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Talents launched as alternative to cash economy
November 7th, 2009
By David Armstrong
This year's tough economic climate has stimulated renewed interest in a Tasman regional trading system where people use their "Talents" to buy and sell products, services and skills locally.
Talents stands for Tasman Area Local Exchange Network and Trading System, a non-profit scheme launched in mid-October that uses the current value of a free range egg as the unit of currency, rather than the dollar note.
Presently 40 people are enrolled in the system, which uses a website to allow sellers to price and promote their wares and buyers to look for local products and services that they may not be able to afford in the conventional dollar-based economy.
Membership has been growing this year, mainly due to the recession which has made money tighter, says Joanna Santa Barbara, one of Talents' administrators. (Photo above.)
"Last year the Transition Town movement started in Motueka, part of a global movement to establish vibrant, resilient and self-reliant communities," she says. This gave a surge of energy to the languishing MOSS (Motueka Skills Swap) initiative to rebuild a local currency system.
MOSS was based on a mutual credit clearance system, where people "banked" and exchanged hours and skills through services. It had been running for 16 years but had run down during the economic boom times early this decade, when cash was more readily available.
With the renewed interest in alternative cashless economies, a new local currency was needed which is not pinned to uncertain external factors, like oil and climate change, that are driving the New Zealand dollar, Joanna says. "This meant tying the currency unit to a simple commodity that everyone understands, and we chose the price of one standard free range egg."
So one Talent equals the current value of one egg. At present, this is equivalent to 50 cents.
Sellers quote Talents as the price of goods and services, and buyers are free to negotiate if they think the price is not right. Partial dollar cash components may be included in transactions. Over time, members must earn as many Talents as they spend.
Joanna says there are three major benefits of this system.
"It enables people short of regular cash to buy and sell, allowing them to continue to be part of the economy. Secondly, it strengthens the local economy, as members trade with other local people. And thirdly, it helps build communities, because buyers can actually relate directly to providers."
Golden Bay has run a similar system called "Hands" for 20 years, and one is being set up in Nelson. Joanna expects that trade based on agreed exchange rates will be enabled between the three regions.
Standard tax rules apply for people making a livelihood out of their online trade, but people using it for occasional sales do not have to declare the income to IRD.
To become a member of Talents, you must be endorsed by an existing member, so that trust and integrity is maintained. Application forms are available at the Motueka Community House, Decks Reserve, and more information about the scheme can be found at the website, www.ces.org.za
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