India: Sikkim state is on the verge of becoming the first place on Earth implementing a basic income
Flowers, on the way to the mountain. Picture credit to: Rookie’s Journal
Sikkim, the second smallest state in India, has grown a reputation, over the years, for environmental consciousness, ethnical diversity and tourism. It is also the home of one of the most educated people on Earth, with a 98% literacy rate. Moreover, in the last couple of decades, policies in the state have been implemented in order to reduce poverty, which presently sits below 8% (from a 41,4% in 1994). The Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), the democratically elected party governing the state since 1994, has written basic income into its manifesto for the 2019 Assembly elections, and aims to have it implemented by 2022.
SDF’s MP in New Dehli’s Lower House of Representatives (Lok Sabha), Prem Das Rai, has said that “our party and Chief Minister Pawan Chamling (…) are committed to bringing in Universal Basic Income. This, we will do three years of coming back to power in the state”. This initiative is not intended as a pilot test, but as an actual implementation, hence Prem Das Rai words: “Basically, it’s an income given to families irrespective what do they do. In Sikkim, it will be for everyone and every household.”
As for financing the basic income scheme, SDF officials are considering surplus energy generation revenue (from hydropower) and redirecting costs from welfare programs which cease to be relevant. Restructuring the tax edifice and using tourism revenues are also future financing routes to cover for basic income. In any case, Prem Das Rai is confident that this is “not just a feasible idea, but a very positive idea”.
About this issue, basic income activist Scott Santens has written, on Twitter: “What makes this news so big in my opinion is the fact they’re talking about full universality, unlike what’s being discussed at the national level right now, where cash may be targeted to the poorest 33% of the country and thus not actual UBI. This news out of Sikkim is actual UBI.”
More information at:
Liz Mathew, “Sikkim says it will become first state to roll out Universal Basic Income”, The India Express, January 10th 2019
André Coelho, “India: 2019 General Elections and basic income”, Basic Income News, January 9th 2019