Greece’s New Currency

Greece is on its second bailout, with the possibility of a third bailout looming. The Guardian reports on a man in Greece who received groceries and tax services this month without spending a euro:

In return for his expert labour [as an electrician], Mavridis received a number of Local Alternative Units (known as tems in Greek) in his online network account. In return for the eggs, olive oil, tax advice and the rest, he transferred tems into other people’s accounts.

Tems is an alternative currency created by the Exchange and Solidarity Network. All transactions are recorded electronically via the network’s website. To avoid debt or hoarding, Tems has a debt floor of 300 units, and a ceiling of 1,200. Like time banks, it’s not a barter system as there’s a medium of exchange. However, the group does plan on opening a barter market in the following months.

The article implies that the Greek government is in support of such currency innovations:

The Greek parliament recently passed a law encouraging “alternative forms of entrepreneurship and local development”, including exchange networks such as Volos’s, giving them official non-profit status for tax purposes.

Choupis said there was a new mood abroad in Greece, a determination to “move beyond anger to creativity.”

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  1. Tom Denning says:

    In a attempt to say something novel about the Greek economy, the article resorts to cheap populism..
    Interpreting tax breaks to NGOs into “Greece’s New Currency” regime is a far stretch- every NGO in the Western World enjoys such benefits. According to the same rationale, the Salvation Army is also printing money in the US.

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  2. pjt says:

    So, as a condition for further bail-outs, the rest of Europe insists that Greeks should start paying taxes to fund their government expenditure, and Greece is actually approving of a trading system in a second currency that effectively evades any VAT and other taxes (VAT being the primary funding mechanism for collecting money to the EU).

    I don’t approve. I say: don’t use money that you forcibly extract from me to bail out them or those who have been so recklessly borrowing to them.

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    • aka_ces says:

      You should aim at the parties who made the loans & the bailouts, and not at citizens acting rationally in the real economy of their country.

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      • pjt says:

        I’m definitely not aiming the citizens. Just the Greek government, its advisers (like Goldman Sachs) and those who recklessly loaned money to it.

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  3. Mike B says:

    I don’t see why Greece can’t simply start using two currencies. Instead of cutting public sector wages and benefits, which tends to promote street riots, just start paying those wages and benefits in Greek Fun Bucks instead of Euros and make the new Fun Bucks legal tender within Greece. This will allow Greece to have an internal devaluation.

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  4. Engineer says:

    Historically alternative currencies like TEMS and bartering were prohibited and heavily punished to avoid TAX evasion. Since governements are unable to collect taxes on this exchange systems.

    Greece may soon become unmanageable if this system becomes widespread.

    In the USA, the law would mandate the receiver of TEMS to pay taxes for the equivalent fair market value of the goods or services received in exchange for his services. Lying about this or falsifying your declaration to avoid paying this tax would land you in jail for tax evasion. The Greek government encouraging this sounds surreal…

    Until next time,


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    • Matthew says:

      “Greece may soon become unmanageable if this system becomes widespread.”

      It appears that TEMS does not allow for a welfare component. I could see a slow growth of the idea of compensation for value of effort taking hold and eventually swaying enough people to fix what is broken about Greece that got them where they are in the first place.

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  5. ankur sethi says:

    Problem is their debts are in Euros which they do no control. What about Germany exiting the Euro and devaluing the euro?

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  6. jim618 says:

    We released a Greek translation of the desktop Bitcoin client MultiBit this week:


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  7. BlackPrapor says:

    Greece, go for bitcoin!

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  8. KingofthePaupers says:

    Jct: Just imagine how many American towns were thriving as well during the Great Depression with over 2000 community currencies until they were banned by Roosevelt causing the extra deaths of 7 million Americans. Most people don’t know he banned their community currency solution. Hope they don’t ban TEMS.

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