Reports are emerging that Spain is hoping to deploy a “permanent” basic income type program in the near future. The program comes as Spain aims to respond to the economic crisis from the global coronavirus pandemic.
Spain has one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world with over 13,000 deaths.
Spain’s push for establishing basic income as a “permanent instrument” that “stays forever” will help reduce financial anxieties for many families worried about their jobs. Sending cash to families rather than corporations will better ensure economic security for the most vulnerable.
However, questions remain about the nature of the program and whether it will be truly universal and unconditional.
If Spain successfully implements basic income, it will become the first European country to implement the program on a national scale and one of the only places in the world to do so.
Finland famously experimented with a basic income pilot program. The experiment made recipients happier and healthier. Nonetheless, some government officials were upset the basic income pilot did not significantly affect employment status within a year for recipients.
Nadia Calviño, Spain’s minister for economic affairs, said the payments will be targeted to families and will differentiate based on their “circumstances.” In practice, differentiating based on circumstances will result in means tests that fall on the poor. If there are strict criteria, then some families who need assistance may be unnecessarily excluded or have their assistance delayed.
A better system is presuming each individual qualifies and allowing wealthier individuals to opt-out. If an individual who received basic income has a large income by the end of 2020, the government can phase out their basic income through the income tax system the following year.
Universality helps the poor, not the rich. It ensures all those who need assistance can receive it immediately. The true costs of universality are lower because it requires less administration and bureaucracy to implement the program.
Two new petitions have been launched in Europe in response to the Coronavirus emergency.
One has been launched in Italy on Change.org platform and is addressed to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, asking for 10 €/day for all Italian citizens as the fastest and most effective way to secure them against loss of income
Another appears on the YouMove.eu website and is addressed to Ursula von der Leyen, Head of the European Commission, Christine Lagarde, Head of the European Central Bank, Mário Centeno, President of the Eurogroup and Finance ministers of all European Member States, asking for a “Quick introduction of an Unconditional Basic Income as an urgency measure [given the corona virus pandemic economic consequences]”.
The Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu)
As reported before, an Estonian collective of basic income activists, led by Jaanus Nurmoja, delivered a petition to the Social Affairs Committee (SAC) of the Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu), calling for the investigation of a universal basic income (UBI) implementation in Estonia, on March 29th 2019. Five months later – three months passed from the excepted date of reply – the SAC decides not to study the issue, although that apparently contradicts the initiative expressed text, and Estonian Law. In the words of SAC’s spokesman (Tõnis Mölder), pronounced at the committee meeting on Tuesday, 17th of September 2019: “At the moment, however, the implementation of such a system in Estonia does not seem reasonable, as there is no financial analysis and no assurance that the current social system could be replaced by something more efficient”.
According to the activists, this decision is not consistent with Estonian Law, since the Working Rules Act is not being observed. Abiding to these rules would imply only rejecting proposals submitted “less than two years earlier or obviously [violating] constitutional principles of Estonia and international agreements”. Also, these argue that the rejection is based on a self-referring (circular) argumentation: that the proposal of investigating UBI in Estonia cannot be accepted, because there has not been any investigation on UBI in Estonia. This led the activists to question if the proposal text had even been read in full by the SAC members.
Jannus Nurmonia and the other co-signatories of the “Investigating the Feasibility and Impact of Unconditional Basic Income (Civic Salary) in Estonia” petition are now calling for a withdrawal of this decision, postponing the actual discussion of the proposal for the next SAC meeting. They are convinced a UBI will eventually be unavoidable in Estonia, and so starting feasibility studies over it should start as soon as possible.
More information at:
“Committee: Universal basic income will not be introduced anytime soon”, ERR, September 18th 2019
“Public letter: the reason for rejecting a research initiative doesn’t correspond to the initiative’s content and laws, neither”, Kodanikupalga Teataja, October 2nd 2019
André Coelho, “Estonia: Estonian Parliament examines possibility of testing basic income in the country”, Basic Income News, June 28th 2019
An European Citizen’s Initiative on the application of a carbon tax-citizen’s dividend scheme has been accepted by the European Commission (May 2019) and is, at the moment, collecting support signatures (up until May 2020).
The initiative calls for the application of a Carbon Fee, collected by European Countries, to be redistributed entirely through the general population, with no attached conditions. The scheme rests on three main pillars: the collection of the Carbon Fee, as upstream as possible in the fossil fuel economic tree; the distribution of the Dividend to European Union (EU) citizens, with only a small part of it used to pay for its administrative costs (governments do not keep any of the collected revenue); the introduction of a Border Carbon Adjustment, guaranteeing that EU businesses and industries do not suffer from unfair competition from countries with no such carbon fee and dividends policies (pollution intensive products entering the EU would pay a tax and exports from the EU would be refunded).
The scheme is based on solid research concerning carbon emissions scenarios, climate change and carbon pricing in order to reach Paris Agreement goals (for the EU). According to the IPCC, carbon prices should gradually be raised to around 13 times what they are today, so that a 2ºC maximum increase in global temperature is attained. Naturally that only rising prices on carbon-intensive products and services is regressive on its own, tending to hit harder on the vulnerable and poor. Hence redistributing the proceeds through the entire population ensures that lower income people will afford to pay for the goods and services they need, and the wealthier – who usually bear a higher per-capita carbon footprint – will generally lose out economically under this policy.
According to the initiative instigators, there is wide support for this kind the general Carbon Fee & Dividend policy, which they hope will be materialized in the collection of signatures process referred to above. This support has been voiced by scientists, economists, NGO’s, industry and EU citizens.
More information at:
“Support the European Citizens’ Climate Initiative” website
André Coelho, “United States: Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends”, Basic Income News, January 29th 2019
Jason Burke Murphy, “Carbon Tax and Dividend Endorsed by Irish Prime Minister”, Basic Income News, January 30th 2019
André Coelho, “Michael Howard: “We have two years to avoid climate disaster. A carbon fee and dividend will help”, Basic Income News, January 6th 2019
Just before the latest European Parliament (EP) elections, held on the 23-26th of May 2019, the Unconditional Basic Income Europe (UBIE) activist group sent out a questionnaire to be answered by candidates, on the subject of basic income. The questions asked for their position on the European social policies, whether they would support European Union (EU) basic income experiments, and if they would vote in favour of a Eurodividend. That questionnaire was inserted in an introductory letter, to be sent to all EP candidates, written by Daniel Kruse.
Only a fraction of EP candidates actually responded, but those that did can find their answers posted here. These views, reflecting the opinions of these candidates from Belgium, Germany, Greece and Ireland, are mostly in favour of experimenting and implementing an EU-wide basic income, with a few variations. For instance, Olivier De Schutter argues that basic income should start for the youngsters, namely those between 18 and 25 years-old, fixed at 60% of the median income of their country. On the other hand, however, Olivier Maingain points out that paying a monthly basic dividend to all EU citizens is not within EU’s powers, at the moment.
Willie O’Dea, from the Fianna Fáil party in Ireland (which had also setup a candidate for the EP elections, Brendan Smith), had written, not long before these EP elections, an opinion article expressing his views on basic income, within a European perspective. In that article, O’Dea also takes the opportunity to clarify a few important aspects about the Finnish (basic income) experiment, linking its design features to its published results until now. According to him, these results are not surprising, given the way the experiment was setup, but are still encouraging, since he considers the social well-being of people to be “real and measurable tangible benefits”.
More information at:
Willie O’Dea, “Universal income pilot could point to a fairer future”, Independent.IE, April 7th 2019