust pricing competitiveness, but Greece can't because it is shackled to an expensive Euro system. For every job lost and company out of business, the network around shrivels that much more, worsening the plight of Greece. Its time for Plan V.
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To slow the spiral and give Greece a breather, parallel currencies are a useful incremental solution. Instead of leaving the Euro, Greece could introduce a side currency to function at the P2P level within the existing financial structure, with small direct payment benefits issued now in exchange for bigger macro-fiscal changes.
By providing parallel liquidity for trade among Greek SMEs and individuals, trade and employment can be goosed, providing a much needed stimulus to the economy that comes not from a centralised, top-down structure flowing from the banks, but from the people themselves, who can offer labor, goods, services, and more as a means of stimulus to drive exchange via direct issuance.
Think of it like "April shower economics" instead of the "trickle down" approach: in a fiscal desert a little rain creates a lot of May flowers.
Here's how Plan V would work. Greece can adopt a policy to pay a small but gradual percentage of domestic payments in Ven today, in exchange for a larger percentage of cuts to domestic programmes over the long run. For instance, a 6% (x%) cut in benefits and services could be offset with a 3% Ven payment (y% where y<x).
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Not only would it soften the effect of cuts, it would put valuable benefits into the hands of citizens who could more readily choose how to exercise the benefits available to them. Eventually, portions of this rain shower flow back to government coffers through taxation, helping to increase revenues that can be used toward austerity or benefits.
Used as a digitally traded IOU, the Ven has many benefits - it is stable, it can't disappear into the grey market, and purchases could be taxable at different rates, where it could potentially favour specific uses, such as for food, shelter, healthcare or other basic needs over luxury items or export outside of local ecosystems. Ven can be exchanged to anyone with an email address, and it is fundamentally backed by a set of assets that include currencies and commodities, imparting stability. A major key to success is availability, which can be managed if it is widely issued alongside the Euro as a kind of individual benefit against social benefit reductions.
A fundamental issue at the heart of the Greek problem is that any country has three main fiscal tools, of which it can have two. A fixed currency (the euro today), autonomy over monetary policy (adjustability), or capital mobility. Greece needs autonomy over its currency, and has the other two. An incremental, parallel introduction of Ven for domestic usage can enable these domestic price adjustments without leaving the Euro behind.
Introductions of parallel currencies have worked before, in several different circumstances. The introduction of the URV (Unidade Real de Valor) in Brasil in 1994 helped stabilised Brasil after years of hyperinflation by simply changing the expectation and mindset of the people, and by providing an alternative to the existing main currency. It paved the way for the eventual transition to the Real, known and loved by Brasil today. Here the circumstances were different, but the introduction of an alternative currency helped solve a larger problem.
In depressed economies, localised currencies have been proven to stimulate short-term demand and employment, from the famous W rgl experiment in 1930s Austria to the UK's modern Brixton pound to local LETS systems popping up everywhere. Throughout the cold war, the global economy benefited greatly from Eurodollars - foreign dollar accounts that provided parallel stability for less favoured national currencies and which are now linked to up to 90% of global international trade.
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Ven in Greece started small and can focus on local exchange as it grows. A wider strategy can be easily implented, with initial use from local communities in coordination with Greek banks and employers or organically from individuals who choose to use it on their own. Direct payments in Ven would provide much needed liquidity to the Greek people, a transparent exchange system available now, and a derivative incentive for green investment through reserve assets held in Ven denominated international accounts.
Helping Greece get its costs in line is in everyone's interest, and successful use of a parallel currency can light the way for liquidity uses in other less severely affected markets, like Ireland and Spain, helping to lift the fog that has paralysed these economies.
Best of all, Ven is ready to go. Over 10 million units have been exchanged in over 50 countries among a user base of 11,000+ accounts. All anyone needs is an email address and an internet connection to participate in the Ven economy, which is available via HubCulture.com.
Through this mechanism, it would even be possible to drive P2P lending, capital raising and more using Ven, giving Greece an economic tool for the 21st century, and its people a chance to get back on their feet.
For more on Ven, its backing and how it came to be watch this or ask questions here. Are you a bank, NGO or Developer? Click here.