The Swiss canton of Valais has just launched a so-called ‘local currency’ that is said to be aimed at encouraging businesses to do business locally, and thus helping their local economy to flourish.
Valais, to afficionados of currency history, happens to be the canton in which a 19th-century counterfeiter after whom the new currency is apparently named – Joseph Samuel Farinet – lived, and in whose home town, Saillon, are today located both a museum dedicated to counterfeiting, and a statue of Farinet himself.
The new currency was formally unveiled last week, although press coverage thus far has mostly been limited to Swiss publications.
So far, around 100 shops and businesses in the canton have agreed to accept the farinet for payment, including cafes and restaurants, small businesses and independent traders, the English-language news website thelocal.ch reports, adding that shoppers in the canton may exchange their francs for farinets “in various official bureaux de change including at the tourist office in Sion and the markets of Sion, Sierre and Martigny”.
“Participating businesses – listed on an interactive map – will accept either full or partial payment in farinets”, the publication adds.
The map and other information may be found on the currency’s website, www.lefarinet.ch. Here, visitors are informed that le Farinet is “bien plus qu’ une monnaie”, or “more than just a currency”.
According to thelocal.ch and other press reports, the farinet is Switzerland’s second local currency after the léman, (left), which was launched in Geneva in 2015, but which is linked in value to the euro.
Bitcoin hits new heights
The news of the launch of the farinet comes as another type of alternative currency, the “cryptocurrency” bitcoin, hit a fresh high today, approaching US$2,200.
“If you bought US$100 of bitcoin 7 years ago, you’d be sitting on US$72.9m now,” is how CNBC is reporting the story.
Meanwhile, in the US, an IRS investigation into possible tax evasion by customers who make use of Coinbase, a San Francisco-based company that many people use to buy digital currencies, saw a number of prominent Republican members of Congress step in, with a letter to IRS commissioner John Koskinen which seemed to some observers to suggest that the tax authority is overstepping its powers in the matter.
The case is being closely watched by bitcoin investors, since a widespread criticism of bitcoin is that it may be used to ensure transfers of large amounts of money can take place undetected.
To see a copy of the letter, which is signed by Orrin Hatch, a Republican senator from Utah and chair of the Senate Finance Committee; Vern Buchanan, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee; and Kevin Brady, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, click here.