TheLiberty is a local paper for Dublin's south inner city

February 2001

Economist calls for Liberties currency system

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By Laurence Mackin

LEADING economist Mr Richard Douthwaite was the key speaker at a meeting to promote the use of alternative community financing. The meeting, which took place in the St Nicholas of Myra Parish Hall, was organised by Ms Colleen Dube of the Four Cities Project.

According to Mr Douthwaite: "Local people have been losing out to commercial activity and large corporations. What communities need to do is put a financial skin around the community that benefits people within its boundaries. This allows people to do things for themselves and break their powerlessness".

Among the proposed schemes is the introduction of a local currency and a Local Exchange Trading System (LETSystem) for the Liberties area. LETSystem works on points earned for work done. Members in the scheme do work for each other and earn points that can be used by either employing people within the scheme or spending them in local shops. The advantages are that people can earn points by doing a job they cannot normally get money for, such as babysitting for a neighbour and it keeps business within the local community.

The other system proposed was a local currency, which would only be valid in a small area, such as the Dublin 8 district. This scheme, which Mr Douthwaite called "the most impressive financial experiment in the last century" has been successfully carried out in towns in the US and Europe as well as in other towns in Ireland. Ballyhaunis in Co Mayo has been operating its own currency, the Roma, for the past 18 months, in an EU-sponsored trial and has proved very popular and beneficial to local business.

Another financial alternative mooted was the introduction of a new system. The Jakbank is a Scandinavian financial institution which gives interest-free loans. The customer borrows an amount and agrees to repay it and lodge that same amount in their account in the Jakbank at a later date. This allows the bank to lend out to even more customers. Not only are the loans interest free, but they are also given out on a very personal basis. This means that people who may not necessarily have a good credit rating can still avail of substantial loans if they are well known in the area. Discussions have already taken place locally and the Swedish bank has agreed to allow the use of its licence in a branch in Ireland. The next stage is a cost and feasibility study.