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IRAN MIGHT BE MOVING TOWARD A BIG

Overshadowed by the recent turmoil in Iran, the government has been making strong moves toward introducing something very much like a basic income guarantee. According to Hamid Tabatabai, of the International Labor organization, “In January 2010, the Majles (Iran’s parliament) adopted a far-reaching law that progressively replaces subsidies on energy and basic goods with direct cash transfers to the population. The subsidies run into tens of billions of dollars annually, mostly on fuel, and benefit the richer strata of society more than others. Half of the proceeds will be passed on directly to the people through their bank accounts, with the rest used to boost the development of agriculture and industry and strengthen the country’s social security system. Estimated at some 10 to 20 billion dollars in the first year, the transfers would be unconditional, i.e. without any quid pro quo, and universal, except for households who opt out by failing to provide the needed information about their composition and socioeconomic status. In setting the amount of the transfer to each household the law requires consideration of household income but the most important factor is likely to be the household size. Implementation will begin in spring 2010 and take five years.”

Cash transfers are not new in Iran; a variety of programs have been in place for years, but many Iranians, including many in government, see that too much of the benefit of existing programs goes to already well off people. According to Tabatabai, “the concept of a universal, unconditional and regular cash grants emerges almost seamlessly as a by-product of an attempt to address the shortcomings of the present system. However, even if a BIG proves to be a logical and feasible proposition from economic and social perspectives, its prospects would depend on how the subject is broached and argued in the highly charged political environment in the country.”

The situation is developing rapidly as the content and implementation strategies of reforms are being worked out. Tabatabai will present a paper on the Iranian situation at the Thirteenth BIEN Congress in Sao Paulo this June.

Karl Widerquist

About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 896 articles.

Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University, specializing in distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. Much of his work involves Universal Basic Income (UBI). He is a co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG). He served as co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) for 7 years, and now serves as vice-chair. He was the Editor of the USBIG NewsFlash for 15 years and of the BIEN NewsFlash for 4 years. He is a cofounder of BIEN’s news website, Basic Income News, the main source of just-the-facts reporting on UBI worldwide. He is a cofounder and editor of the journal Basic Income Studies, the only academic journal devoted to research on UBI.
Widerquist has published several books and many articles on UBI both in academic journals and in the popular media. He has appeared on or been quoted by many major media outlets, such as NPR’s On Point, NPR’s Marketplace, PRI’s the World, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, 538, Vice, Dissent, the New York Times, Forbes, the Financial Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, which called him “a leader of the worldwide basic income movement.”

Widerquist holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters.

Most Karl Widerquist’s writing is available on his “Selected Works” website (works.bepress.com/widerquist/). More information about him is available on his BIEN profile and on Wikipedia. He writes the blog “the Indepentarian” for Basic Income News.

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The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

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