A conference took place at Ôtsu, Shiga on Wed, 07th April 2010 on a potential introduction of complementary currency systems to promote the environmental preservation as well as to churn out more jobs in Shiga, Japan.
Shiga Prefecture, located next to Kyôto Prefecture(*), is home to Japan’s largest lake, called Lake Biwa, which provides fresh water to residents and industries not only in Shiga but also in Kyôto, Ôsaka and Hyôgo (capital: Kôbe) Prefectures. People’s concern to keep the water quality in the lake promoted ecological movements and gave birth to a female ecologist governor Yukiko Kada in July 2006. Bernard Lietaer, a Belgian specialist on complementary currencies, was invited to Japan to give some hints to the prefecture and met the governor to give the outline on the potential of this tool to promote eco-friendly policies in the prefecture.
Term: Japan is composed of 47 prefectures which are usually called as “ken” (such as Hiroshima-ken and Nagasaki-ken), except “to” for Tôkyô (Tôkyô-to), “fu” for Kyôto and Ôsaka (Kyôto-fu and Ôsaka-fu) and “dô” for Hokkaidô (well, in case of Hokkaidô it isn’t called as Hokkaidô-dô but simply Hokkaidô).
He began his lecture by referring to the fact that our large scale systems, designed for the industrial age, are in crisis as we face with post-industrial realities, showing that currency systems are, contrary to people’s common belief, not “value neutral” and that different monetary systems are needed to achieve different socioeconomic goals, especially given that the current national currency has too much yang (male) feature, undermining our society’s balance, requiring us to have other currencies to strengthen yin (female) features.
Lietaer’s proposal is to introduce two different sorts of complementary currencies to deal with different issues with which Shiga Prefecture is facing: the first one is to charge an ecological local tax which is only payable in a new complementary currency to be called as “Biwa” and the lecturer told that four European cities (Bristol, Brussels, Liverpool and Luxembourg) are considering the introduction of a similar scheme. Residents in Shiga will be asked to earn some Biwa either by doing some voluntary activities to improve the local environment or by purchasing such amount of Biwa from somebody else, similar to what happens in terms of CO2 emission. The second one is to introduce a B2B currency, similar to the one practiced in Uruguay and Brazil, to boost trades among corporations in Shiga so that more jobs can be created.
It seems that Shiga pays more attention to environmental aspects than socioeconomic ones of complementary currencies as the audience at the lecture were asking questions almost exclusively on Biwa while they seemed to be little concerned about the worsening labour conditions. It is worth remembering, though, that Shiga is also home to thousands of Brazilian immigrants who are suffering from the layoffs as the manufacturing sector in this country is facing with some hardships, making it urgent to create jobs to save them out of misery, and it would be highly recommended that Shiga also should start studying the model of Banco Palmas, Fortaleza, Brazil, which has managed to churn out a number of jobs in an improverished neighbourhood, if it really finds it important to create new job opportunities both for Brazilians and the Japanese.