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Agistri island to launch its own currency

- by Andy Cornish

The tiny Greek holiday island of Agistri has come up with its own answer to strict currency controls – it is about to issue its own coins.

The move was triggered when the island's only ATM machine ran out of cash and locals were forced to take a ferry to Athens to withdraw their weekly cash allowance.

According to the latest Greek census, Agistri only has 1,142 inhabitants and since capital controls were introduced last June it has become harder and harder to obtain cash.

With the island's only ATM repeatedly running out of cash, the islanders say the only option is to launch their own island currency to keep the local economy going,

The mayor Agistri has agreed to allow the island to pilot a new monetary system, similar to the digital 'bitcoin,' so that island traders can pay each other in cash and keep the island economy from seizing up completely .

The small size and convenient location of Agistri, in the Saronic Gulf to the south of Athens, makes the island a perfect candidate for a pilot program for the launch of the Nautiluscoin.

Hopes are high that over the coming weeks the citizens of Agistri will be able to use the Nautiluscoin on a daily basis.

Lee Gibson-Grant, founder of UK-based digital currency consultancy Coinstructors, has been given the go-ahead to test technology that could not only act as parallel island currency o the euro but could also enable tourists to book hotels and other services at a discount.

Many of the small businesses on Agistri are tourist related and they have been harder hit than most by strict cash controls introduced by the government to prevent a run on its banks.

Although cash controls have been eased in recent weeks it still leaves rural pockets of Greece and small islands like Agistri, struggling for ready cash.

If successful, there is no reason why it the digital currency couldn't be used in other rural areas of Greece where access to cash machines is a problem for residents and tourists.

Agistri is a small, pine covered island close to the Greek capital of Athens and, with an area of about 13 sq. km, it is one of the smallest in the Saronic group.

Although a quiet backwater, free of cars and with little in the way of nightlife it is still a popular retreat for weekending Athenians and day-trip tourists.

The few island hotels, tavernas and bars are mainly found in the three main settlements of Skala, Milos and Limenaria. Milos is where most people live, but Skala is the main tourist centre.

A very hilly island, Agistri has groves of citrus and olive but most of it is cloaked in dense pine forest. Most beaches are pebble and shingle with the best of the sand at Skala and Halkiada.