It is not often that innovative ideas pop up around here. Let’s admit it. We love our comfort zone, we stay in there as much as possible and we protect it as much as possible. When I read about M. Rossiaud’s initiative, I was intrigued. Our own currency for the region? We have already the beautiful Swiss Franc (I love those colorful faces on the banknotes, at some point I have to find the time to check out who they are), plus the EURO just around the corner. Why a third currency? I had the perception this is what countries consider when they are in trouble. Should I panic? No. Instead I contacted M. Rossiaud and asked my simple, hopefully not that naive, questions. He generously answered them and explained why this idea has merit. The background of this effort is based on noble intentions. How it will evolve, it will depend on you and the local community. In my humble opinion, which is not the one of an Economist or any other expert, options are not a bad thing. Thinking out of the box always makes a difference. Taking care of our people, the environment and our community should be the priority of all of us. And this Leman seems to have been cooked with these ingredients. Thank you, Mr Rossiaud.

CAVEAT: My blog does not promote any specific political views.  I just follow and present what seems to be relevant and popular among our community.

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INTERVIEW WITH Mr ROSSIAUD
(How I translated it from French to English)

What is it that you propose?

Three reasons made us act!
First of all, we have to relocalize the economy in our region of cross-border life, for economical but also ecological reasons.
What we consume here should be produced here.  And the money we spend here should not fly away to financial markets.
To do this, we have to strengthen the local aspect, this is what we do with the mutual credit, a credit between our companies which makes the local ecomony stronger.
On top, we want to direct the production and the production towards healthier products, which respect the environment and the people.
To do this, we will use our Lemans in businesses and companies that agree to sign an ethical charter.  thus the Leman will function as a label.
Finally, our region as a cross-border one, the axis of our life here, needs to reinforce its identity towards all those who want to divide us.  The Leman will be in a way our identity card.

What are the advantages of your system?
If you are a small enterpreneur or a small business, you know the challenges, the mutual credit will allow you to find credit, backed by the entire community of the Leman.
Furthermore you can increase your income versus other local companies and attract new clients who are sensitive to the local and sustainable consumption.
if you are a consumer, you will know the list of businesses that promote local and healthy products.
If you are the local authorities, by stimulating the local economy and local employment, you optimize the canton’s fiscal terms; the more you decrease the social expenses ( meaning less unemployment and less social security expenses), you promote for free the social consistency and you protect the health and the environment without additional costs (see proudts which are less harmful to the enviroment and to human health), everything, fighting the global warming too.
The Leman is a WIN WIN WIN !

Will this hurt the Swiss Franc in any way?
Not at all. The Leman is an additional currency to the Swiss Franc and to the Euro. The businesses and the companies, which will use the Leman, will also accept Swiss Francs and EUROs, but they will profit of the above advantages of the Leman.

IOUs are associated with economic crises. To the best of my knowledge, there is not an economic crisis in Switzerland. Are IOUs misunderstood?
You are right, the majority of supplementary currencies were created in conditions of crisis, to respond to a crisis.
Our region does not experience a crisis of cash… for those who have nice credentials.
On the other hand the smaller businesses or the little companies often are challenged in finding credit… even in Geneva…
The institutions always lend to the rich… However, in case of a crisis (and nobody is immune to crisis, even Geneva), the Leman will be a great tool of resistance.

How can one get this currency, if interested?
The Leman will be launched on September 18th for the ALTERNATIBA LEMAN 2015, the Cross-border Festival of Concrete Alternatives to the climate change, where it will be used as a coupon for the entire festival.
After that it will work as additional money that you will be able to change in Money Exchange offices or use in businesses in the region. We have put in place a payment system either by credit card or by telephone.
How much will it cost? Meaning how many Swiss Francs?
Until the end of September, the Leman will be equal to Swiss Franc or the Euro. After that we will adopt the exchange rate between the Swiss Franc and the EURO.

Is it the same type of IOU that Venezuela had or that Greece talked about earlier this summer?
It is indeed the same type of initiative, but each currency is different than the other, since it is a democratic currency, of the local citizens. It is the participating community (all the partners together) who will decide the future of Leman and how it will be used. Moreover we are considering the coordination of the different local currencies within the international scope.
Unfortunately the Greeks got interested very late in the advantages of supplementary currencies. The crisis was already very deep.
This reassures us that it is better to be proactive than curing a crisis, and the Leman has a beautiful future.

Jean Rossiaud

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QUESTIONS POUR M. ROSSIAUD
(Repondues en francais)

What is it that you propose?
Trois raisons nous ont poussé à agir !
Tout d’abord, il faut relocaliser l’économie dans notre « bassin de vie transfrontalier », pour des raisons aussi bien économiques qu’écologiques.
Ce qui est consommé ici doit être en priorité produit ici. Et l’argent que l’on dépense ici ne doit pas s’envoler sur les marchés financiers.
Pour se faire, il faut renforcer le tissus local, c’est ce que nous faisons avec le crédit mutuel, un crédit inter-entreprise qui rend l’économie locale plus forte.
Ensuite, nous voulons orienter la production et la consommation vers des produits plus sains, plus respectueux de l’environnement et des personnes.
Pour se faire nous utiliserons nos Lémans dans les commerces et les entreprises qui acceptent de signer une charte éthique. Le Léman fonctionnera ainsi aussi comme un label.
Enfin, notre région, transfrontalière, notre bassin de vie, a besoin de renforcer son identité face à tous ceux qui veulent nous diviser. Le Léman sera en quelque sorte notre carte d’identité.
What are the advantages of your system?
Si vous êtes un petit entrepreneur ou un petit commerçant qui connaissez des difficultés, le crédit mutuel vous permet de trouver du crédit, garanti par l’ensemble de la « communauté du Léman ».
De plus vous pouvez augmenter votre chiffre d’affaire auprès d’autres entreprises locales et attirer de nouveaux clients sensibles à la consommation locale et durable.
Si vous être un consommateur, vous connaissez la liste des entreprises et commerce qui défendent des produits sains et locaux.
Si vous êtes les pouvoirs publics, en stimulant l’économie locale et l’emploi local vous augmentez vos recettes fiscales; de plus vous diminuez les dépenses sociales (moins de chômage et moins de personnes à l’assistance publiques), vous renforcer sans frais les politiques de cohésion sociale, et vous préservez sans dépense supplémentaire la santé et l’environnement (produits plus sains et moins polluants), le tout, en luttant contre le réchauffement climatique.
Le Léman c’est du WIN WIN WIN !
Will this hurt the Swiss Franc in any way?
Non, le Léman est une monnaie complémentaire au Franc suisse et à l’Euro. Les entreprises et les commerces qui vont l’utiliser accepteront aussi les Francs suisses et les Euros, mais ils profiteront de l’effet d’attraction des Lémans.
IOUs are associated with economic crises. To the best of my knowledge, there is not an economic crisis in Switzerland? Are IOUs misunderstood?
Vous avez raison, la plupart des monnaies complémentaires sont nées dans des situations de crise, pour réponde à la crise.
Notre région ne vit pas une crise de liquidité … pour ceux qui ont de belles garanties. Par contre pour les petits commerçants ou les petites entreprises, il est parfois difficile de trouver du crédit… même à Genève…
On ne prête souvent qu’aux riches… Par ailleurs, en cas de crise (et nul n’est à l’abri de la crise, même pas Genève!), le Léman sera un formidable outil de résilience.
How can one get this currency, if interested?
Le Léman sera lancé le 18 septembre pour ALTERNATIBA LEMAN 2015, le Festival transfrontalier des Alternatives concrètes aux changements climatique, où il servira de coupon pour l’ensemble du Festival.
Puis il fonctionnera comme une monnaie complémentaire que vous pourrez changer dans des bureaux de change ou chez des commerçants de la région. Nous prévoyons aussi un paiement par carte et par téléphone.
How much will it cost? Meaning how many Swiss Francs?
Jusqu’à la fin septembre, un Léman vaudra un franc suisse ou un euro. Après nous adapterons le taux de change en tenant compte du change entre le franc suisse et l’euro.
Is it the same type of IOU that Venezuela had or that Greece talked about earlier this summer?
Il s’agit de démarche similaires, mais chaque monnaie est différentes des autres, car c’est une monnaie démocratique, citoyenne. C’est la communauté de paiement (l’ensemble des partenaires) qui décide de son utilisation et de son évolution. De plus, nous sommes engagés dans une réflexion pour coordonner ces différentes monnaies locales sur le plan international.
Malheureusement, les Grecs se sont intéressés trop tard aux avantage des monnaies complémentaires. La crise était déjà trop avancée.
Cela nous renforce dans l’idée qu’il vaut mieux prévenir que guérir, et que le Léman a un bel avenir!

Jean Rossiaud
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