Virtual currencies: A useful financial innovation?
Jean-Marc Ayrault has just been appointed France's Prime Minister. He's also Mayor of Nantes, where he is involved in one of Europe's most interesting and radical experiments, and one of the sadly rare examples of a financial innovation that might create value for the public rather than destroying it.
The city is introducing a new virtual currency to sit alongside the Euro. The idea is that by next year businesses in the city will be able to pay or be paid in this currency - the Nanto (not a great name, admittedly).
The main aim is to help business to business trade. The Nanto can't be cashed in or banked, but it's hoped that it will boost trade and the circulation of value, partly building on a parallel experiment in Basel.
It's a step on from the various complementary currencies now in existence in the UK - like the Brixton Pound - and takes the idea of twin monies into the heart of economic life.
Ayrault's appointment is a reminder of the virtue of political systems where national politicians have local roots, and strong experience of how to run things (most politicians get to the Cabinet in the UK with very little).
I've no idea if he'll turn out to be a radical innovator in national government. But he clearly has some appetite for taking creative risks.