A new World Bank report, ‘Exploring Universal Basic Income’

A new World Bank report, ‘Exploring Universal Basic Income’

The World Bank has published a substantial report titled Exploring Universal Basic Income: A guide to navigating concepts, evidence, and practices

Universal basic income (UBI) is emerging as one of the most hotly debated issues in development and social protection policy. But what are the features of UBI? What is it meant to achieve? How do we know, and what don’t we know, about its performance? What does it take to implement it in practice? Drawing from global evidence, literature, and survey data, this volume provides a framework to elucidate issues and trade-offs in UBI with a view to help inform choices around its appropriateness and feasibility in different contexts. Specifically, the book examines how UBI differs from or complements other social assistance programs in terms of objectives, coverage, incidence, adequacy, incentives, effects on poverty and inequality, financing, political economy, and implementation. It also reviews past and current country experiences, surveys the full range of existing policy proposals, provides original results from micro–tax benefit simulations, and sets out a range of considerations around the analytics and practice of UBI.

The report can be downloaded free here.

Brief comment

The report employs throughout a definition of Universal Basic Income that matches BIEN’s definition of Basic Income. Consistency of definition is a commendable characteristic of the report as a whole.

The only caveat is that chapter 4 assumes that a UBI would replace existing social assistance provision. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that in some countries poverty and inequality would increase if the UBI were to be implemented. The authors do not simulate the option of leaving existing social assistance provision in place and reducing it by the extent of the UBI. In the context of a progressive tax system, such schemes would not increase poverty or inequality.

Apart from that, this is a most useful report.

A European Basic Income pilot project would be good for Bulgaria

A European Basic Income pilot project would be good for Bulgaria

The EU Commission has said from the 25th September 2020 signatures can be collected from EU residents in connection with a new European Citizens Initiative. If the European UBI family succeeds in gathering 1 000 000 signatures, divided among a minimum of seven countries, then ECI delegates will be able to present a proposal to the European Commission which, if approved, would hopefully convince EU governments to start paying Basic Incomes to all of their citizens.

Bulgaria suffers from a number of problems, and in particular population loss and economically active citizens leave the country for better opportunities elsewhere. Angel Petrov writes:

The population decline carries long-term economic costs. Over time, a shrinking workforce becomes unattractive to investors and unable to subsidise the pension and healthcare needs of an ageing population.

Poverty and inequality are significant problems in Bulgaria. Bulgarian people currently receive the lowest income in the European Union while the cost of living is increasing. This is paradoxically occurring during 25 years of steady rise in productivity and mostly rising GDP. The Gini coefficient (2019) is 40.8 and rising.

The Corona crisis measures

All government ‘aid’ described below is highly bureaucratised and full of conditions, and in addition the funds are often paid late due to the complicated and sluggish administrative processes citizens are subjected to. The aid consists of:

  • Cash payments of €192 only for families with 14 year old children for the duration of the state of emergency (2 or 3 months)
  • over 2 months the unemployment fund will pay 60% of the income of the employees from sectors most heavily influenced by the COVID-19 crisis for up to three months. In addition to employers in sectors where operations have been suspended as a result of the social distancing measures (tourism, sports, culture, etc.), any other employer that can prove a 20% y/y drop in revenue in March is also eligible for the 60% salary subsidy.
  •  The measure has been extended until 30th of September 2020.

This is the main stimulus. However, the working population has doubts that the administrative process will be efficient enough (it is expected that most companies will receive the aid in October and November 2020). Furthermore, many small and medium businesses don’t have the means to pay 40% of the salaries. Some critics see this policy as supporting big companies which will absorb the unemployment caused by the lack of help for small and medium companies.

  • To date (1st August 2020) 129 million leva (64,5 million EUR) have been distributed to 8400 employers, that is 13% of the 1 billion leva (511 million EUR) allocated by the government. Close to 35% from these people have taken aid only for one month.
  • On the 10th of April the Bulgarian Central Bank enacted a moratorium on debt repayments. Overall the number of people who have debts in Bulgaria is almost 3 million. By the 10th of May, 102 000 have applied for temporary cancellation on payments (usually 6 months) towards their loans, and 80 300 have been approved. Changes in these numbers are expected.
  • The processes are not transparent, efficient and timely
  • The measures are conditional and selective and not universal
  • Most of the governments support is expressed in loans rather than direct payments

In conclusion the measures so far have the potential to create another wave of workforce immigration towards Western countries, weakening further the economic future of Bulgaria because:

The case for a UBI emergency pilot in Bulgaria

The unnecessary agony of the Bulgarian nature and people can be prevented, and UBI is a key step that can be collectively taken to compensate over three generations who have given their talents, energy and time towards creating shared wealth spreading beyond the country borders. It’s time for common dividends to be distributed to their rightful owners.

Bulgarian UBI advocates are working hard to unite the people around the idea that once social and economic stability is achieved through unconditional payments of around 1000lv (500 EUR) Bulgarians will have the time and capacity to build a new system that meets their needs and corresponds to a consensus based on democratic values. Due to the inflexibility of the national currency (it is tied to the euro), the dominant proposal on how to implement Basic Income in Bulgaria at the moment is by restructuring the tax system and national budget in a way that will pay the UBI bill with the collection of Value Added Taxes and Excise Taxes paid by the sellers. The idea is for every Bulgarian citizen with an active address registration to own a bank card issued by the Bulgarian Central Bank which will serve people as a payment method to be used to receive a Basic Income that would meet basic needs like rent, utility bills, food, clothes etc.

A UBI emergency pilot hosted in Bulgaria would not a utopia, and the EU could rescue its reputation by supporting it. It is an opportunity to trial universal basic income on a national level using the Bulgarian state financial infrastructure to distribute funds to the people.

The EU Commission would also have a vested interest in embracing the project, as the positive results would increase cohesion and trust, and would give hope to other states that the European experiment is not another way to practice concentration of power.

It’s time for evolution not only for Bulgaria but also for the EU. UBI is a win-win solution and will literally bring Bulgaria back to life. People outside long to return to their roots and work for the wellbeing of their parents and the next generations. The EU owes this to the people of Bulgaria and Bulgarians owe it to themselves, their ancestors, the children, and the European natural environment that happens to be surrounded by Bulgarian borders. We have too much to gain and nothing to lose.



More details on COVID related government  aid.

Interview (Georgi Nedelchev, in Bulgarian) 

UBI Project Paper (in Bulgarian)


Discussion on Universal Basic Income  (in Bulgarian)

Is UBI possible? Discussion (in Bulgarian)

UBI and Poverty (in Bulgarian)

A Canadian Sayout newsletter article about Basic Income

A Canadian Sayout newsletter article about Basic Income

The Canadian Sayout newsletter has printed an article about Basic Income:

… At present government is paying out vast sums of money. In effect, we have a new and large-scale experiment by government in directly providing people with incomes. This gives us some indication
of how a guaranteed income plan could work. Such a plan would be universal. And, as is now being demonstrated, it actually can be done.

A guaranteed, universal, and livable income programme would be transformative for our society. It would directly address income inequality. It would diminish and possibly eliminate poverty once and for all. …

The author, Robyn Peterson, has clarified his use of terms in the article:

a proper BI should be unconditional with the same amount being paid to every citizen or legal resident. This would avoid the somewhat cumbersome issue of establishing who should benefit and by how much, with a progressive income tax system evening things out.

A brief review of ‘The Cost of Basic Income in the United Kingdom: A Microsimulation Analysis’ by Karl Widerquist and Georg Arndt

A brief review of ‘The Cost of Basic Income in the United Kingdom: A Microsimulation Analysis’ by Karl Widerquist and Georg Arndt

There is a translation of this review in French

The article by Widerquist and Arndt can be read here; and a pdf can be downloaded here.

Widerquist and Arndt use microsimulation analysis to estimate that the net cost of a poverty-level Basic Income for the United Kingdom (£7,706 per annum for adults and £3,853 for children) is about £67 billion per year or 3.4% of GDP. The paper makes a useful contribution to the current debate about financially feasible Basic Income schemes for the UK.

The authors correctly recognise that their scheme is ‘not optimised for political feasibility’. This is true. British benefits policy is quite path dependent—that is, it tends to continue in its existing direction—mainly because of the extreme complexity of the tax and benefits systems. Change is normally incremental, and this will be particularly true during the next few decades because of the difficulties that the Government has experienced attempting to combine a handful of means-tested benefits into the new means-tested ‘Universal Credit’. Only a Basic Income that made a very small number of changes to the existing systems would be likely to be considered for implementation during the next few decades, whatever the political ideology of the Government. Widerquist’s and Arndt’s scheme makes multiple major changes all across the systems, and so would be unlikely to be considered for implementation.

There are particular aspects of the scheme that would make the scheme even less politically feasible. The authors are commendably honest about the political infeasibility of their suggested 50 per cent basic rate of Income Tax. Equally politically impossible would be the abolition of National Insurance Contributions and National Insurance benefits such as the Retirement Pension, even if that would be replaced by a new Basic Income for elderly people. National Insurance is a concept deeply embedded in the British psyche, and any government that tampered with it would suffer the consequences. It is not insignificant that when the new Single Tier State Pension, which is very close to a Citizen’s Pension, was implemented, a National Insurance Contribution record conditionality was retained. Under the circumstances, the only option is to retain the National Insurance system: although making it fairer, for instance by charging contributions at the same rate across the entire earnings range, rather than at a reduced rate for higher earners, might be politically feasible.  

The authors propose a ‘hold harmless’ mechanism to ensure that low income households that would otherwise have suffered losses on the implementation of the proposed scheme would not in fact do so. The losses occur because the authors have decided to abolish all existing means-tested benefits except for Housing Benefit and various disability benefits. The problem is that they have not specified how the ‘hold harmless’ proposal would be administered. The only feasible way of achieving such a mechanism would be to reintroduce a means-tested benefit that would mirror the benefits that had been abolished. It might be objected that simply recording each household’s disposable income at the point at which the scheme was implemented would be sufficient: but that would only tell the administrators how much to pay on the day after implementation. If would not protect households from subsequent differences between the old system and the new once household circumstances started to change. Only a means-tested benefit could do that. The UK Government has found it difficult enough to combine a few existing means-tested benefits into a single new one. To abolish most existing benefits and then to implement a wholly new one with a particular aim, all at the same time as implementing Basic Incomes and changing the tax system, would be administratively and therefore politically impossible.

The paper contains a useful discussion of the difference between the gross cost and net cost of a Basic Income scheme, and quite rightly points out that rather too many commentators fail to understand the importance of the difference. The authors calculate that the net cost of their scheme would be £67bn per annum. This might be only 3.4 per cent of GDP, but it would still have to be found from somewhere. Suggestions are made at the end of the paper, one of which is that the whole £67bn should be paid by the top 30 per cent of earners. No government would want to alienate that group of voters to that extent, rendering the proposal politically feasibility. We are therefore left with sharing the burden across the earnings range, although not necessarily via an additional Income Tax. What the authors don’t seem to realise is that wherever the money was found it would impact household living standards. For instance, let us suppose that additional consumption taxes or a new carbon tax were to be employed to fill the gap. In either case prices would rise, household disposable incomes would be affected, and the statistics given in the paper for poverty levels and household gains and losses would no longer be correct. Only a Basic Income scheme that fully specifies the funding method, and that calculates the reductions in the Income Tax Personal Allowance, increases in Income Tax rate changes, and other changes, that would achieve a net cost of zero, can be sure that statistics on poverty levels, household gains and losses, etc., generated by microsimulation would be those that would be seen when the scheme was implemented. A scheme with a net cost above zero leaves us entirely in doubt as to the effects of the scheme. This means that in the case of the scheme researched for this paper none of the outcome statistics can be believed.

There are two ways of approaching the question of the financial feasibility of Basic Income schemes: 1. to research the effects of a particular scheme and then decide whether it would be feasible, or 2. to set feasibility criteria and then seek a scheme that would fit those criteria. The second of those approaches is the one that follows scientific method and is therefore the method that ought to recommend itself to social science researchers. The paper under review employs the first of the two methods. As far as the author of this review knows, only his own research follows the second method—a fact that never surprises him because the second method can take days of testing of alternative schemes before a scheme that fits the criteria can be found, and there is always the possibility that no scheme will be found that is anywhere near to being feasible. Widerquist and Arndt reference a 2019 paper that employs the second of the two methods. The most recent such research can be found here.

Widerquist and Arndt are to be commended for contributing to the UK’s strong research tradition on the financial feasibility of Basic Income schemes. If further research were to take account of the hesitations discussed in this review, and were to employ the second of the two methods outlined in the previous paragraph, then their future research would make an even bigger contribution.

Basic Income Week: Freedom to Choose

Basic Income Week: Freedom to Choose

September 14, 2020, is the kickoff day for the 13th International Basic Income Week (IBIW). Our goal is to have a coordinated global effort and a big presence in many countries. As the banner indicates, this year’s motto will be ‘Freedom to Choose’.

2020 has presented us with major protests around the world seeking more social justice. Starting with Black Lives Matter, the protests went global with a message of enough is enough, governments have to more realistically reflect and serve society. Different countries had different touch-points, but all of the protests focused on social justice with equality being a primary focus. As we all know, equality encompasses vast swaths of societal endeavours but a lack of money is the biggest determinant in changing the focus and outlook for most of those endeavours.

The third week in September offers us an opportunity to put Basic Income front and centre to showcase the richness of the movement and message in all parts of the globe. We know that everyone as an individual and as members of larger groups want their voices heard and have ideas about how to advance their messages and their voice. International Basic Income Week offers a venue to everyone to have their say in conjunction with a world-wide contingent. Everyone can let the world know that they are part of a larger global voice advocating for a floor that each of us can stand on and reach out confidently to the future.

The #countonbasicincome tag has been used for several years to focus social media on the movement. We again encourage everyone to use that hashtag to showcase the activities they are planning and to let everyone know about them.

Plan your events for 2020! Click here.

Events can be added to the Basic Income Week Calendar so everyone knows about them.

Plan your #countonbasicincome photo on 18th September 2020,

Enjoy a socially distanced International Basic Income Beer #basicincomebeer on Friday 18th September 2020.

Organize an International Basic Income March #basicincomemarch on Saturday 19th September.

Write or generate some global COVID-19 basic income content to post on the IBIW website (e.g., collect stories from people around the world, perhaps via video, about how COVID-19 has changed the financial situation in each country, and if there are any basic income or basic income-like petitions and how they fared).

Most importantly, enjoy some time with people who are equally engaged and desiring a change so that everyone starts with a level playing field.

Brazil: COVID-19, UBI, and ultraliberalism

Brazil: COVID-19, UBI, and ultraliberalism

Lena Lavinas

It is undeniable that the new wave of engouement for UBI (universal basic income) that has shaken the US, the EU, India and so many other parts of the globe in the wake of COVID-19 has also reached Brazil. Everywhere, the simple idea of guaranteeing a regular income, duty-free, underwritten by the State, appears to be the way forward to mitigate the still unmeasurable consequences of the appalling disruptions brought about by the pandemic. UBI would swiftly reduce income insecurity, preventing poverty; it could also significantly contribute to accelerate the economic recovery in the post-COVID-19 era by stimulating aggregate demand. 

The idea of a UBI was galvanized when governments promptly decided to extend the amount, coverage, and length of different sorts of monetary transfers to confront the gravity of the multiple crises created by the COVID-19 outbreak. Unemployment benefits, job allowances, one-time pay-checks, welfare benefits, or even special forms of credit line have spread out to inject liquidity in the economy. All of a sudden, we have a new opportunity for making the case for UBI. 

Brazil was no exception. The comprehensive national social security system created in 1988 that provides free, universal health care (among many other rights) had been made vulnerable by years of underfinancing. But the system continues to be the most effective and democratic institution when it comes to guaranteeing social rights and wellbeing in Brazil. When the COVID crisis hit, the federal government and Congress could have reinforced social assistance, public healthcare, unemployment insurance, and other job allowances — all constitutive dimensions of the Brazilian social protection system. Instead, they united to favor ad hoc measures that, though sounding generous, are inevitably temporary.

The ultraliberal government of President Jair Bolsonaro backed a bill that Congress approved unanimously early April to adopt an “emergency basic income” program that would last the entire state of emergency declared on March 20, 2020. In principle, this program should expire on December 31, 2020, along with the state of emergency. In Brazil, a state of emergency allows extraordinary spending, suppressing the 2016 cap imposed by a constitutional amendment that impeded any real increase in social spending until 2036 regardless of economic growth or rise in tax revenues. 

It bears reminding that Brazil is the only country in the world to have passed a law on Basic Income in 2004, hours prior to the adoption of the Bolsa Familia Program. Yet the law remained a dead letter and largely unknown to most Brazilians. To date, it remains unclear why the Workers’ Party started its mandate presenting a bill on UBI, which was approved without encountering any opposition, too soon after paying no heed to it. Today, despite the existence of a UBI Law, activists, progressive parties, and members of Congress chose the easiest way out, bypassing the already existing institutional framework. They chose a transitory and short-term program over existing law. This narrowed sighted strategy further debilitates Brazil’s social security system, because it deepens defunding. It also fails to bring greater comprehension of what a UBI is in the public opinion, thereby further diminishing the chances to make it a true, permanent, and unconditional right.  

Today’s “emergency basic income program” provides a three time-payment – now extended to four months – of R$ 600.00, the equivalent of $120 USD per month.  It is means-tested. Anyone over 18 years old (threshold waived for single mothers) living with a monthly per capita household income below half a minimum wage (R$ 552.00 / $110 USD) qualifies. The Minister of the Economy estimates that this benefit has reached 54 million people, encompassing the target-population previous recipients of Bolsa Familia, informal and precarious workers, and the unemployed who registered. Let’s not forget that Brazilian monthly median per capita household income, including labor income and all forms of social benefits, like pensions and welfare schemes, corresponds to R$ 862.00, equivalent to $172.00 USD. A monthly stipend of R$ 600.00 is therefore a very significant figure that amounts to 70 percent of the median per capita income and is three times higher than the Bolsa Familia cash transfer. It was the first time that Brazil set the bar so high with regard to compensatory benefits. 

It is worth noting that indigenous and traditional black communities who were proportionally the most hardly hit by the pandemic have been denied the right to this temporary benefit, which is very telling about the challenges for universalizing rights in Brazil. The mortality rate among indigenous in the Legal Amazon is 150 percent higher than the national average. The deficiency of the specific care system for native peoples, the invasion of their lands by miners who can take the virus into their territories and communities, and continuous deforestation are pointed out as reasons that can explain such a high mortality rate and lethality. Faced with the threat posed by COVID-19 to indigenous communities, opposition parties passed a law in early July in Congress that provides for a set of 16 emergency measures to protect some 800,000 indigenous people. President Bolsonaro, however, immediately vetoed the most important ones, such as guaranteeing the supply of drinking water, food baskets, hygiene products and specific ICU beds for indigenous people infected with the virus, arguing that the Union could not afford mounting non-essential expenditures. Brazil remains a very unequal society and has not yet reckoned with its colonial structures of racialized discrimination. 

The Brazilian Bureau of Census (IBGE) just published the first results regarding the impact of the Emergency Basic Income Program: 38.7 percent of all Brazilian households received the program, with the bottom 40 percent benefitting most. 45 percent of all Brazilians received the temporary emergency workers’ allowance and three-fourths of all monetary transfers benefitted the 50 percent at the bottom of the distribution scale. According to IPEA, this allowance has compensated 45 percent of outstanding earning losses due to the pandemic. It also increased by 2,000 times the average income of the poorest 10 percent. This is good news, especially because the recovery of the economic activity that has been noticed in early July significantly relies on the rebound of household consumption. 

There is now strong evidence that providing monetary transfers at large scale and in substantial amounts that make a real difference in people’s lives is a powerful mechanism to boost economic activity, prevent destitution and humiliation, and help people cope with all sorts of hardships.  

Did the crisis and the measures adopted increase the support for a true UBI? Are Brazilians really aware of the challenge and motivated to fight for it? In 2013, I carried out a national survey to assess how Brazilian society values social policies. There was a specific question on UBI. Back then, 51 percent disagreed, and one-third agreed with the idea of implementing a UBI. The current estimates are unknown since no survey asking the specific question has yet been re-conducted. But let us keep in mind that the current emergency workers’ allowance is no UBI. 

The question is whether or not the evidence aforementioned would suffice to bolster the implementation of a true UBI in Brazil.

During the pandemic, doctors, health workers, and the many who support the universal public health care system (SUS) persevered in order to advance a temporary program, called ICU Beds for All. In Brazil, for every 5 ICU beds fully equipped in the private sector, we have only 1 in public hospitals. The problem is that only 25 percent of all Brazilians have subscribed to private health insurance, whereas 75 percent go public. Given that a significant and growing number of ICU beds were underutilized in the private sector, a campaign was launched to create a pool of ICU beds, coordinated by a public entity, to improve access and sort out the waiting list problem. But no agreement could be reached and today Brazil is second only to the United States, with 1,7 million confirmed cases, and 68,000 fatalities, both figures broadly underestimated given that testing is rather rare in Brazil.  It is now obvious that the COVID-19 pandemic was insufficient to unite Brazilians, even when so many lives are lost. 

This paradox raises two major concerns:   

  1. Is UBI the most urgent need for Brazilians? Will it be possible to couple a universal basic income at a relatively significant amount at least to eradicate abject poverty with other universal social policies that are urgently needed such as public healthcare, good public education, social housing, adequate sanitation? Is this affordable? 
  1. To what extent would endorsing UBI strengthen the social security system already threatened by austerity measures derived from the cap on public spending and by attempts of the Bolsonaro government to fully reshape it through tax reform and the merging of different social benefits restricting them to poverty relief programs?


In regards to the first question, what would be the cost of a UBI in Brazil? Of course, the cost depends on the design of the program. To get a rough idea of the cost of a very basic program, let us consider a stipend that would be equivalent to the monthly benefit of Bolsa Familia today, which is R$ 200 per month ($40 USD). This amount should be acceptable by all parties and civil organizations across the political spectrum. The difference lies in the fact that it would apply to individuals (UBI) rather than households (Bolsa Familia Program). 

Let us then imagine that when the law was approved in 2004 the Brazilian government decided to implement the program starting with children under 5. Given that it would be impossible to grant a stipend to all Brazilians, the idea is that we would launch a UBI by targeting the children to prevent intergenerational poverty. The new benefit will accompany the beneficiaries throughout their lifetime as an unconditional right. Focusing on children sounds appropriate because the pension system in Brazil provides a satisfactory income security to the elderly: 85 percent of all seniors over 65 receive a public pension, either contributory or non-contributory, whose monthly amount (floor) corresponds to no less than a minimum wage.  

By providing a UBI of R$ 200.00 to children under 5 in 2004, today’s number of potential recipients under 20 years old totals 60,7 million people (IBGE, PNAD 2004 & PNADc 2020). This would cost R$ 323 billion, or 10 times the annual spending with the Bolsa Familia Program (R$ 32 billion or, 4.4 percent of GDP in 2019). The good news is that 57 percent of all stipends would go the bottom 40 percent of the distribution. The current Emergency Workers’ Allowance Program amounts to R$ 150 Billion, consequently less than half of the proposed UBI, reaching an almost equal number of recipients. 

To grant $40 USD a month to 60 million people in 2019 is three times higher than the federal spending, with the public healthcare system (only R$ 117 billion or 1.64 percent of GDP). Such a program would also surpass by 11 percent of all benefits conveyed by the federal government (including higher education, housing, sanitation, labor, and agrarian initiatives), which accounts for R$ 289 billion (Lavinas 2020). 

In 2019, outstanding federal social spending amounted to R$ 1.73 trillion. Paying a basic income of R$ 200.00, therefore at the level of the current anti-poverty Bolsa Familia program, would compromise 27.5 percent of all social spending. That same year federal social spending in kind corresponded to only 4.12 percent. 

Monetary transfers remain the bulk of social spending, accounting for 68 percent. Should Brazil continue to expand cash transfers, to the detriment of providing running water, sanitation, housing, equal standards in education and healthcare? The most recent data from IBGE (2018) show that 31.1 million Brazilians (16 percent of the population) have no access to tap-water, whereas 72.4 million (37 percent of the population) lack proper sanitation. Not to mention decades of deep housing shortage affecting millions of poor and low-income families who end up living in slums, which makes them less immune to all sorts of diseases in times of pandemics. 

The second question relates to the future of the Brazilian social protection system, which was underfinanced for quite a long time, and now risks being completely dismantled. The Minister of the Economy, an old member of the Chicago Boys who worked for the Pinochet Regime, intends to overhaul social security. He initiated a pension reform in 2019, making it harder for informal workers to get a full pension at retirement. 

Now, that same ultraliberal minister proposes the creation of a “Brazil Income Program”, resulting from the merging of a large number of benefits, both contributory and non-contributory. Workers’ rights like job allowances, unemployment benefits, and other benefits alike will all be suppressed and replaced by an anti-poverty program to reach 57 million people, granting a monthly stipend of R$ 232 per month, 15 percent above the average payment of Bolsa Familia. They expect to spend R$ 52 billion per year with this new program, which is less than one percent of the 2019 Brazilian GDP. This means that the coverage against risks and poverty will be shortened and people’s autonomy and wellbeing consequently corroded. 

In addition, the government intends to provide a voucher to pay for private daycare for two million children up to three years old, which will increase prices and fees and discriminate based on income. Lessons from Chile are well-known to envision that in Brazil things could be different. A voucher of R$ 250,00 corresponds to 10 percent of what middle-class families pay for private childcare in cities like Rio and São Paulo. The best daycare centers, however, charge double or triple. According to the government, churches could be interested in providing this service, an idea that breaks with the logic of secularism in the provision of public education. 

Both concerns point to the ineluctable call for a joint perspective associating basic income and universal public provision to democratize access and opportunities by fully de-commodifying wellbeing. Otherwise, under financialized capitalism, a guaranteed income will just serve as collateral propelling citizenry to take out loans and go indebted in order to meet their financial obligations. 

Early July, that same Congress that approved the Emergency Workers’ Allowance Program voted for the full privatization of water supply and sanitation, maybe having in mind that enlarging access to cash to those most affected by the pandemic would also make it easier to expand further a business model grounded in denying basic human rights and ensuring huge profits for pension and mutual funds that today drive investments in infrastructure in developing and emerging countries. After the longest and most severe recession Brazil has faced over a century since 2015 and given the growth projections ahead (-9.1 percent for 2020, according to the IMF), fiscal resources will dry up while competing and clashing issues will fill up antagonisms, stirring tensions. All the care may not be enough in designing social policies if the goal is eventually to forge a truly egalitarian society in the country.

The major differential of a UBI is to de-commodify labor. It is thus equally crucial to de-commodify the social reproduction of labor, by ensuring that education, daycare, healthcare, training, and other basic needs will also be fully de-commodified. Otherwise, UBI will perform as a powerful pro-market mechanism, upholding income-related and highly segmented private provision, mostly through the financial sector, and fueling rather than overcoming discrimination and inequality.