THOMAS Colson of Business Insider reports that the Indian government is set to endorse universal basic income. Professor Guy Standing, co-founder of Basic Income Earth Network or BIEN (which is Spanish for “good”) says “the Indian government finds the idea feasible and the best way forward.”
The idea is simple: a regular state payment made to all citizens regardless of age and working and civil status. It provides a safety net for all citizens by putting a little money in their pockets while doing away with useless bureaucracies and social agencies dispensing social aid selectively, pocketing a lot of it as administrative cost.
Critics say it will make people lazy. Nonsense. Basic income gets a person started if only nutritionally—to look for work and do the work if she finds any. It is never enough keep him alive if he can’t find work.
In pilot projects in one Indian state, every man, woman and child across 8 villages was given a modest basic income for 18 months. Welfare improved dramatically, particularly nutrition among children, health care and sanitation, and school attendance and performance. A startling discovery was made: that if a child is starving he cannot focus on lessons. Imagine that. Who would think that you need to eat to think—or to live for that matter. So, why am I always on a diet and yet still so smart?
The unintended effects were even more striking. The poor pooled some of the money. Guess for what? To pay down their debts.
Studies even here showed that, while most poor Filipino farmers (numbering 35 million) paid back their Masagana loans leaving an unpaid balance of P5 billion, big businessmen left unpaid debts amounting to ove P500 billion in 1970s pesos, and that was in only two GOCC’s, Sonny Dominguez dryly noted in Cory’s time.
In the pilot areas, women took control of their lives, no longer having to depend on the hopeless drunks they married. “The general tenor of all those communities has been remarkably positive,” said Professor Standing.
He does not expect the Indian government to go all the way but just a start in the direction of universal income will go a long way, particularly in developing that sense of human dignity and justice that is the best incentive for trying. His own monumental Theory of Justice, John Rawls himself admitted, makes no practical sense unless everyone has all his or her basic needs provided for.
Imagine that. I bet the better off among us never imagined that people need something to get started, like a bit of food in the belly and a little money in the pocket to get a productive day started.
That universal basic income is hard to achieve and costly is no reason not to think seriously about a universal basic income and push hard for it. Finland just announced that it is adopting universal basic income across all of Finland. Tangina. Bakit hindi tayo Pinis?
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