The UK considers universal vouchers

The UK considers universal vouchers

The Guardian newspaper reports that the UK Treasury is considering sending vouchers to everyone to spend on a range of goods. This would not be a Basic Income, but it shares some of its characteristics and would be an interesting experiment to watch.

Radical plans to give all adults £500 and children £250 in vouchers to spend in sectors of the economy worst hit by the Covid-19 crisis are being considered by the Treasury.

The proposals, drawn up by the Resolution Foundation thinktank, which has had recent talks with the Treasury about its ideas, are aimed at kickstarting economic recovery by triggering a highly targeted surge in spending. Under the plans the vouchers could only be spent in certain sectors, such as hospitality and “face to face” retail, as opposed to online.

What is particularly interesting about the idea is that it would require the UK Government to establish the kind of database that would be required for the payment for a Basic Income.

Los Angeles and Atlanta plan to test Basic Income

Los Angeles and Atlanta plan to test Basic Income

Rachel Sandler has written an article for the Forbes website about an increasing number of US cities planning to establish Basic Income pilot projects.

The mayors of Los Angeles; Oakland, California; Atlanta, Georgia; Tacoma, Washington, Newark, New Jersey; Saint Paul, Minnesota; Jackson, Mississippi; Compton, California; Shreveport, Louisiana and Stockton, California, have joined Mayors For A Guaranteed Income, a coalition advocating for UBI policies, or the idea of giving out recurring cash payments to all individuals without any strings attached.


Readers of the article might wish to be aware that some of the terminology used in the article is somewhat indeterminate in its meaning. According to BIEN’s definition, a Basic Income is ‘a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement’. The article sometimes uses the term ‘guaranteed income’, which can mean either a Basic Income or a means-tested benefit: and it is not always clear which is meant. Readers might also wish to be aware that the experiments in Canada and the Netherlands are testing income-tested benefits, and so are not Basic Income pilot projects according to BIEN’s definition of Basic Income.

Irish Government commits to trialling UBI

Irish Government commits to trialling UBI

The newly formed Government of the 33rd Dáil has committed to trialling Basic Income (BI) in Ireland over the next five years. The announcement was made in the Programme for Government (PfG) agreed between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. The document details a long list of actions that the next government aims to implement, with this commitment on BI being included under ‘Anti-poverty and Social Inclusion Measures’ on p.86:

[We will] request the Low Pay Commission to examine Universal Basic Income, informed by a review of previous international pilots, and resulting in a universal basic income pilot in the lifetime of the Government.

If the plans go ahead Ireland will join a growing list of countries that have begun making concrete plans to implement a form of Basic Income, but questions have been raised over the substance of the commitments made, and how they will play out in practice.

Anne Ryan, Joint Co-ordinator at Basic Income Ireland the national body for the promotion of a BI in Ireland – commented:

We would like to see this as part of a commitment to introduce a full permanent basic income for all within the next five years. Trials and pilots have already been carried out in Europe and worldwide and all have shown positive effects. Replicating them in Ireland may not be the best use of time and money when we already know that basic income is one key element of the infrastructure for building a caring society, smart economy, inclusiveness and equality.

Further concerns have been raised over the decision to appoint the Low Pay Comission to lead on the commitments, and the risk that political in-fighting poses for the focus and relevance of any agreed trial.

Responding to a draft version of the PfG, Social Justice Ireland commented:

The PfG contains a plan to have the Low Pay Commission (LPC) examine Universal Basic Income. Issues relating to the role of government in providing a minimum floor below which the living standards of its citizens should not slip go far beyond the remit of the LPC. The Commission on Welfare and Taxation would be a far more appropriate home.(p.3)

Any decision to shift the examination of BI to a different body would require consensus among the three parties, and whilst Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have previously outlined support for BI, Fine Gael has consistently rejected the idea.

Dr Seán Healy, CEO of Social Justice Ireland – who has promoted BI in Ireland for 35 years – added:

Care must be taken to ensure this initiative is not defeated because of the opposition of a single political party when a majority of the Government are prepared to give it a fair trial. In 2002, the Irish Government published a Green Paper on Basic Income which was relatively positive – it is imperative that we do not have a repetition of the failure to give the proposal fair consideration.

How the PfG commitment pans out will therefore depend very much on both the character of the review and the design of the trial. The focus must be on ensuring that these proceed in a positive spirit, led by people who have a genuine interest in making BI a reality.

Maricá one step from Universal Basic Income

Maricá one step from Universal Basic Income

The original article in Portuguese can be found here.


Eduardo Galeano said, mentioning the words of Argentine filmmaker Fernando Birre, that no matter how much a person walks, he or she will never reach utopia. Precisely because of this, its value would be in encouraging the walk towards it.

Following the concept adopted by BIEN’s charter since 2016, a policy that is intended to be a UBI must have five characteristics: periodic, paid in an appropriate medium of exchange (currency), individual, unconditioned and universal. Maricá, a Brazilian municipality in the state of Rio de Janeiro, decided to walk towards the UBI through solid steps.

The first one was taken through Municipal Law n. 2,448/2013, regulated by Decree n. 213/2013, which deals with the implementation of the “Bolsa Mumbuca Social Program”, a policy of cash transfer in monthly payments of 70 units of “Mumbuca”. However, it was still a program aimed only at the poorest families, with monthly family income of up to one minimum wage (R$ 1,045.00; US$ 200.00, in current values), to which it imposed some conditionalities, largely related to the education of children.

It is important to highlight that Mumbuca is a local digital currency whose name is a reference to the main river and to one of the native peoples of the city. A unit of Mumbuca is equivalent to R$ 1.00 (US$ 0.19). It cannot be converted directly into cash but can be used by means of a magnetic card in any of the registered commercial establishments, only in the municipality of Maricá. Currently, there are in Maricá more machines used for transactions with the digital currency than the similar equipment of the large card operators.

In December 2015 the second step was taken. Trough the Municipal Law n. 2,652/2015, regulated by Decree n. 125/2015, the “Bolsa Mumbuca” was replaced by the “Mumbuca Minimum Income” (MMI), which paid 85 Mumbucas per month to families who had monthly income of up to three minimum wages (R$ 3,135.00; US$ 608.00). It followed as a program aimed at the poorest families, but now without the conditionalities imposed until then.

On the same date as the second step, the third was taken. Parallel to the MMI, the Municipal Law n. 2.641/2015, regulated by Decree n. 124/2015, created a program called “Citizen´s Basic Income” (CBI), which monthly destined 10 Mumbucas to all individuals born in Maricá and living there for at least one year, to other Brazilians living in the city for at least two years and to foreigners living there for at least five years. Although the law provided that the CBI would be granted regardless of the socioeconomic condition of the beneficiary, it also provided that such coverage would be achieved in stages, at the discretion of the Municipal Executive, prioritizing the most needy sections of the population. Thus, CBI’s implementation began targeting individuals registered with the Single Registry of the Federal Government (CadÚnico), to which can have access low-income families that have per capita family income of up to half a minimum wage (R$ 522.50; US$ 100.00) or total monthly family income of up to three minimum wages (R$ 3,135.00; US$ 608.00).

In June of last year, through the Municipal Law n. 2.869/2019, Maricá took the fourth and most ambitious step until now, increasing the value of the CBI from 10 to 130 Mumbucas (US$ 25,00) per individual and absorbing, among other social programs, the MMI, which until then paid 85 Mumbucas per household. With this change, the benefits that until then reached 14,000 families began to serve more than 42,000 people out of a total population of 161,000 individuals, with the short-term goal of reaching the 50,000 people in the city registered in the CadÚnico. Additionally, the same law changed the minimum period of residence of national citizens in the Municipality, requiring three years regardless of where in the country they were born, keeping unchanged the period of five years for foreigners.

As an exceptional measure to contain the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of the CBI was transitionally changed from 130 to 300 Mumbucas (US$ 60.00), as of April 2020 and for a period of 3 months, according to Municipal Law n. 2,921/2020. Additionally, the year-end bonuses in the amount of 130 Mumbucas were advanced to make the April payment an amount of 430 Mumbucas per person.

Thus, the CBI of Maricá is not a temporary experiment, but a regular policy, paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, individual and unconditional. The Program has been closely monitored by the Brazilian Basic Income Network and the municipality is preparing to take the final step by 2022, which will abolish means testing and make the CBI a universal measure for all those who meet the minimum period of residence in the city.

As the character Raphael Hythloday said to the incredulous Peter Giles in Thomas More’s book, “if you had been in Utopia with me, and had seen their laws and rules (…) you would then confess that you had never seen a people so well constituted as they.” Would Maricá be near to contradicting Eduardo Galeano? Or would the Brazilian municipality be close to demonstrating, through laws and rules, that UBI is not an unreachable utopia, but a perfectly feasible social construction?

India: numerous articles about Basic Income in the press

India: numerous articles about Basic Income in the press

Numerous articles about Basic Income have appeared in the press in India, contributing to an already lively debate about Basic Income in the country.

In March, Neil Howard and Sarath Davala wrote an article for Al Jazeera:

Alongside securing a regular supply of food, therefore, unless our governments plan to supplant the market economy entirely and move towards a system of resource-allocation that is less anarchic, one of their primary tasks must be to ensure that people have enough money in their pockets to buy it. This is where introducing a basic income becomes an option.

Also in March, Prem Das Rai and Sarath Davala wrote an article for the Financial Express asking for an Emergency Basic Income:

We advocate that an emergency basic income be provided through the direct cash transfer mechanism that Government of India has implemented. This will not only arrest potential social unrest but also ensure that there is continued aggregate demand to sustain our economy.

(Further articles about the needs of migrant workers in India can be found here and here)


More recently, Guy Standing, Renana Jhabvala and Sarath Davala have written an article in the Indian Financial Express recommending a Basic Income.

For society to have the required resilience to survive this crisis and to recover from it, everybody must have the capacity to try to respond responsibly. If some groups are left vulnerable and deprived, all groups will be vulnerable and deprived. A basic income would give meaning to the claim that ‘we are all in this together’.

Living Minimum Income in Spain: very far from a UBI

Living Minimum Income in Spain: very far from a UBI

In a previous news report the initial details and negotiation of the Living Minimum Income had been specified. In this piece the final details of the Minimum Living Income are specified.

What is the scheme about?

The Minimum Living Income (IMV, due to its acronym in Spanish) is the first national-wide minimum income scheme to be implemented in Spain. Although some of its autonomous regions did count with minimum income schemes, there was not state-wide policy in this respect. Although its approval has been accelerated to tackle the social and economic consequences of the lockdown derived from the coronavirus pandemic, the IMV had already been approved in the coalition government’s agreement between the Spanish socialist part, PSOE, and Podemos.

Essentially, the IMV is a non-contributory cash benefit- which means it is not attached to previous employment history, addressed to households who, depending on their composition, are below a determined income threshold. Although the quantities are detailed later on, this minimum income is below from the poverty threshold, should arrive to 850.000 households and a total of 2,3 million people. The Spanish social security institution has calculated that most of these households (around 550.000) live in extreme poverty, that is, with less than 230 € per month. The IMV should alleviate the situation for around 80% of those households with extreme poverty. In this sense, it is clear that while it may be a step forward in creating a minimum income scheme for the whole of the Spanish state, it is a minimum income for very poor people.

Policy design characteristics

  • It is a household based scheme and not an individual one, although individuals living by themselves can ask for this
  • The quantity ranges from 462 € (for a single adult) up to 1050€ (depending on the household composition, which is specified later on)
  • This benefit is conditional on the following eligibility criteria: –
    • Legal requirements: – recipients must have active and legal residence in Spain for at least 1 year, but some individual are exempted from fulfilling this requirement, like women who are victims of gender based violence and victims of sexual trafficking and sexual exploitation
    • Individuals should have asked for the benefits they were eligible before this one (with the only exception the regional minimum living incomes)
    • Non-working adults should e registered as solicitants of employment
    • Economic conditions: have a lower income than that stipulated by the living minimum income, minus 10 euros (450€ for a single adult). These economic conditions also include heritage -excluding first residence and debt-, and the total patrimony should not exceed three times the IMV quantity. Individuals owning a mercantile society are automatically excluded from this benefit
    • Age: 23 to 65 years old
  • Compatibility and other benefits
    • This benefit is compatible with other benefits and incomes, with the exception of some child allowances, because in fact, individuals/households who are recipients of some child allowances do not have to ask for this benefit formally, but it is automatically integrated into their income transfers
    • Individuals who are eligible for this benefit you also become automatically exempt from paying medicines and university fees

Quantity

The table below outlines the quantities for different types of household compositions.

Number of adultsNumber of minorsAnnuallyMonthly
One adult05.538,00 €461,50 €
 18.417,76 €701,48 €
 210.079,16 €839,93 €
 3 or more11.740,56 €978,38 €
Two adults07.199,40 €599,95 €
 18.860,80 €738,40 €
 210.522,20 €876,85 €
 3 or more12.183,60 €1.015,30 €
Three adults08.860,80 €738,40 €
 110.522,20 €876,85 €
 2 or more12.183,60 €1.015,30 €
4 adults010.522,20 €876,85 €
4 adults112.183,60 €1.015,30 €
Larger households 12.183,60 €1.015,30 €

Summary of quantities, taken from civio.es, available at: https://civio.es/el-boe-nuestro-de-cada-dia/2020/06/01/ingreso-minimo-vital-boe/

How the benefit should be requested

The application may be carried out online or by mailing; some cities will be able to do this through town hall administrations if they have an agreement with the Spanish social security. In terms of the required documents potential recipients need to accredit copies of the following documents: – ID, proof of residence, proof of address and proof of the living or cohabitation unit- victims of gender based violence have to accredit  a certificate of being victims. Applicants do not have to calculate their income, but this is automatically done through the social security services. Finally, the whole process may take approximately 3 months

Loss of the benefit

One of the interesting characteristics of the IMV is that the benefit is not automatically lost if the recipient finds an alternative source of income like employment. While the benefit will be reduced shall the recipients receive additional incomes, it will be reduced less than proportionately, with the objective of stabilizing the recipients’ economic situation. The full details will be specified in a forthcoming regulations that still need to be developed.