OPINION: The Basic Income Idea Spreads in the American Continents
A very positive sign that the Unconditional Basic Income proposal is advancing in the Americas is that a “Ley Marco de La Renta Básica”, “Draft Basic Income Framework Law”, was approved by the General Session of the Parlatino, Parlamento Latino Americano [Latin American Parliament], held last November 30th, 2012, in Panama City. After three preparatory meetings of the Commission of Economic Affairs of the Parlatino in Aruba, Curacao and Buenos Aires, with the cooperation of the Representatives Rodrigo Cabezas Morales, from Venezuela, President of the Commission, Maria Soledad Vela Cheroni, from Ecuador, Ricardo Berois, from Uruguay, and myself, during which the proposal was discussed, it was finally presented as a model for all the parliaments of all 23 nations of Latin America and the Caribbean.
This Ley Marco de la Renta Basica takes into account what is considered in the Brazilian Law, approved by the National Congress, by all parties, both in the Federal Senate, in 2002, and in the Chamber of Deputies, in 2003, and then sanctioned by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in January 8th, 2004: The Citizen’s Basic Income will be introduced step by step, under the Executive criteria, taken into account first those most in need, such as the Bolsa Família Program does.
The Brazilian population in 2013 is around 194 million inhabitants. According to the Bolsa Família Program, all families with a monthly income per capita up to R$ 140.00 can benefit from the program with the following rules:
If the per capita family income is below R$70.00 per month, the initial basic benefit to the family is R$ 70.00. In addition, for all families with income per capita below R$ 140.00 per month, they have the right to receive R$ 32.00, R$ 64.00, R$ 96,00, R$ 128.00 or R$ 160.00 if the family has, respectively, one, two, three, four or more children up to the age 15 years and 11 months, plus R$ 38.00 or R$ 76.00 if the family has one or two adolescents, respectively, from 16 to 18 years of age.
There are some conditionalities: if the mother is pregnant, she must do the pre-natal health exam in the Public Health System of the region where she lives. The children up to six years of age must be taken by their parents to the Health System to take the necessary vaccines, according to the Health Ministry’s calendar. The children aged seven to 15 years and eleven months must be in school at least 85% of the classes. The adolescents aged 16 to 18 must attend at least 75% of the classes in school.
In January 2013 there were 18.491.302 families in Brazil with per capita income up to R$ 140.00 per month that, therefore, would be allowed to get the benefits of the Bolsa Família Program. By March 2013, there were13.872.243 families enrolled in the Bolsa Família Program that is 75% of those who, by law, are entitled to enroll in the program. Since there are around 3.5 people in each family among the relatively poor, we may say that almost one fourth of the Brazilian population of 194 million today benefits from the Bolsa Família Program.
Since June 2011, President Dilma Rousseff has launched the Active Search process through which all levels of government and social organizations of all kinds should help in finding those families with the right to have the Bolsa Família benefit and that have not been identified and enrolled in the program yet. Since March, 2013, all families enrolled in the Bolsa Família program with at least one child up to 15 years and eleven months of age whose monthly family income, plus the Bolsa Família benefits, does not reach the sufficient to provide at least R$ 70.00 per capita, the Federal Government, through the so called Brasil Carinhoso or Brazil Care Program, will provide what is needed to complete the monthly R$ 70.00 per capita to the family. Through this measure the government is trying to guarantee that all Brazilian families, from now on, have at least R$ 70.00 per capita per month.
One day, I hope in the near future, we will be able to make the transition from the Bolsa Família Program towards the Citizen’s Basic Income, not only in Brazil, but in all countries of the three continents of the Americas.
Link to the Draft Basic Income Framework Law approved by the Parlatino: