Since 2016 that Congresswoman Araceli Damián has supported and “presented an initiative to reform the Mexican Constitution and create the right to [a] universal citizen’s income”. In the latest version of this proposal, it is framed as an intrinsic human right, arguing that no human being’s survival should be dependent on any condition, “not even by the idea that a person should be socially useful”. The purpose has been to deliver basic income as a “central element for social policy, to face this crisis and to check the implications of including it in the Mexican Constitution”.
The problems faced by the Mexican society are generally the same in many other regions afflicted by the capitalist system: unemployment due to automation and globalization, lower economic output (to restore some equality in resource redistribution), rampant labour precarity and failure of present social policies to reduce poverty. Given this grim scenario, which has been aggravating for the last decades, it has already been pointed out by the Mexican Consejo Nacional de Evaluación de la Política de Desarrollo Social (National Council for Social Policy Evaluation), or Coneval, that basic income-like policies should be looked into, in a 2014 document titled “Informe de Evaluación de la Política de Desarrollo Social en México 2014” (2014 Social Policy Evaluation Report).
Reporting back to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this basic income implementation proposal for the United States of Mexico is intended to be based on the basis that “every person shall have a standard of living compatible with their wellbeing”. This, according to Araceli Damián, would allow Mexico to “engage in the construction of a Social Rights Welfare State”, and would align the Mexican constitution with international legal standards on human rights.
As a first stage of implementation, the proposal suggests an individual monetary transfer covering basic (normalized) food necessities. This first step would be implemented in 20 years, and according to four sub-stages (extending coverage every five years), accounting for residency (urban/rural), age and sex. On a second stage, and for another 20 years period, basic income would be gradually distributed until normalized basic needs are met for all people. The purpose being to meeting all Mexicans basic needs by 2050.
Araceli Damián and her partner Norma Colín have calculated both costs and benefits for this kind of gradual basic income implementation in Mexico. Costs are associated with extra fiscal efforts to finance such a policy, while benefits also include avoided costs with public health, safety and social security.
For the first step of the proposal’s implementation, covering basic food necessities, an individual amount of 1765 Mexican Pesos per month (92 US $/month) would be enough. That would also include a 15% margin for affording conservation, preparation and consumption of food. According to the sub-stages referred above, priority would be given to rural population, elderly and children, which are already covered in part by existing social assistance programs. Coverage of (adult) women would also take priority over (adult) men, due to known structural disadvantage gaps and the need to reduce women’s economic dependence from men.
Araveli Damián. Credit to: El Colegio de México A.C.
The basic food needs coverage on the first stage would reduce poverty substantially, right from the start. Calculations show that total poverty could be approximately cut in half (72.7% in 2014, compared with 39.5% of the total population, with all four sub-stages of the first implementation step completed). This program would not particularly affect the higher income brackets parts of the population, while reducing extreme poverty almost down to zero (from 36.3% down to 0.7%). This step would represent 13.2% of the gross national product (GDP) if implemented today, which is below the OCDE countries average of 21.9% of GDP spending in social protection. Implementation costs would rise gradually, from 1% of GDP if starting this year (2018), up to 9.4% of GDP after 20 years.
However, according to Araceli and Norma calculations, a full basic income for Mexico, at this moment, would represent around 54.4 % of all state revenue. For the food coverage partial basic income, on the other hand, several financing sources are identified (values per year): savings from restructuring present-day social security (at all levels of government, in about 7000 million Pesos (360 million US$)), cuts in governmental overspending (around 697 000 million Pesos (35 800 million US$)), reduction in fiscal evasion (accounting for more 484 000 million Pesos (24 900 million US$) and progressive fiscal reform (there is room for incrementing fiscal collection, from present-day 19.6% GDP, up to at least 25% GDP).
The study argues that this food coverage basic income would help stabilizing gross demand, particularly among the poorest. This stimulates a better use od existing resources, without rising operation costs for companies, while considerably reducing inequality and poverty. It is also foreseen that implementing basic income in Mexico would increase employment in at least 3%.
Finally, Araceli and Norma propose to rewrite the Mexican Constitution in several articles, highlighting the following addition to article 4th:
“Every person, since birth, has the right to a universal basic income. The State will guarantee this right through monetary transfers, which value shall be enough for all people to reach a dignified minimum quality of life. The Law shall state the amount, periodicity and transfer method, as well as a program for its roll out in a gradual fashion.”
More information at:
“Informe de Evaluación de la Política de Desarrollo Social en México 2014 [2014 Social Policy Evaluation Report]”, Consejo Nacional de Evaluación de la Politica de Desarrollo Social (Coneval), February 2015
Araceli Gonzaléz and Norma Colín, “Que reforma y adiciona los artículos 4o. y 73 de la Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, suscrita por las diputadas Araceli Damián González y Norma Xóchitl Hernández Colín, del Grupo Parlamentario de Morena”, Gaceta Parlamentaria 4864-IV, 12th September 2017
Ricardo Anaya. Credit to: OMB Online.
Ricardo Anaya, potential candidate for Mexico’s next presidential elections in July 2018, presents an unconditional basic income as his main proposal in matters of social policy. An overview of this proposal, as spoken by Anaya, can be watched in this short video. Here, in general terms, he presents the basic income proposal, describing what are the ten main advantages of its implementation, in his view. Financing it would essentially come from reorganizing public spending and deeply changing social policy programs within the government.
This initiative comes from a joint ticket between the centre-right Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party – PAN) and centre-left Partido de la Revolución Democratica (Party of the Democratic Revolution – PRD), plus leftist Movimiento Ciudadano (Citizens Movement – MC), which calls itself Por Mexico al Frente (Put Mexico Ahead, former Frente Ciudadano (Citizen’s Front)). This coalition aims at “winning the Presidency, building a stable majority government and establish the first coalition government in Mexico’s history”, as ex PAN national leader Anaya Cortés has declared.
The basic income proposal under consideration within the bounds of this coalition aims at a 10 000 Pesos (US$537) per year for every Mexican citizen, including children. Jorge Alvarez, a Mexican congressman involved in the plan has said in an interview that financing this could be done by consolidating funds from federal, state and municipal welfare programs. He also added that this basic income for children could be made conditional on school enrolment. That latter comment, of course, deviates from what would be an unconditional basic income, but such condition has been introduced in other proto-basic income-like programs, such as the Bolsa Familia in Brazil. It could then be referred to as an alternative to basic income for children.
Independently, senator Luís Sánchez Jiménez from PRD has requested the Mexican Senate to look into the cost of various minimum income schemes, including universal ones, through its research department. This report will soon be available, authored by John Scott, a professor/researcher in the Department of Economics at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económic (CIDE) in Mexico.
More information at:
Editorial Processo, “PAN, PRD y MC desechan Frente Ciudadano; su alianza se llamará “Por México al Frente” (PAN, PRD and MC discard Frente Ciudadano: their aliance will be called “Por México al Frente”)”, Processo, 8th December 2017
Anthony Esposito, “Checks for free: a Mexican plan to combat poverty”, Reuters, December 6th 2017
Zone 10 – Guatemala City.
With the support of the Swedish Embassy and Oxfam in Guatemala, the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies (ICEFI) has presented a new book entitled Universal Basic Income: More Freedom, More Equality, More Jobs, More Well-being. A Proposal for Guatemala (2019-2030), was presented in simultaneous events held in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango. The book explains how inequality is affecting people’s lives and undermining the possibilities of strengthening democracy and development in the world, and Guatemala in particular. In light of this reality, the book proposes a universal basic income (UBI) of Q175 per month (20 €/month) accompanied by increased social spending from 2019 to 2030, which could eliminate extreme poverty and reduce inequality, while generating 4.7 million jobs and potentially boosting economic growth as much as 50%. It also gives scenarios for its financing – including a progressive tax reform – and the main challenges to its effective public administration.
When studying social inequality in Guatemala, the book mentions income inequalities, worker insecurity, the scourge of child labor and lack of employment guarantees, the still unaffordable cost of the basic food basket, the acute chronic malnutrition ravaging Guatemalan children (especially indigenous and rural children), the visible discrepancies in women’s political representation in public and private power arenas, widespread poverty and extreme poverty – also more and more wearing the face of indigenous and rural women – and the complex, institutionalized racism permeating all realms of society. All this is reinforced by the overwhelming problems of corruption and lack of transparency, by paltry public spending on the production of universal, quality goods and services, and by a tax policy that lacks legitimacy among the citizenry due to the unfair way in which taxes are collected and certain economic sectors are granted privileges.
For ICEFI, this reality requires alternative proposals to help mitigate social inequality and its more harmful effects and build economic, social and fiscal scenarios for underpinning sustainable, inclusive economic development. Together with improved public goods and services, a UBI – understood as a sum of money allocated by the State to each citizen or resident – would have a positive impact on Guatemalan society. With a monthly per-person amount of Q175, the UBI could eliminate extreme poverty and reduce inequality. The study, which should be considered a seminal work subject to discussion and more in-depth examination, also reveals that a UBI such as the one proposed could generate 4.7 million jobs in the coming years (33% of the working-age population in 2030), spread out over the entire national territory in agriculture, industry, finance, and commerce – an effect that could boost economic growth by close to 50%. Moreover, the related bankarization would promote the formalizing of businesses aimed at providing goods and services to the public. Inequality would be reduced from 0.538 to 0.472, as measured on the Gini index – better than Costa Rica (0.504 in 2014) but still far from what has been recorded for Uruguay (0.379 in 2014).
As for taxes, the proposal includes financing mechanisms (with and without tax reform). The tax reform scenario is based on a modernization of the income tax, elimination of tax privileges, and gradual reduction of income and value-added tax evasion. The book also emphasizes that implementation of a public policy such as the one proposed implies a revaluation of the State’s role as the main guarantor of individual rights and booster of development and democracy. Fiscal policy can potentially close the current gap between the economy and citizen well-being. With a modern fiscal outlook and political agreement for a profound fiscal reform, the country could have the resources for financing a UBI and other public programs aimed at enhancing social well-being, smoothing the way for compliance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development while driving productive transformation, access to credit and economic formalization.
In this book, ICEFI recognizes that a UBI would not solve all the problems the country urgently needs to face as a result of its past and present. Together with improved public services, however, it could provide a minimum though effective floor of social protection for tackling inequality and all its related phenomena. At a time when most citizens are unhappy with the current economic and political model, the study can also serve as a basis for debate on alternatives for change. Discussion of a UBI in Guatemala is expected to bring together small, medium, and large enterprises, merchants, producers and cooperatives, as well as social organizations pushing agendas for development and democracy.
The study is available in Spanish.
Trucks transporting PAL boxes. Credit to: Jesse M. Cunha and Giacomo De Giorgi
Vox Media, a USA online news outlet looks at a food support program in Mexico aimed at its poorest citizens, as a recent article shows. The program PAL (in Spanish “Programa de Apoyo Alimentario [Food Support Program]”) was first initiated in 2003 and has been closely monitored over the years. This program included, as a part of its roll out, three groups: one receiving in-kind transfers (food), another cash transfers with no strings attached and another still got nothing (control group). Recent findings indicate that there have been absolutely no inflation indicators during or related to the program (in kind or cash groups). Critics have been concerned about basic income programs leading to uncontrollable inflation. In fact, for almost 15 years now participants in the PAL program have enjoyed better nutrition and health outcomes, as well as lower prices in larger centres with greater competition and no inflationary outcomes have been found.
More information at:
Jesse M. Cunha and Giacomo De Giorgi, “The price effects of cash versus in-kind transfers”, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Staff Reports, August 2015
Dylan Matthews, “A new study debunks one of the biggest arguments against basic income”, Vox, September 20th 2017
A Constituent Assembly of Mexico City is currently developing the city’s first constitution. A proposal for the constitution, currently under deliberation, includes an article specifying a right to a basic income to secure a dignified life.
Miguel Ángel Mancera CC-BY-SA 4.0 ProtoplasmaKid (Wikimedia Commons)
On September 15, Mexico City Chief of Government Miguel Angel Mancera delivered a proposal for the city’s constitution, and a constituent assembly was formed to analyze, debate, modify, and ultimately vote on and approve a constitution.
Mancera’s proposal draws much inspiration from the Mexico City Charter for the Right to the City, developed in 2007 by a coalition of organizations associated with Mexico City’s urban popular movement. The “Right to the City” charter includes a demand for the “right to sufficient income to guarantee a dignified life” (3.4.1). Additionally, another article in the charter’s section on ensuring a “productive city” states, “To democratize productive employment opportunities in the city, it is necessary to … promote the establishment of a universal citizen income” (3.4.3).
A more recent precedent was a seminar on basic income and wealth redistribution organized in April 2016 by the Senate of the Republic of Mexico and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) of the United Nations. In its position document released in the following month, ECLAC further encouraged its member states to investigate a basic income guarantee.
Meanwhile, there has been growing political interest in basic income in Mexico. For one example (amongst others), the young left-wing political party Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (Morena) has expressed interest in advancing the policy.
These precedents lay in the background of the September 15 meeting to move forward the development of Mexico City’s constitution.
A major purpose of the constitution is to formally specify rights of all residents of the city. The stated objectives of the document include the following (emphasis added):
To include new rights such as those of families, non-salaried workers, the right to the city, to public space, to democracy, to proper administration, to a progressive basic income, to memory, to care, to the protection of animals and cultural rights, among others …
The specific article where basic income is proposed reads as follows:
Right to a dignified life
Every person is entitled to a standard of living that is adequate for him or herself and their family, as well as to the continuous improvement of their living conditions. The right to a basic income will be guaranteed giving priority to the persons in situations of poverty, and those that can’t fulfill their material needs by their own means, as well as priority assistance groups. The rules for accessing basic income will be established in this article’s common dispositions.
Note that, despite the potentially confusing wording of second sentence, the proposal here is not for a targeted or mean-tested benefit; instead, the constitution is recognizing a need to establish some priorities for accessing the basic income grants.
One model of the basic income under consideration is Mexico City’s pension program for individuals aged 68 and older. The pension is universal (among seniors), unconditional, distributed to individuals, and mandated by law. Among its proponents, the basic income is seen as an extension of the pension from the elderly to all.
Describing the proposed constitution, Pablo Yanes of BIEN Mexico states, “Without a doubt, we are at the outset of an intense debate around basic income, and unprecedented moment in the history of Mexico City.”
Yanes says that while “the specific wording [in the constitution] can be improved and made more precise”, the recognition of a basic income as a right is “an immense step forward”:
In addition to the federal constitution reform initiatives presented before Congress by Congresswomen Araceli Damián and Xóchitl Hernández and the one introduced before the Senate by the Senator Luis Sánchez, the inclusion to the right to basic income in the Mexico City Constitution project constitutes, without a doubt, a turning point for basic income’s recognition in Mexico.
A new starting point has been set. This is Mexico City’s contribution to the growing international movement for basic income.
The Mexico City Constitution ultimately approved by the constituent assembly will go into force in February 2017.
Debates will take place ensuing months, including on the topic of basic income.
Information from Pablo Yanes (personal communication).
Reviewed by Pablo Yanes and Cameron McLeod.
Featured image: Mexico City CC BY 2.0 Blok 70.
Special thanks to Kate’s supporters on Patreon.