Council for European Studies conference, June 2021

Council for European Studies conference, June 2021

Call for Papers:

Panel on the politics of Universal Basic Income. What role for activism(s)?

This Call for Papers (CFP) is interested in empirical studies that look at the social and political processes related to the growing interest in universal basic income (UBI), including recent pilot tests and experiments, their design and implementation, either at the local, national or supranational level, in Europe and elsewhere. In particular, it focuses on the role of the civil society, experts, public opinion and grassroot organizations, and their interaction with policy officers, government official and political parties. Examples of questions that are of interest for this panel:

  • To what extent UBI campaigns and activism have permeated mainstream political and policy discussions? What are the strategies pursued by UBI activists, and how these differ across different locations? When and how are civil society organizations (e.g. trade unions, women and feminist groups, migrants’ associations) willing to incorporate UBI to their demands?
  • What are the resistances and oppositions that UBI advocates face in their campaigns? How different UBI frames have shaped its reception among different social groups?
  • Do different welfare systems shape different forms of UBI activism, including aspects such as the frames and strategies these groups put forward? What is the precise role played by experts and public intellectuals in these processes? Does the social crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic open a window of opportunity for UBI ideas?

This CFP aims at gathering papers from scholars working on different aspects of the politics of UBI (or guaranteed incomes, negative income tax, cash transfers), to be presented in the context of the 27th International Conference of Europeanists, Council for European Studies (CES), to be held in Reykjavik, Iceland, June 24-26, 2021. Please send your abstract (300 words maximum) before 11 November 2020 to César Guzmán-Concha, e-mail: Please note that all paper authors must also submit their abstracts proposals through the CES online platform before the official deadline: 16 November 2020

For details of the whole conference see the Council for European Studies website.

Results of BIEN’s 2020 ballots

Results of BIEN’s 2020 ballots

As no General Assembly could be held this year, as many of the General Assembly functions as possible were conducted by postal ballot.

Executive Committee and other elections

None of the Executive Committee or other posts due for election had more than one candidate standing, and all of the candidates were approved by confirmatory ballots. The Executive Committee and other posts for 2020-21 can be found here.

Resolutions were passed as follows:

Annual accounts and reports were received;

A new internal rule relating to the international Advisory Board was passed (the rule requires the Executive Committee to administer and convene a meeting of the Board if it calls the meeting, and requires the Chair to administer and convene the meeting if the Chair calls it);

The Executive Committee was asked to explore with the Charity Commission whether General Assemblies can be held online in the future if required;

Three options were proposed for the frequency of BIEN congresses: annually; once every two years; and once every two years with regional conference during the intervening years. The decision was for congresses to be held annually.

McKinsey publishes an article about the Finland experiment

McKinsey publishes an article about the Finland experiment

McKinsey, the consultancy company, has published an article about the Finland Basic Income experiment.

The final results from Finland’s experiment are now
in, and the findings are intriguing: the basic income
in Finland led to a small increase in employment,
significantly boosted multiple measures of the
recipients’ well-being, and reinforced positive
individual and societal feedback loops. …

As with any policy analysis, the results of this
experiment remain subject to debate and can’t
necessarily be generalized. As a result, the
experiment does offer an object lesson in the
complexity of designing and implementing
a randomized control trial of basic income.
Nevertheless, more research on basic income is
required. We can hope that Finland’s example
will inform and inspire others as they set up their
own experiments.

New research on the Kenya pilot project

New research on the Kenya pilot project

Innovations for Poverty Action has published a research paper, ‘Effects of a Universal Basic Income During the Pandemic’.

We examine some effects of Universal Basic Income (UBI) during the COVID-19 pandemic using a large-scale experiment in rural Kenya. Transfers significantly improved well-being on common measures such as hunger, sickness and depression in spite of the pandemic, but with modest effect sizes. They may have had public health benefits, as they reduced hospital visits and decreased social (but not commercial) interactions that influence contagion rates. During the pandemic (and contemporaneous agricultural lean season) recipients lost the income gains from starting new non-agricultural enterprises that they had initially obtained, but also suffered smaller increases in hunger. This pattern is consistent with the idea that UBI induced recipients to take on more income risk in part by mitigating the most harmful consequences of adverse shocks.

To download the paper, click here.

Mongolia’s resource-to-cash transfers

Mongolia’s resource-to-cash transfers

Mongolia is an East Asian country located between the two giant powers of the world: China in the South, and Russia in the north. As a classic example of a mineral-rich developing country, Mongolia has an export-driven economy in which 90% of the exports come from its minerals[1].

The country’s quick and vigorous action on preventing the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a notable success in fighting the pandemic so far. The country has relatively few cases with 310 confirmed cases and still no deaths in the middle of September 2020. But this success has come at a price.

According to the UN, in the first quarter of 2020, Mongolia’s economy contracted by 10.7 per cent, and government revenue fell by 8.6 per cent year on year, whilst expenditure went up 19.3 per cent[2]. On the other hand, the country struggles to boost its export-driven economy that is tightly tied to China. Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates show that Mongolia will suffer significant investment and consumption shocks in addition to negative global demand spillovers in 2020. In addition to that, there is mounting international debt[3].

However, Mongolia is an interesting country that the world can learn some lessons from regarding the role of states in the ongoing health crisis of COVID-19. The country perhaps was the first developing country that introduced a resources-to-cash scheme[4], and with the COVID crisis this scheme is back on the agenda.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 during the winter of 2019-2020, Mongolian citizens were promised a cheque of up to 96,480 tugrugs (USD 34), but this promise was not a usual handout like in other countries. Mongolians who were born before April 11th 2014 are shareholders of a company called Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi (ETT) that manages a massive coal deposit on the state’s behalf; do these cash payments are dividends distributed by the company to its shareholders[5].

In 2019, the company made USD 1 billion and 30 million from its sales. For this reason, the dividend per share was calculated to be MNT 90, which results in MNT 96 thousand being given to each individual’s 1,072 shares. Minister D.Sumiyabazar said that the amount of the dividend will be raised further if the company’s revenue goes up[6].

As mentioned above, this resource-to-cash payment was not a new experience for Mongolians. In 2004, the government started to experiment with universal resource-financed payments for children. In 2010, the child-oriented payments were replaced with the new Human Development Fund (HDF) that was financed from mining dividends to provide a universal basic income that was paid monthly to every citizen. Mongolians monthly received MNT 21 thousand between 2010 and 2012 through the HDF. This experience provided a unique perspective on public ownership and revenue sharing in the mineral sector as citizens got a direct and equal share of their country’s wealth as co-owners of their country[7].

However, these payments were based on election promises and resulted in a vast deficit in the HDF as the expenditures were exceeding the actual mineral revenues[8]. In 2012, HDF was stopped and child-oriented payments were brought back.

On the other hand, in 2011, through a new scheme, every citizen received 1,072 shares in the ETT. Mongolians could use these shares for different purposes including tuition fees for students, health insurance coverage, or cash through a stock repurchase program by the government. Around 1.08 million Mongolians have kept all their shares and are entitled to a full dividend payout of MNT 96,480 (USD 34)[9].

Although these cash transfers have reduced poverty and inequality, and increased the transparency of the company’s actions and performance, the experience has taught the important lesson that it is not enough just to give cash payouts if the scheme is poorly designed and implemented[10]. As mentioned above, these cash payments have been used as tools to win elections, and this has resulted in an increased debt and an increase in inflation. In this regard, in 2019 the country passed an Election Law that prohibited the political parties from using the promise of cash transfers for elections.

Although the cash payments that were promised a few months ago are different from the previous cash transfers, as “The board (of ETT) has approved for the first time to distribute dividends to shareholders according to the Company Law. In the past, the state used its preferential rights to buy stakes from some people in cash. This time, it’s not a cash payout but a legal dividend distribution”, Minister D.Sumiyabazar said[11], we can still see something of the old tendency: a connection between elections and cash transfers.

On May 1, it was announced by the Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry that 100 thousand MNT was going to be distributed, but one month later there was still no payment. Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi company had already transferred 60 billion MNT to Mongolian Central Securities Depository but it is obvious that the government was holding it up due to the parliamentary election[12].

As we can see, the Mongolia experiment contains very important lessons in regard to the resource-to-cash payments. This experience underlines the importance of independent institutions from governments being tasked with the distribution of basic income type payments. If we understand these experiences and learn from them, it could provide a new perspective for governments in their fight with COVID-19.

Despite all kind of criticism regarding the government’s approach on resource-to-cash payments; people are losing their jobs, hopes, and voices all over the world, and this kind of resource-to-cash scheme gives a sense of certainty and security to people (without the burden of stigmatization), especially in such uncertain and volatile times.

COVID-19 doesn’t distinguish between rich or poor, and neither can we. More than ever we need schemes that don’t differentiate between people, because in these unprecedented times no-one knows if they will be the next one who is going to be affected by this crisis one way or another.