Barcelona launches new digital currency
City council will pay a proportion of social benefits to underprivileged people in the electronic money
Barcelona now has a digital currency that can already be used in 86 shops and market stalls in 10 different neighborhoods in the city.
The new currency is called 'rec' (short for Recurs Econòmic Ciutadà, or Citizen's Economic Resource in English).
Between Monday and Wednesday lunchtime, some 352 recs had been used of the 42,590 recs going into circulation this month. Each rec is worth the same as a euro.
What's more, some 315 people with financial difficulties will receive 25% of their social benefits from the city council in the currency.
Barcelona deputy mayor, Gerard Pisarello, said on Wednesday that the aim is "to strengthen local commerce, avoid the abandonment of local areas, and avoid the money spent by local people just going to large supermarkets or online stores."
In the presentation of the currency in the Besós market, Pisarello explained that other local currencies already existed in cities such as "Bristol, Lisbon, and Nantes," while in Catalonia, the 'grama' already exists in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, just north of the Catalan capital.
The deputy mayor also explained that the rec is part of B-Mincome, an urban and social project to tackle poverty that is backed by the European Union.
The area of the city in which the rec is being initially unveiled covers 10,000 residents -some 7% of Barcelona's total population- most of whom live on below-average salaries.
How it works
The rec works through a mobile application that can be downloaded from Android's Google Play. The currency based on blockchain technology allows for free and instantaneous payments.
According to Martí Olivella from Novact, the social organization promoting the currency, once established, the circulation of the rec could grow to the equivalent of 700,000 euros a year, which would mean "1.5 million financial transactions in these neighborhoods."
Meanwhile, Carlos García, of the El més bo stall in the Besós market, said that shopkeepers would accept the currency as something that will benefit everyone.