Fernando Chui Sai On. Picture credit to: Plataforma Macau.
The Chief Executive of Macao (on of the Special Administrative Regions (SAR) in China), Fernando Chui Sai On, has announced on the 15th of November 2018, that the Wealth Partaking Scheme (WPS) has been increased to 10000 patacas/year (1094 €/year) for Macao’s permanent residents, and to 6000 patacas/year (656 €/year) for non-residents. That’s an 11% increase from previous values, set since 2014, and a 100% increase since 2008, the year of the scheme’s inception. This announcement is made as part of Macao’s 2019 Policy Address, an event occurring on that same date at the Legislative Assembly.
Macao, home to 663400 residents plus around 180000 non-resident workers, uses the WPS to redistribute gaming revenue, in a region which has been called “Vegas of China”. However, social unrest is around the corner, when some people have voiced that the local government has not dealt properly with the recent devastation by hurricane Hato earlier this year. That and due to rising inequality, which has risen to warning levels (above 0,4 in the Gini Index), according to the Macau Economic Association, aligned however with China’s inequality levels, above 0,4 at least since 2012. This seems to suggest that the WPS is more a way to “temper public dissatisfaction and widespread demonstrations”, as assistant professor Bruce Kwong of government and public administration at the University of Macao has put it, then an effective tool to reduce inequality.
More information at:
Scott Douglas Jacobsen, “China: News from Macau’s “Wealth Partaking Scheme”, Basic Income News, October 1st 2017
Claire Bott, “China: Macao to spend over $1.5bn on public subsidies including Wealth Partaking Scheme”, Basic Income News, October 1st 2017
Yi Wei Wong, “Cash handouts for Wealth Partaking Scheme increased”, Macau News Agency, November 15th 2018
Nelson Moura, “Cash handout to go up to MOP10,000”, Macau News Agency, November 14th 2018
Cecília U, “Cash handouts likely to increase”, Macau News Agency, November 13th 2018
“Gap between rich and poor widens to warning levels”, Macau Daily Times, April 24th 2014
The Basic Income Asia Pacific 2018 conference signaled a feeling of growing momentum of the basic income movement in Asia Pacific, particularly in Taiwan.
Over 100 attendees filled the two day conference in Taipei, along with thousands of viewers of the online livestream and simultaneous translations. The speaker roster this year featured an extensive list of international and Taiwanese scholars and personalities.
Enno Schmidt, the 2016 Swiss referendum leader, and Sarath Davala, the leader researcher for UNICEF’s Indian basic income trial, led the keynote speeches for day one and day two respectively.
Davala said he felt “electricity” during the conference.
“The UBI Asia Pacific Conference is an important milestone in the basic income movement. It is a high voltage moment that we in Asia will talk to our children about. The energy in the conference was amazing, and I was inspired to see young women and men from different universities in Taiwan all fired up about the idea of basic income,” Davala said.
Schmidt said it was clear the Taiwanese group had put in a lot of effort since last year’s conference.
“At this year’s UBI Asia Pacific Conference, it was noticeable that the UBI team had already been working for a full year. Sarath Davala from India gave a rousing speech, and Patrick Havermann from the United Nations Development Program in Asia would like to make the entire UN network available to spread the idea of the Basic Income,” Schmidt said.
Taiwanese media emphasized the conference’s focus on Taiwan’s recent changes to the referendum law, which has opened up the possibility for a basic income referendum in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang opened the first day of the conference, noting that while she believes more research should be done on basic income in Taiwan, she supported the spirit of discussion at the conference.
“Indeed, to build a sound re-distribution mechanism to improve human welfare and equality — this is a timeless subject that needs continuous review and revisit,” Tang said.
The UN Development Program (UNDP) Asia Pacific Advisor Patrick Haverman, who has been leading an effort to work with regional governments to research basic income, opened the second day of the conference.
Haverman held a series of round-table discussions with Chinese scholars and officials on the possibility for a pilot program in China.
“In my work with UNDP, I have helped establish round-table meetings on basic income across the Asia Pacific with other UN agencies, academics, and government officials to start a discussion about UBI and explore the possibility of piloting an basic income project,” Haverman said. “The Basic Income Asia Pacific conference is good way to exchange information and to discuss how potentially UBI can address some of the most pressing challenges of our time, like inequality and automatization potentially taking over some of the current jobs.”
UBI Taiwan also presented the current state of their research on both days. The research group said their main focus is creating a framework for a universal Partial Basic Income (PBI) that would gradually phase into a full basic income over a decade. The English overview of their research can be found here.
The proposal would increase taxes by five percent of Taiwan’s GDP and could provide 3,000 NTD ($102 USD) to every Taiwanese citizen.
Jiaguan Su, UBI Taiwan’s Research Director, said the scholars who had met with the research team to discuss the national proposal were “impressed,” and that their main takeaway is that the proposal must emphasize the values of UBI.
“The most important lesson we took from the conference is we must promote the core values of UBI Taiwan through the national proposal. Namely, UBI is for everyone, not just a specific group of people. Our research should focus on this value in order to demonstrate UBI’s ability to promote democracy and human rights in Taiwan,” Su said.
Jason Hsu, a KMT (Nationalist Party) legislator in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, spoke at the first day of the conference. Taiwan media reported that Hsu is considering raising the subject of basic income with large Taiwanese companies.
James Davis, a Columbia University student and UBI Taiwan Field Research Director, interviewed Andrew Yang, the 2020 US presidential candidate running on a basic income platform for the conference. Yang is ethnically Taiwanese and said he was excited by the discussion of basic income in Taiwan.
“UBI Taiwan is fighting the good fight. I was honored to contribute to the BIAP conference because job automation has the potential to seriously hurt Taiwanese workers – and American workers – if universal basic income doesn’t become a reality soon,” Yang said.
Davis also interviewed Qin Gao for the conference, the Columbia University professor who has written a book on China’s cash transfer program, dibao. Gao is the director of China Center for Social Policy at Columbia. Gao noted the problems and stigmatization that arise from some of the means-testing conditions on China’s cash program.
Andy Stern, the former President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and former advisor to President Barack Obama, has been a consistent advocate of basic income in the United States and has provided advice and support to UBI Taiwan over the last several months.
“The clarity of UBI Taiwan’s vision and the tremendous work of its fellows is astounding. The time for universal basic income policies is now, not later. And the world is lucky to have UBI Taiwan on the vanguard of the global debate, designing UBI policy in practical, politically feasible ways,” Stern said.
National Chengchi University (NCCU) and National Taiwan University were the locations for the event this year. NCCU’s International Master’s Program in Asia Pacific Studies (IMAS) was the main organizer for the event. UBI Taiwan provided the volunteer team.
The U.S. State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship program provided a grant through its Alumni Development Fund to support the event to Prochazka, Elyse Mark, and Davis.
Tyler Prochazka, UBI Taiwan’s co-founder, was the director for the conference along with Dongyan Wu, UBI Taiwan’s Public Relations Director. Prochazka and Wu will appear on Taiwan television in April and May.
Ping Xu, UBI Taiwan’s co-founder, said she was excited by the results of the conference, particularly the connections made between different opinion leaders from around the region and within Taiwan.
“It was great success to have many influential opinion leaders from political, medical and social fields participate in the conference. This was a brand new milestone to help build the UBI movement in Taiwan,” Xu said.
Davala said the conference was a positive sign for the future of Taiwan’s UBI movement.
“UBI Taiwan, within a short period has been able to inspire and mobilize hundreds of students to stand up for an idea that is often dismissed as Utopian and impractical. Taiwan could very well be the first Asian country to go for a referendum on Unconditional Basic Income,” Davala siad.
The livestreams and simultaneous translation broadcasts can be found on UBI Taiwan’s Facebook. For the conference’s Twitter stream, go here.
The second annual Basic Income Asia Pacific conference will be held in Taipei, Taiwan on March 17 and 18. This year’s theme is “Asia Pacific’s Economic Future.”
Keynote speeches will be delivered by Enno Schmidt, the Swiss referendum leader, and Dr. Sarath Davala, the lead researcher for the UNICEF basic income trials in India.
“The focus on Asia is necessary to understand how we are going to interpret the idea regionally – given Asia’s own specificities and peculiarities. This conference is going to open this much needed conversation. This event is yet another milestone achieved by the UBI Taiwan, one of the most dynamic national groups,” Davala said.
Leading thinkers in academia, government and NGOs from Taiwan, mainland China, India, Bangladesh, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States will join the conference to discuss the challenges facing the Asia Pacific and potential solutions, such as basic income.
Dr. Hermann Aubie is a lecturer at Aston University in the United Kingdom. His research specializes on comparing basic income movements in East Asia and Europe.
“This conference offers a rare and precious opportunity in the Asia Pacific region to build upon the wave of renewed attention that Universal Basic Income gained in recent years to discuss actively how we can create a wider consensus and concrete initiatives that build upon existing basic income designs and pilot implementations across the world,” Aubie said.
The entire conference will be live-streamed on UBI Taiwan’s Facebook account, including both English and Chinese audio simultaneous translations.
Taiwan has recently lowered the threshold for referendums, which has opened the possibility for a UBI referendum in Taiwan. This will be a topic of particular focus for two of the presentations at the conference, including Schmidt who will present on how Taiwan can lead Asia with a UBI referendum.
“With the introduction of Direct Democracy this year in Taiwan, the UBI Taiwan proponents have the same chance and political tool to turn UBI into a nationwide discussion and to push it to a people’s vote like the Swiss have done,” Schmidt said.
The conference coincides with increased discussion of basic income in the Asia Pacific, with the UN Development Program holding roundtable discussions on basic income in Beijing, China last October and December, as well as Korea discussing designs for a a pilot program.
“With the second annual UBI Asia Pacific regional conference approaching, we have expanded into two days, allowing us to share our ideas of how to improve society through implementation of Universal Basic Income,” said Ping Xu, co-founder of UBI Taiwan and UBI Asia Pacific.
The conference will examine the economic and social challenges facing the Asia Pacifc region, and will assess what a basic income policy can do to address these issues, such as inequality, automation, globalization, demographics, and environmental issues.
Last year’s conference attracted 100 participants and thousands of online viewers. The conference helped bring attention to basic income in Taiwan, with the formation of a UBI summer fellowship program and discussions with the Taichung Social Affairs Bureau about a potential pilot program.
The event is organized by National Chengchi University’s (NCCU) College of Social Sciences, and NCCU’s International Master’s Program in Asia Pacific Studies. It will be held at NCCU on March 17 and NTU on March 18. The event’s volunteers and coordinating team are part of UBI Taiwan.
“At this juncture of history where poverty and inequality are rising rapidly, I think we urgently need a “new universalism” of the kind UBI promises. There’s a long road and a lot of work ahead of us to make it a reality, but as more and more people place their hope in UBI’s emancipatory potential to protect their livelihood, human rights and dignity, we just can’t afford to disappoint such expectations,” Aubie said.
Writing Assistance from: James Grant
The Macao region of China will spend more than 1.2 billion euros this year on public subsidies, including their Wealth Partaking Scheme, which functions as a very low-level form of basic income.
As reported by the Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China, the Macao region will be spending over 12bn patacas (1.2 billion €), the local currency, on various forms of public subsidy.
This will include the Wealth Partaking Scheme, which offers 9000 patacas (900 €) per year to every permanent resident, and 5400 patacas (542 €) per year to every non-permanent resident.
Other Macao public subsidies include regular payments to elderly and disabled people.
More information at:
“Macao to spend 1.61 bln USD on public subsidies next year: chief executive“, XinhuaNET, 14th November 2017
In a sign of the major progress Universal Basic Income (UBI) has made in Asia, the United Nations Development Program in Beijing hosted a roundtable discussion on basic income last week. Professors from China’s most influential universities spoke at the roundtable about the potential for a basic income pilot program in China.
Patrick Haverman is the UNDP Deputy Country Director for China. Haverman said he wants to work with academia and government to determine if basic income experiments in different areas of China are feasible.
“With the Sustainable Development Goals firmly focused on the need to ‘leave no one behind’, careful consideration of a wide variety of responses will be essential,” Haverman said during his opening remarks. ”It is very important that we can foster collaborative discussions around potential options to address poverty and inequality into the future, and the role of UBI should not be overlooked.”
The roundtable also discussed the benefits and likely challenges of implementing a Universal Basic Income in China. A large topic was how UBI could improve on the dibao system, which is China’s means-tested unconditional cash transfer program. Dibao currently has issues with targeting the subsidies toward people in poverty, which many participants at the roundtable noted UBI’s universality could potentially alleviate.
Shi Li, a professor at Beijing Normal University, said Chinese people in poverty receive the dibao because of poor targeting. In his research, Li and other researchers found that nearly 88 percent of poor residents in China do not receive dibao stipends. Remarkably, administrative costs of means-testing were three times more than the actual transferred amount.
The large size and economic disparities across the mainland mean it may be difficult to implement a national UBI that is not adjusted based on residence, others noted.
The event was co-hosted by the International Labour Organization, which presented on the potential disruption of automation on employment during the roundtable. Haverman said an advantage in China is that smartphone penetration is high and many businesses now accept digital payments. This means it may be most efficient to send basic incomes to digital wallets.
“Almost everyone has a phone, so if we find a pilot zone I think we should take a look at it,” Haverman said.
Furui Cheng an associate professor at China University of Political Science and Law’s Business School, said the China Basic Income/Social Dividend Research Network is working with UNDP to plan the next steps for a pilot program in China.
Cheng said they are looking to work with local governments and raise money from technology companies.
“Basic income is the probable alternative for the future global social security system, which is facing unprecedent challenges now,” Cheng said.
“We shall learn the experiences of global existing basic income experiments as much as possible, and we welcome any suggestions from any supporters,” she said.
Zhiyuan Cui, a professor at Tsinghua University, has written how China could emulate the Alaska Permanent Fund to implement UBI. Cui explained that Jay Hammond, the Alaskan governor who created the Permanent Fund, said he often felt “closer to Beijing than Washington DC.”
Yang Tuan of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the size of China means it would be a good place “to come up with many types of experiments” for basic income.Tuan, who supported the implementation of dibao when she was working for China’s social security system, said the economic dynamics of China have changed since dibao started.
“(In the past) I have been against western mechanisms of social security,” she said. “But today I think the context of China is different.”
According to Haverman, the UNDP is planning to release up to three more working papers, addressing topics such as financing UBI in China, as well as its effect on work hours.
To see UNDP China’s press release, go here.
To see the original UNDP China working paper, go here.
To inquire about the UNDP project contact Cheng Furui: email@example.com