Speaking panel at the Lomonosov Moscow State University.
There is a growing interest about basic income in Russia, at least on the academic level. Leading Russian Universities have been organizing discussions around the issue, with the support and participation of the movement Basic Income Russia Tomorrow. Given the world-leading recognition Russian universities enjoy, this may be a fact of central importance for the global development of the basic income movement.
On the 18th April 2019, at the Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Dispute Club Association of the Russian Economic Think Tanks (“Economic Policy Nodes”) held a discussion entitled “Is universal basic income tribute to populism or social policy of the future?”. PhD in economics Evgeny Gontmakher and leading Scientific Associate Yury Kuznetsov held the debate, after the introduction of Alexander Solovyev, chairman of the Basic Income Russia Tomorrow group. A local video footage of the event was captured, and can be viewed here (in Russian).
Just a few days later, on the 25th April 2019, at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, another event took place, as a part of the International Scientific – Practical Conference IX “Abalkin`s Readings”. At this Conference, basic income was discussed in a section entitled “Mechanisms for improving the system of labour relations”, chaired by professors Vyacheslav Bobkov and Irina Soboleva.
The Social movement “Basic Income Russia Tomorrow”, together with the charity foundation “Coordinates of Good”, were awarded the Wow Successful Awards 2019, in the Social Innovation chapter, on the 13th of March. This award means the movement will be able to make unconditional cash transfers for five recipients, for three months. The value transferred will be small – 6500 rubles/month (around 100 $/month) – and for a very short period of time, but such an amount can be significant for many Russians. The money involved in the experiment is the result of private donations.
This short-term unconditional cash transfer experiment starts now, in April 2019, and will be monitored by Vyacheslav Nikolaevich Bobkov, from the Institute of Social and Economic Studies of Population at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
“You should not discuss Basic income in Russia. You should not implement pilot projects in the country,” a representative of the Russian government preaches to Russian citizens. He is an adviser to the Analytical Center of the Russian government.
On November 14, 2018, a conference was held in Moscow: “Basic Income: is it a prologue to social policy of the 21st century?” In the best traditions of «Russia Today», the English version of the conference was framed as: “Basic Income as a prologue to social policy of the 21st century”. Thus, Russian society was initially forced to doubt the need for implementing basic income.
The organizers for the conference were: The Institute for Social Policy of the Federal State Institute, National Research University’s Higher School of Economics, the European Dialogue group, and Russia’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation. This is one of the first international conferences on basic income in Russia. The Russian public was very interested in the experience of other countries.
A panel discussion was moderated by Peer Teschendorf, the Director of the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Russia. The speakers for the panel included: Miska Simanainen, KELA (Finland) – “Experiment with basic income in Finland”; Giuliano Bonoli, University of Lausanne (Switzerland) – “The 2016 Swiss referendum on basic income”.
Presentations by Russian speakers gave new insight from the Russian point of view. These speeches included: “Basic income and goals of reforming social assistance systems”, “Transformation of compulsory pension insurance: the next paradigm is the unconditional basic income”.
In general, the conference ended like the old Soviet joke: “Whatever Russians do, it always turns into Kalashnikov`s AK-47“.
Participants brought many arguments in favor of basic income, but the organizers made the opposite conclusion: Basic income is not necessary for Russia. The organizers argued it is better to increase targeting of social support; in authoritarian regimes, since the president is always “good,” something like basic income is “not necessary”! This was the expected conclusion from a state-run university and “experts” dependent on the state budget.
“Experts have already moved far away from a primitive understanding of basic income as a guaranteed payment to all members of society regardless of the level of their income, employment, health status, and other factors,” Russian organizers said.
Solovyev Alexander SM “Basic Income Russia Tomorrow” spoke in favor of the need for the widest and most open discussion of basic income in Russia, as well as consideration for Russian pilot projects. Experimentation is essential to grasp the truth. The world’s support of basic income is constantly growing: US presidential candidate Andrew Yang, former US President Barack Obama, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla founder Elon Musk and many other prominent figures from across the world have expressed interest and support in UBI.
Solovyev emphasized that BIEN and “Basic Income Russia Tomorrow” consider universalism and unconditionality as the main principles of basic income.
We would like to believe that Russian citizens, the scientific community and government officials will understand the importance of basic income for Russia. Basic income is really “a prologue to social policy of the 21st century”. Only the implementation of basic income will provide an opportunity to reduce social tension, eliminate social inequality, ensure equal rights for citizens, reduce poverty level and corruption in the country.
For Russia of this century, UBI is an essential policy.
Alexander Solovyev, Dimitriy Sarayev, Sergey Vladimirovich Khramov and Irina Soloveva
This Basic Income Conference moto was “Let’s win poverty in Russia together!”, and it took place in Moscow on the 26th of June 2018. It was organized by the combined efforts of the activist organization Basic Income Russia Tomorrow and the Moscow Communists (members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation), which also invited leaders from the Trade Unions of Russia (Khramov Sergey Vladimirovich, General Labor Inspector) and the Russian Land Charity Fund (Baldanova Zinaida, Chairman of the Board of Trustees). The Conference main purpose was to debate around issues related with poverty, and how to solve it within the Russian context, while having present the best international examples on the subject.
The two organizing groups took the opportunity of this Conference to announce they would join forces and dedicate more time and effort, together, to reduce poverty in their country. Participants also seized the moment to criticize the government on its decision to raise the retirement age. This, according to them, will degrade the standard of living of all, increase the total number of poor people and spread social discontent across the whole country. A particular statement by the youth branch of the Basic Income Russia Tomorrow was made, as the organization is now determined to make reducing child poverty a priority for its activities. Finally, participants generally called out to all citizens, weather individually or in public or private organizations, to be alert and participate in a society-wide discussion about poverty and how it can be reduced in the 21st century, helping to build a fairer Russian society for the years to come.
The Conference was divided into four main themes: Poverty, Pensioners, Child Poverty and Labor Relations Reform.
Poverty, a theme delivered by Alexander Solovyev (council chairman of Basic Income Russia Tomorrow), was portrayed as destroyer of citizens and the State, degrading health, security, confidence, initiative and promoting the growth of crime. According to Solovyev, Russia has no right to have poor citizens, being so rich in natural resources. Therefore, he argued for the implementation of a US$ 500 per month individual and universal basic income, financed by the State’s revenue with natural resources, which should be shared with every citizen in the country.
Dimitriy Sarayev spoke about pensioners, who are in Russia, according to him, socially unprotected citizens. This situation is only made worse by the unilateral decision by the Russian government to raise the retirement age, which is thought to be justified by a need of this government to cut spending. Sarayev says this will also raise unemployment, as people unable to retire will stay on the jobs longer. According to him, raising the retirement age, if any, must be accompanied with proper healthcare and higher pensions, which is the exact opposite of what the government is doing.
As for child poverty, Irina Soloveva expressed her extreme concern about the high level of child poverty in Russia. She defends basic income as a necessity for children, first and foremost. Irina also refers the US$ 500 per month per person basic income allocation, as “a reliable foundation for their future life, [to] give children freedom and financial security, reduce the level of crime and corruption in the country, [which] will enable the country to develop”.
This Conference, and its focus on basic income as the single most important strategy to reduce poverty in the country, comes at a time when, for the first time in Russia, “public and political organizations began to unite to address the problem of poverty in Russia as a whole, including child poverty”. That is particularly important when in public discussions around poverty, in Russia, the term “child poverty” is completely omitted by state officials and the press.
On the 26th of March 2018, at 7 pm, Marat Smirnov will hold a public speech on universal basic income (UBI) modern trends and trial, followed by an open discussion. Marat has been active in starting a basic income community in Russia, having started by organizing a Telegram channel on the subject.
This event will take place at the co-work spot named Openspace, located in downtown St. Petersburg. The entrance is free.
More information at:
Event on Facebook