Spain may issue ‘permanent’ basic income to fight COVID-19
Reports are emerging that Spain is hoping to deploy a “permanent” basic income type program in the near future. The program comes as Spain aims to respond to the economic crisis from the global coronavirus pandemic.
Spain has one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world with over 13,000 deaths.
Spain’s push for establishing basic income as a “permanent instrument” that “stays forever” will help reduce financial anxieties for many families worried about their jobs. Sending cash to families rather than corporations will better ensure economic security for the most vulnerable.
However, questions remain about the nature of the program and whether it will be truly universal and unconditional.
If Spain successfully implements basic income, it will become the first European country to implement the program on a national scale and one of the only places in the world to do so.
Finland famously experimented with a basic income pilot program. The experiment made recipients happier and healthier. Nonetheless, some government officials were upset the basic income pilot did not significantly affect employment status within a year for recipients.
Nadia Calviño, Spain’s minister for economic affairs, said the payments will be targeted to families and will differentiate based on their “circumstances.” In practice, differentiating based on circumstances will result in means tests that fall on the poor. If there are strict criteria, then some families who need assistance may be unnecessarily excluded or have their assistance delayed.
A better system is presuming each individual qualifies and allowing wealthier individuals to opt-out. If an individual who received basic income has a large income by the end of 2020, the government can phase out their basic income through the income tax system the following year.
Universality helps the poor, not the rich. It ensures all those who need assistance can receive it immediately. The true costs of universality are lower because it requires less administration and bureaucracy to implement the program.