Municipal Crypto Spreading Around the World, From California to Dubai

States, provinces and municipalities could use cryptocurrencies to fund projects and programs. Municipal cryptocurrencies — that is, cryptocurrencies launched by cities — could offer citizens a new way to invest in a certain location and even buy goods while helping governments to fund projects. Campbell Harvey from Duke University told Cointelegraph that municipal cryptocurrencies could provide a mechanism to fund certain projects. According to Harvey:

“I think of it as, say, we need to build a new soccer field, given that we now have more boys and girls teams and the old field just can't handle it. So, we need to build a new soccer complex. Maybe it's got six fields. Could we issue like a crypto bond or currency where average people could actually buy into that?”

The minimum bond investment is $1,000, although they are usually sold in batches of $5,000. People who want to invest less simply cannot do it. Cryptocurrencies and tokens could be used for assets under $5 million and enable investments under $5,000. Harvey sees the main mechanism for municipal cryptocurrency as the securitization of assets, such as the aforementioned soccer complex or, say, for a health clinic. Harvey told Cointelegraph: 

“Things that you can engage the community to actually contribute to things they get something for. So, they've got that kind of token, and potentially the token can be traded. You get some token for the soccer field, a soccer stadium or just some token, but it's also the case that you can say use that token to pay for 10% of your meal at the restaurant. This is something we've not had before.”

If a municipality needs a new sports field, naturally it is going to cost money, which usually comes from taxes. “They got the land, but it's going to cost some money for maintenance and stuff like that,” Harvey said. “So, you basically tokenize that and essentially sell the tokens to the community so you get the money.” Harvey believes it’s easy for a municipality to launch such a token and that the issued token by the municipality could be useful. In the end, the community benefits from a multiplier effect, whereby, indirectly, several businesses may be linked through promotional and discount schemes connected through a municipal token. 

Cointelegraph took a look at some of the municipal cryptocurrencies out there and their various stages of ideation and development from all around the world. 

Most prominent municipal/local cryptocurrency initiatives

Berkeley’s initial community offering

Status: Proposed

Release date: N/A

The city of Berkeley, California, proposed in 2017 an “initial community offering” to raise money to fund affordable housing, rebuild transit systems and support social services. The initial community offering would essentially be an easier way for citizens to buy municipal bonds.

Proposed by Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Councilman Ben Bartlett, the project was intended to raise money similar to a bond but be priced low enough to allow everyday consumers the chance to invest. The token would be backed by a city bond. The initiative has yet to launch — and it’s unclear if it ever will — but the attempt by city council members goes to show a growing interest in raising municipal funds through creative means. The population of Berkeley is 112,000. Liam DiGregorio, working in business development at the University of California-Berkeley’s Blockchain at Berkeley, an organization dedicated to becoming the blockchain hub of the East Bay, told Cointelegraph: 

“This presents an opportunity for the city to engage with its constituents to test this proposed use-case with a lower associated cost. Given the inspiration for this proposal was to fix the housing crisis in Berkeley which largely affects students, it presents an opportunity for the community to fix itself. Being located in the Bay where many blockchain companies call home, also doesn't hurt.”

Dubai — emCash

Status: Proposed

Release date: 2020

The city of Dubai stands to make the most impact in using a municipal stablecoin. Nestled in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai has transformed itself over the last 20 years to become a technology hub in the Middle East. 

Related: Middle East Blockchain Development Primed to Lead the Global Industry

The city planned to release its city-issued cryptocurrency in 2018, but no news has been released for the past year. The plan is to put all official documents on the blockchain by the end of 2020 by using smart contracts. A recent meeting of Ethereum developers with Persian Gulf representatives hinted at a possible integration with Ethereum. Dubai’s GDP is $102.67 billion,  and its population is more than 5.5 million

Busan, South Korea — Unknown

Status: Proposed

Release date: N/A

The second-largest city in South Korea, Busan, is exploring the creation of its own stablecoin, as reported by Cointelegraph. The stablecoin would be backed by the national banks and accepted anywhere in the city. The city is apparently working with Hyundai Pay to facilitate implementation. Like with other stablecoins, Busan’s goal is to boost the local economy. Busan’s GDP is $75.8 billion, with a population of 3.5 million.

Related: Regulatory Overview of Crypto Mining in Different Countries

South Korea has the third-most blockchain patents, trailing behind only the United States and China. South Korea’s Ministry of Small and Medium Businesses (SMEs) and Startups stated that the government plans to provide “extensive support if Busan develops its own blockchain-based currency structure or token economy.”

Malacca, Malaysia — Melaka Straits City

Status: Proposed

Release date: Unknow