OPINION: A viable transition to Basic Income
Thomas Paine and many other libertarians concerned with fundamental human rights, dreamt of the day when no one would suffer from want and basic income security should be garanteed to all. The Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) promotes the idea among all countries. In Brazil, Senator Eduardo M. Suplicy has been the champion for the basic income, here called “Renda Básica de Cidadania – RBC” or citizen’s basic income.
Brazil developed gradually, since 1994, programs do help the poor. The Lula government united social programs that were dispersed and created the “Bolsa Família Program”, a system of conditional transfer of money linked to school attendance and vaccination. The family income has to be below a defined amount to qualify for the benefits. The program has been a great success. Nevertheless conditionalities require a large bureaucracy to monitor beneficiaries. Senator Suplicy introduced a bill to create an unconditional basic income for all and President Lula sanctioned the law in 2004.
Suplicy’s efforts triggered initiatives by ReCivitas (1). This small organization tried to start a pilot experiment in Paranapiacaba, based on withdrawals from a fund belonging to all, without success. Then ReCivitas started a mini-pilot experiment, using money from donors, to pay a RBC to almost 90 people in a rural “bairro” in São Paulo state. That experiment is doing well and has been described in BIEN’s Newsflash 65, november 2011.
The encounter of Suplicy and the mayor of Santo Antonio do Pinhal, a small city (~7,000 people) at the Mantiqueira mountains in São Paulo, started another effort to bring the idea to a real test. Volunteers explained the idea in meetings at schools, churches, and community spaces. In 2009 the town deputies sanctioned a law, presented by the mayor, that created a town’s fund to be fed by 6% of the city’s earnings. The rest was supposed to be provided by donors. The experiment was analysed by NEPP (2) a organization that is part of UNICAMP (3) and funded by CAF (4). A group of volunteers provided data about the town and stats were recorded, without any clear recommendation. Simultaneously Anthony Baert, from the Economics School of Louvain, Belgium, joined NEPP, had access to the same data, and published his own study (see BIEN’s Newsflash 65) of the known basic income experiments around the world, with an analysis of the existing proposal for Santo Antonio do Pinhal (5). His conclusion stated:
“based on this research, we make recommendations for the implantation of the Citizen’s Basic Income in Santo Antônio do Pinhal (Brazil). We conclude that it is not viable on the short and medium term and we suggest instead to first launch a five-year pilot project.”
We have been aware of the enormous difficulties to implement a fund-based solution to RBC for Santo Antonio do Pinhal. A Basic Income Grant (BIG) Bank is providing the resources at Quatinga Velho representing around 90 persons (see BIEN’s Newsflash 65). Anyone can imagine the difficulties to implement a funding through regular withdrawals from financial investments even for a small city. Above all, we believe that RBC is a basic right and should not depend on donations of any type, although welcome. This right must be provided by the federal government.
As a large proportion of the poor receive already from Bolsa Família, the transition to RBC is a thorny problem considering all that has been invested so far. Also the costs to switch to the universal and unconditional system of RBC right away, would seen dounting.
We believe that the solution to gradually implement the RBC, as President Lula’s 2004 sanctioned law demands, is to define a future date, say January 1, 2013. All children born in Brazil since that day will be registered as recipients of a monthly value (say R$ 50.00 or R$ 100,00) delivered to his mother or legal guardian.
Less than 2-4 billion reais would be used at the first year in Brazil. For Santo Antonio do Pinhal, 60,000 reais would pay the first year, below the 90,000 reais that the law already sanctioned, and reserved annualy for the RBC fund. Bureaucracy involved would be minimal, there will be no conflict with the Bolsa Família program, the implementation will be progressive, viable, manageable and definitive. The RBC gradually will substitute for the Bolsa Família program.
Sustainability at its core is to manage resources wisely. We side with the great Julian L. Simon (6): the most important natural resource is human creativity. Educated and creative human beings are the scarce and precious “material” we need. They will turn natural materials (ores, oil, land, sea, waters, space, etc) and existing knowledge and technologies (history, humanities, biology, physics, chemistry, etc) into valuable and life enhancing assets. Possibly the most important task is to garantee that the coming generations will receive full support in terms of education and health. This is not possible without a measure of income security that the RBC could provide. We must start right away – the pressures of an increasingly old population will tax the young of the future in unprecedented ways. Caring for them is caring for the future of people and environment.
1 ReCivitas – Instituto pela Revitalização da Cidadania – www.recivitas.org.br
2 NEPP – Núcleo de Estudos de Políticas Públicas
3 UNICAMP – Universidade Estadual de Campinas
4 CAF – Confederação Andina de Fomento
5 Anthony Baert – http://www.proac.uff.br/cede/sites/default/files/TD54.pdf
6 Julian L. Simon – The ultimate resource 2 – 1996 – Princeton University Press
Marina Pasetto Nobrega and Francisco G. Nobrega
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Santo Antonio do Pinhal, Novembro de 2011