Barter Economy Growing in Cash-Strapped Greece
You go to the bank, deposit your paycheck and walk away thinking your money will remain safe and secure, ready for you to withdraw whenever the need arises.
But as Greeks have discovered, that’s not necessarily the case. In the event of a crisis, you may not be able to access your money.
According to a Guardian article, some officials in the Greek government were prepared to take a page out of the Cypriot playbook and confiscate funds from banks.
Some members of Greece’s leftist-led government wanted to raid central bank reserves and hack taxpayer accounts to prepare a return to the drachma, according to reports that highlighted the chaos in the ruling Syriza party.”
“In a separate report in the conservative Kathimerini newspaper, Varoufakis was quoted as saying that a small team in Syriza had prepared plans to secretly copy online tax codes. It said the ‘plan B’ was devised to allow the government to introduce a parallel payment system if the banks were closed down.”
While it remains unclear how serious the threat to Greek deposit holders actually was, the scheme certainly wasn’t just a far-fetched conspiracy theory. During the crisis in Cyprus, the government essentially seized 47.5 percent of any funds over 100,000 euros in all the personal accounts of the nation’s two largest banks.
Greeks seemed to have dodged that bullet, but even absent a so-called “bail-in,” they still labor under the burden of a cash crunch. Banks completely shut down for about three weeks, and even today, depositors can only withdraw 420 euros a week. Capital controls are expected to last for months to come.
With access to cash severely limited, a thriving barter economy has quickly developed. It seems almost primitive, but it has become a matter of survival for a Greek farmer named Mimis Tsakanikas interviewed by Reuters.
Squeezed on all sides, the 41-year-old farmer began informal bartering to get around the cash crunch. He now pays some of his workers in kind with his clover crop and exchanges equipment with other farmers instead of buying or renting machinery.”
“Tsakanikas is part of a growing barter economy that some Greeks deplore as a step backward from modernity, but others embrace as a practical means of short-term economic survival.”
Because cashless transactions leave no money trail to follow, it’s difficult to determine just how pervasive barter has become in Greece, but anecdotal evidence indicates it’s surging. Officials with a barter website called Tradenow say volume has doubled since capital controls went into effect in late June. According to Reuters, the website facilitates barter of everything from food to technology.
An evolving barter economy in the wake of economic crisis isn’t something peculiar to Greece. Reuters reported a burgeoning barter economy in Spain as its economy went into free-fall in a few years ago, and Bloomberg reported on the rise of barter in Cyprus during its 2013 meltdown.
Money in the bank means nothing when the government restricts your access to cash, or even seizes your deposits. But you can protect your wealth in better forms than fiat currency. Silver, for instance, not only historically preserves its value, but it is also a superb barter asset.
Imagine being a Greek today with a pocketful of fractional silver coins. It would be a lot easier to go to the market and barter for your daily needs with easily recognized silver, rather than carrying around odds and ends in the hopes you have something the grocer wants in trade.
This is just one of the many reasons to save in silver as well as gold (which also comes in “barterable” forms). Peter Schiff outlines the other advantages of the white metal in his special report, The Powerful Case for Silver.
As the Greeks have learned, storing wealth in government created and controlled fiat currency puts you at the mercy of that government.
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