The Beki celebrates half million in circulation
By Sarita Rao
Eighty-six businesses and associations now trade in the Beki, the local currency of the Canton of Redange.
The Beki was launched as an alternative currency to the Euro in January 2013 by De Kär Asbl (with the words De Kär standing for both ‘the grain’ but also ‘Kanton of Redange’). By February this year, 500,000 Euros had been exchanged into Beki.
Bekis can remain in circulation for three years, and a recent incentive means that 100 Euros will buy you 103 Bekis. Businesses or consumers exchanging Bekis back into Euros must pay a 5% charge, 2% of which is for administration, but 3% of which is donated within the Canton to charities supporting handicapped and autistic people and student projects.
“The 5% charge encourages businesses not to immediately change their Bekis back into Euros, but to try as much as possible to continue spending them in the region. This is why, when a consumer pays with Beki instead of Euro, he initiates a chain reaction of regional consumption,” explains Max Hilbert, co-ordinator at De Kär.
A big supporter of the Beki is the PALL shopping centre in Oberpallen whose 20 or so shops, restaurants and service providers all accept the Beki. In addition to farms selling bio vegetables and local bakers, EIDA a local green electricity company also accepts the Beki.
“People who use the Beki help promote local business and local consumption and support a thriving community,” says Max.
Businesses who accept payment in Beki must be members of the Asbl, but any consumer can use the money and all local bank branches (BCEE, BGL, BIL, Post and Raiffeisen) will exchange Euros for Bekis.
“Business spending, rather than consumer spending has really boosted the Beki,” Max says. He also highlights that each Beki is spent about five times before it is changed back into Euros, each time creating TVA, and circulating some six times faster than the Euro.
“Although businesses only need to accept up to 200 Beki for any payment, some have embraced it, accepting as much as 20,000 Beki for one invoice. These same businesses then need to spend this money locally, and do it with other members of De Kär, purchasing insurance, marketing services, electricity or simply food.”
Co-operation between ‘Beki’ businesses is on the increase and De Kär recently printed 33,000 new notes with higher value denominations.
“It took about two years for the Beki to really take off but this chart shows the rise of Beki circulation in the last 36 months,” explains Max, adding: “It shows that businesses operating with Beki are co-operating more, mutually accepting more and more Bekis. This then leads to an increase in the number of Beki in circulation.”
At its General Assembly last week, De Kär welcomed its newest member, Rose Simba, who has just launched the “Kwanza” food truck, which sells African food made mainly from locally sourced products. Rose’s first income was the Beki she made on the night.
Rose is also co-operating with the PALL centre using their kitchens to prepare food for the truck, and is hoping to team up with a local vintner to provide food during wine tastings.
Elsewhere smaller famers and shopkeepers are forming a co-operative to support the supply and demand of foodstuff from farms to shops in the area.
Max tells me that in the near future they are hoping to introduce a monetary exchange system which will eradicate the need for physical money in higher value transactions – after all 20,000 Beki is a lot to pay in notes. De Kär also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of “crypto” currency and is investigating the software applications available from Fintechs.
“There was a lot of fun made of the Beki when we started out, but I think in three years we have proven that not only can it work, it can have a really positive impact on the local business community,” concludes Max.