For folks on one sunny island, “Give ’em credit” is more than an expression; it’s how they get a lot of day-to-day business done.
Seth Doane traveled to Sardinia to bring us this report:
An artichoke farmer … a cheese maker … a tile manufacturer … a butcher: They’re all part of a network of thousands of businesses on the island of Sardinia that are not using traditional money to buy, sell, or pay salaries.
“We realized in 2009 that there were goods available, services available. Resources were there,” said Giuseppe Littera. “The only missing thing was money.”
Littera is one of the founders of a virtual currency called Sardex. It’s a network of companies that exchange goods and services among each other in Sardinia without the need for cash.
This stunning Italian island seems far from Wall Street. But the 2009 financial crisis rocked this picturesque place. Companies couldn’t get credit and went out of business. Unemployment hit 18 percent.
Littera and a group of friends hoped they might spur growth here by developing a system that would allow businesses to earn and spend without relying on the euro, or on banks that wouldn’t lend.
Sardex gives businesses who want to join a credit line based on the product they have, as well as what they require. “You might have cheese, but you might need uranium. We don’t have uranium in Sardinia,” Literra said. “Sorry, you cannot join!”
“But if I have cheese and I want fruit?” asked Doane.
“Then there’s a match. But it can be more than that. You might have cheese, but you might need a dentist for your daughter, and you don’t have the euros to pay for the dentist. But by selling cheese you might get credits and pay the dentist.”
Sardex is creating new businesses in Sardinia. Take Mario Mele, who grows a special Sardinian spiny artichoke at the farm Sa Marigosa, and does about 10 percent of his business in Sardex.
“We saw it as a way to get a new slice of the market and new clients,” he explained. Crops he might not otherwise sell can now be traded for other goods. He’s…