Bartering through the cash crisis

As recession deepens, thousands of people in Britain turn to alternatives for money.

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    Dozens of bartering schemes have emerged in the UK since the recession

    The global recession has led many countries to come up with new ways of handling their finances, but in Britain, the age-old practice of bartering has made a comeback.

    Cliff Port is working enthusiastically on a permaculture eco-friendly garden reserve in south London, but he is not chopping and pruning for money.

    In fact, he will not earn a penny for his Herculean labours.

    Port is a founding member of a local community-based barter system called Kutlets.

    The members pool their skills and resources, and then trade goods and services without using money.

    "We don't have money," says Port.

     
    "We have something called the beak, an alternative to money. Money doesn't really exist, it's just a middle man that enables you to do your trading.

     

    "We've just created a different one that isn't tied down to the constraints of the global economy."

    This may at first appear to be a local venture, but it has spread elsewhere. The global recession has led to dozens of similar schemes around the UK; more than 100,000 people in Britain are now bartering.

    I went online and found all kinds of services on offer for barter from babysitting to translation services.

    Communal assistance

    One of the women responsible for the success of the bartering system is Mary Fee, who runs a national network called LetsLink.

    I met her at a session for new recruits in central London. Young and old, rich and poor - people from all walks of life are attracted to bartering.

    "If a friend can give you a lift," Mary says, "and that can be done on the Lets scheme you don't have to call a cab."

    "If you can't afford to eat out but somebody will come cook for you on the Lets scheme, then you have a great party and you haven't had to pay real money. "

    As news stories continue to reveal the challenges posed by the global credit crunch, some towns are going beyond just local bartering. Lewes in southern England is printing its own money.

    This is a case of history repeating itself. In 1895, Lewes had its own pound; more than a century later, its alternative currency is back.

    Voucher system

    Lewes essentially employs a system based on vouchers or tokens, but residents use them in local shops which in turn helps the local economy.

    Some towns, like Lewes in southern England, are printing their own money [AFP]
    Oliver Dudok van Heel, a Lewes resident, is concerned by the impact of rising oil prices and consumption.

    "We're not looking for an alternative system, we are not saying globalisation or global economies are bad," he told Al Jazeera.

    He says there is a need to "re-balance" so that products created by the local economy are properly valued.

    "If you want to support the local people who are suffering from the local recession why don't you use Lewes pounds?" he said.

    While Lewes is now being described as a transition town, its pound is clearly never going to rival the British pound sterling - only about 70 shops in the town accept the currency.

    But just like bartering it is one way that local communities have pioneered efforts to try to beat the credit crunch.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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