Constitutional Convention in Chile has two proposals of basic income in debate

Constitutional Convention in Chile has two proposals of basic income in debate

During January the Fundamental Rights commission of the Constitutional Convention of Chile proposed two different articles to guarantee a basic income. Following an increasing support and visibility of this proposal, the Chilean Basic Income Network collaborated with 11 members of the convention and proposed a basic income as a way of fulfilling the right to a vital minimum (mínimo vital) through a basic income. The articles proposed to be incorporated in the new constitution are:

“Article XXX (to be defined): Of the right to a vital minimum and to the universal basic income.

The State recognizes the human right to a vital minimum.

The State must provide each inhabitant of the Republic with a monetary transfer that is periodic, individual, unconditional and non-seizable.

To ensure this minimum, a sufficient amount of resources must be allocated within the Budget Law for the preservation of social services and benefits.

The law that regulates the organisation and implementation of the basic income will guarantee that, in the case of people in contexts of dependency, the administration of their income is in charge, totally or partially, of their caregivers.

Transitory Article XXX (to be defined): The government will submit a bill for the implementation of the right to a vital minimum and universal basic income within the first two years counted from the entry in force of this constitution”

The second set of articles to guarantee a basic income refers to a right to a guaranteed basic income and it has the following description:

“Permanent article.- Every person permanently residing in Chile will have the right to receive a basic income in money, which guarantees the basic necessities of existence. This income will be monthly, unconditional, individual, unattachable and independent of any other income. The law will determine its amount and provide the way for its transfer to be automatic, without any request or justification. The loss of basic income may not be applied as a sanction.

Transitory article.- The basic income will replace any subsidy with similar purposes and will be implemented in accordance with the progressiveness established by law. The President of the Republic, during the first year of his mandate, must account to the National Congress for the measures that he will adopt for the progression of the effectiveness of this right”.

The next step in this process is the discussion of these initial proposals in the wider assembly. To be approved, an article must gather ⅔ of votes from the 155 convention representatives.

A new project from FRIBIS: Universal Basic Income and Gender

The Freiburg Institute for Basic Income Studies (FRIBIS), a network of several faculties at the University of Freiburg, has expanded with a new international team which focuses on basic income and gender issues, pulled together by Enno Schmidt. It uses as a starting point, the study by Prof. Toru Yamamori on the British women’s liberation movement in 1970’s, which was already calling for a UBI. According to Yamamori, grassroots feminist economic and political thought forms a basis of the demand for basic income, and the beginning of this can be seen during the women’s liberation movement in 1970’s Britain. For this reason, the relationship between grassroots feminist economic and political thought and basic income deserves to be re-examined, as this area has often been overlooked.

As a comprehensive research and design goal, the initiative seeks to examine grassroots feminist economic understanding and behavior and its potential in forming a new social contract with a particular focus on asic income. Based on this main principle, to amplify the voice of women in basic income research and design, the initiative seeks three objectives.. First, the further elaboration of Toru Yamamori’s study with final book publication, supported in particular by the collaboration of Barb Jacobson and Dr. Liz Fouksman in the UK. Secondly, a study and documentation on the question of women’s understanding of and behaviour in the economy and cooperation with members of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India under guidance of Renana Jhabvala. This will be supplemented by similar empirical research by Liz Fouksman in South Africa and Prof. Dr. Kaori Katada in Japan and by the experiences, data and results of basic income projects in Canada by Chloe Halpenny. As a third goal, enriched by the outputs of the other 2 goals, the initiative aims to embed their relevance in a potential new social contract for real gender equality. This is planned to be introduced as a pilot project, in a yet to be determined region in the USA under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Almaz Zelleke and others to come. However, the team is also open to new influences and directions that arise during the collaboration, for example an additional focus on China.

For these purposes, the research programme will take place in 4 stages. The first phase will include a manifesto and presentations based on research which is already ongoing and which will start shortly. At this stage, the data, interviews and questionnaires of the participating researchers will be used. In the second phase, the focus will be on the collective reconstruction and articulation of “grassroots feminist economic and political thought”. At this stage, the experiences of relevant people in the research team will be used. In the third stage, the aim is to determine the positions of the above research in academic disciplines. In this sense, theoretical and anthropological studies will be carried out at this stage and the theoretical infrastructure of the outputs of the first two stages will be established. Based on the presentation and evaluation of the nature of women’s cooperation and work, and women’s perspectives on work and economy, this will significantly benefit from the experience of SEWA, and the Basic Income Pilot Projects for women in New Delhi and the 2009-10 pilot project in Madhya Pradesh. The fourth and final stage as envisaged so far, will include the implementation of UBI and new laws in a community in the USA.

In summary, the project aims to combine the introduction of a basic income and the creation of a new social contract from the point of view of women. The output that is intended to be reached at the end of the project is the draft of a new social contract. In other words, the main goal here is to present in a holistic way a draft programme for a society based on unconditional basic income, which is necessary to bring women to equal status with men.

The research team consists of Dr. Liz Fouksman, Chloe Halpenny, Prof. Dr. Kaori Katada, Prof. Dr. Toru Yamamori, Prof. Dr. Almaz Zelleke and as actors from social society Barb Jacobson and Renana Jhabvala. PhD student Jessika Schulz is organisational coordinator of the team on the part of FRIBIS.

Further information about the initiative and the project can be found at the following links:

https://www.fribis.uni-freiburg.de/en/project/ubig/
https://www.fribis.uni-freiburg.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/grassroot_feminist_economic_thought_paper.pdf

Endless thanks to Enno Schmidt for his valuable contribution to this article.

Serkan Simsir

Taiwan holds first online basic income summit

Taiwan holds first online basic income summit

After over a year of avoiding significant local COVID outbreaks, Taiwan experienced a scare in May with hundreds of cases emerging. This brought the idea of universal cash payments to the forefront of Taiwan’s political debate as millions of jobs were destabilized overnight.

With this backdrop, UBI Taiwan held its first-ever online basic income summit on August 15, inviting professors, activists, and politicians from around the world to discuss the state of basic income during the COVID pandemic.

Korea’s Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung opened the summit by noting the importance of the basic income movement in Korea and Taiwan. Lee is currently a frontrunner in the early stages of Korea’s presidential race. He has been called the “Bernie Sanders of Korea” because of his economic proposals.

“When the world is implementing expansive fiscal policy, basic income is gaining attention as the most rational and remarkable way to prepare for the era of the fourth industrial revolution,” Lee said in his address to the conference.

As the former mayor of Seongnam, Lee started a youth basic income program for all 24-year-old youth in the city to receive local currency every quarter. The scheme was shown to improve small business activity in the region. He later expanded the program to the province when he became governor.

Kim Kyeong Soo is part of the Gyeonggi provincial government vision planner. He is the planner of the provincial youth basic income program.

“What we are doing at our expense is to realize the basic social rights of young people,” Kim said in an interview for the conference.

This was a useful model during the COVID crisis because the provincial government was able to quickly expand the program to include all residents of the province during the economic downturn.

Kim also discussed how they increased a myriad of programs during the COVID pandemic and the plans to push for basic income on a nationwide scale.

“We designed it so that it could only be used in stores with annual sales of 1.2 billion won or less, so that the money could be actually revitalized for the small business owners of the real alley economy,” Kim said.

Members of the Basic Income Korea Network Mok Hwakyun and Kim Jae-seop attended the summit for the question-and-answer session. They noted how basic income has become a mainstream topic in Korea.

“The biggest change is that everyone knows about basic income now,” Mok said. “I hope Korea will be the first country” to implement UBI.

Prominent US activist Scott Santens gave a pre-recorded interview for the conference where he discussed the success and failures of America’s massive COVID relief program. One of the biggest changes that has emerged is the Child Tax Credit, which Santens said he believes will get more people on board with a wider basic income safety net.  

“I feel hopeful that especially the monthly CTC is going to really change things here and help build momentum for a full UBI here in the US,” Santens said.

Taiwan’s Yangming University Professor Song-Lih Huang discussed the debate between Universal Basic Services compared to basic income. He concluded that UBS does not provide the same level of individual freedom as UBI.

UBI Taiwan Chairman Tyler Prochazka evaluated Taiwan’s COVID relief response and noted the inadequacy and complexity of receiving relief.

The situation became more severe this past May when a local outbreak caused Taiwan to go into level 3 lockdown for the first time during the pandemic. Taiwan is experiencing a bizarre contradiction, where record economic growth is fueled by its strong export sector despite the lockdown for other industries. At the same time, the lockdown has caused Taiwan’s employees to experience their worst economic situation in decades, particularly for the service industry.

As a result of the lockdown, half of Taiwanese experienced wage reductions of 10 to 50 percent, and 74 percent reported some reduction in wages. At the same time, 41 percent said they believed the government’s COVID relief program provided no help. One issue with the relief program is it relies on extensive documentation to prove an individual’s circumstance and can also reject an applicant if a household member has too much money in the bank.

For example, Taiwan’s unemployment had reached 570,000 people and the number experiencing lower than normal working hours had reached nearly one million during the lockdown. However, only 20,000 people were added to unemployment benefits during June which is less than one-fourth of the increased unemployment for that period.  

Level two lockdown has been extended until September 6 in Taiwan, which places varying levels of restrictions on how businesses operate and closes some businesses entirely, such as certain entertainment venues. Even as much of the country returns to normal, many businesses will likely experience continued restrictions on their operations as well as reduced demand for the foreseeable future.

Despite one of the worst employment situations in decades for Taiwan, the government has only allocated around 6 percent of its annual GDP on COVID relief this year. Compared to Japan and the United States, which spent between 16 to 30 percent of their GDPs on COVID relief, Taiwan has given significantly less to its citizens as a developed economy.

Taiwan’s ruling party Democratic Progressive Party is moving toward another round of stimulus coupons worth 5,000 NT ($180 USD). Due to the stringent conditions associated with COVID relief programs, the universal coupons are the most accessible program from the government’s COVID response for many families. There has been a strong push by opposition parties in Taiwan to provide cash relief now for most Taiwanese instead of coupons and use the administrative savings to give an additional cash boost to poor households.

“Taiwan’s ruling party said they want to ‘share economic growth’ with all Taiwanese,” Prochazka said. “The real way to share economic growth is with Universal Basic Income.”

Alaska Permanent Fund Defenders campaign to save the Dividend

Alaska Mountain Fireweed

The Alaska Permanent Fund was started in 1982 to make sure Alaskans directly benefit from its resources in the wake of its oil boom in the 1970s. Part of the proceeds from investments of the principle, which is held in trust for the state and invested by an independent board, is shared yearly with all Alaskan citizens as the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). This is as close to a basic income by BIEN’s definition as has been achieved world-wide. It is paid equally to each individual regardless of age or financial status, without means tests or other conditions and regularly every year, although the amount differs depending on how the APF’s investments do over a five year period. It has inspired campaigns in many other countries, including Mongolia, South Africa and Goa, to share the profits from resource use as a basic income or dividend to all citizens. The PDF is under particular threat at the moment as a result of recent deficits in the State’s budget, which some legislators want to plug by taking the dividend payments away entirely.

BIEN News interviewed a board member from the Permanent Fund Defenders about the situation. Joe Geldhoff, a lawyer in Juneau, the capital of Alaska, said that “while it is in our constitution that Alaskan citizens should benefit from the state’s resources, the dividend itself is only in legislation.” The PFD allocation for Alaskan citizens needs to be approved by the state legislature every year. For the first thirty years it was paid equally from a fixed 25% share of the fund’s average profits over five years. In the past six years state politicians have whittled down the amount of dividend paid, “despite big promises at election time, which are often unrealistic.” There are worries that there might be no dividend paid out this year, despite the Fund making a profit of some $18.6 million, and large Federal subsidies to the state, especially since the Covid crisis. The PFD competes with state services and projects for priority, since the state government levies neither income nor sales taxes to cover its own spending, which also comes from Permanent Fund proceeds. “This should be a lesson for people advocating basic income schemes all over the world,” Mr Geldhoff said.

The Defenders want the eariler formula from Permanent Fund investments restored to the dividend, and enshrined in the State constitution to protect it from other budget demands and political maneuvering. Mr Geldhoff said that the current special session will be deciding this year’s dividend allocation, and may not pay it at all. The legislature may also consider a constitutional amendment to protect it and restore the original formula which, if approved, would then go out to be voted on by all state citizens. He expressed the worry, however, that there “aren’t enough adults” amongst state politicians, and that they could be too divided to see the latter option through.

“Young people have become very cynical about the political process,” Mr Geldhoff said, so the Defenders are working to educate all Alaskans about the role the dividend has played in “lifting people out of poverty, supporting private enterprise and combatting income inequality” and how they can get involved with saving it. He said that while those with higher salaries in the state’s large public sector have tended to save their dividend to send their children to university, the dividend has enabled people in rural areas with little cash to maintain and buy equipment for subsistence farming, hunting and fishing. Women in particular have used their dividend to get away from relationships which have gone bad, and to train for better jobs. “It’s really about whether you trust citizens to spend the money well or the politicians who tend to give contracts to their cronies,” he said. “This is our common wealth from which we all should have a direct share.”

A recording of our interview with Joe Geldhoff will be available soon. In the meantime people can support the all-volunteer Permanent Fund Defenders in getting their message out to Alaskans on their GoFundMe page. More information about their campaign and the history of the PFD can be found on their website, and the latest news can be followed on their Facebook page.

3rd Gyeonggi Basic Income Conference featured researchers from BIEN

With the theme, ‘From the COVID-19 Disaster to New Great Transition, Basic Income!’ the 3rd annual Basic Income International Conference was held in Gyeonggi Provence, South Korea, 28-29 April 2021. Hosted by the Gyeonggi Provincial Government, and organised by Gyeonggi Research Institute (GRI), Gyeonggi-do Market Revitalization Agency (GMRA), KINTEX, and the Basic Income Korean Network (BIKN), it featured panel talks and discussion by many researchers from BIEN, including Chair Sarath Davala, Hyosang Ahn, Philippe Van Parijs, Guy Standing, Annie Miller, Troy Henderson, Louise Haagh, Almaz Zelleke, Julio Linares, Roberto Merrill among others. Economist Joseph Stiglitz gave a keynote speech on the second day.

Gyeonggi Provence has been at the forefront of implementing pilot projects of basic income, including a youth basic income, which was expanded to the entire province during the covid crisis, and more recently basic incomes for rural and fishing communities.

The playlist for the conference, which includes versions translated into English is here. In order to find the talks you would like to listen to, please consult the programme here. All times are approximate.