This year has already brought two huge developments in India's drive towards basic income. First the ruling party of Sikkim state, the Sikkim Democratic Front, are including basic income in its manifesto for the 2019 elections, with a plan to implement by 2022. And then the main national opposition party, the Congress party, has promised a 'nationwide minimum income for the poor', starting as soon as May 2019 if they are elected.
India has been leading the way on basic income in recent years. A major pilot experiment in 2011-2013 in Madhya Pradesh demonstrated the potential of basic income to support real quality of life for Indian people. The India Network for Basic Income has built both grassroots and high-level support for basic income, through persistent campaign work. In 2017 a major government report, the Economic Survey, noted that basic income could be 'an alternative to a plethora of state subsidies for poverty alleviation' and calculated that it would cost between 4-5% of GDP. Debates have followed at various levels of government, and public support has been growing.
The latest developments are dependent on electoral success, but with both parties showing strong support at the polls, there is every chance that either Sikkim or the whole of India will be enjoying some form of basic income within the next few years.
The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has endorsed Universal Basic Income in a speech at the General Assembly.
This follows an in-depth report by the UN Human Rights Council that explored the potential for universal basic income to address extreme poverty and guarantee essential human rights, and discussed the growing movement for worldwide basic income.
Involvement from the UN will likely be needed to facilitate a worldwide basic income, so growing support at this level is extremely exciting. It also popularises the idea of basic income among world leaders and the global population, helping to build the groundswell of demand that will be needed to get world basic income introduced.
In March, World Basic Income joined 40,000 citizen activists from around the world at the World Social Forum 2018 in Salvador, Brazil.
WBI co-hosted three sessions in collaboration with the Brazilian basic income movement:
The sessions were well attended, and provided a much-needed opportunity for country movements to share learning from their campaigns.
Contributors from Brazil explained that a commitment to UBI is actually embedded in their constitution and that Bolsa Familia was introduced as a step towards it. The architect of these policies, former Senator Eduardo Suplicy, who presented at the Brazilian Basic Income meeting, lamented attacks on Bolsa Familia by the current Brazilian government.
Pablo Yanes of the Economic Commission for Latin America outlined the progress of UBI in Mexico, in particular the encouraging support for basic income from a current presidential candidate. Juan Urbina of the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies outlined the potential impact of UBI in Guatemala and its affordability given the small population.
Paul Harnett of World Basic Income suggested that many world problems were of an international nature, such as climate change, and that taxes to protect our planet should be paid into a fund to provide a basic income for all in the world.
This growing momentum on Basic Income built on the excellent work of the Canadian Basic Income movement at the World Social Forum in Canada in 2016. Basic Income is gaining ground as a realistic policy to address poverty internationally and it is hoped that it will now feature regularly at the World Social Forum, the largest gathering of civil society in the world.
To build awareness of the potential of world basic income to address extreme poverty, the organisation has launched its first explainer video, 'Five steps to a world basic income'.
The video outlines the world basic income proposal and explains how it can be introduced at the global level in five steps.
"Its not easy to imagine how such an immense project could ever become a reality," explains Laura Bannister, one of World Basic Income's directors. "When people hear about the idea they almost always support it, but many struggle to see how it could ever be implemented."
From building awareness to large scale pilots and a phased introduction, the video shows how we can get there.
"Of course, all five steps represent a huge amount of work! No one is saying this is going to be easy. But Step 1 is well underway, and discussions are beginning around Step 2. All big change starts with small steps. This video describes what we might need to do next, to create this world-changing shift towards sharing the wealth."
World Basic Income would like to express their sincere thanks to filmmaker Tom Grimshaw, for his pro bono work to create this video.
The United Nations has spotted the growing movement for worldwide basic income, and has quoted parts of World Basic Income's proposals for funding the scheme in a report of the Human Rights Council's 35th Session.
UN sees economic insecurity as a key human rights issue
The report by the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights stresses the need for the human rights movement to pay attention to economic insecurity, and it explores basic income as a potential solution.
The report is focused on national basic incomes, but it highlights the existence of an emerging movement for a parallel global scheme.
The report reads: "The concept of a basic income on a global scale has attracted little scholarly attention, but at least two organizations, the Global Basic Income Foundation and World Basic Income, are promoting it. According to the latter, a global basic income would be a “global scheme that gathers and redistributes money, in amounts ranging from a few dollars to over $2,000 per month, depending on circumstances”. The long-term goal is redistribution of wealth and natural resources through “collective shareholdings in global companies, international taxes such as a carbon tax or financial transaction tax, royalties on goods like intellectual property or the extraction of natural resources, or fees for the use of shared goods, such as charging airlines a fee for using our shared airspace”. The present report does not seek to examine the feasibility or otherwise of such an approach."
World basic income is on the agenda
The movement to take basic income to the world level is relatively new, so it is very exciting that the United Nations has independently researched it. In order to gain widespread support, the idea itself first needs to spread. The UN has enormous global reach, so concepts and organisations mentioned there can reach decision-makers and communities across the globe. The proposal for worldwide basic income is clearly gathering momentum on the world stage.
A new Ipsos survey of twelve countries showed very significant support for basic income, and in several countries the majority of people believed the government should go ahead and introduce the scheme.
In January 2017, the Belgian organisation Eight began providing a basic income in the village of Busibi, Uganda. They are making a film about the experiment, and the first episode is now available at http://villageone.film/
The film records the people of Busibi talking about their lives and struggles. In Episode 1, residents talk about what they have and what they lack. Besweri explains, “Busibi is a very good island, which is surrounded by a swamp. People produce their own food, they have animals, they have houses but they are only mud-and-water houses, not permanent ones. There is no electricity and no improved water system – they are using hand-dug wells. They are poor, yes, but they are not the poorest among the poor.”
World Basic Income spoke with Alice Krozer of the University of Cambridge, author of the report 'A regional basic income: towards the eradication of extreme poverty in Central America', published by the UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in 2010.
While the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI) is fast becoming mainstream, questions remain as to what the 'U' in UBI should mean. Does ‘universal’ refer to all people within one country, or should it mean everyone across the globe? And should we all get the same basic income, no matter where we live?
This Saturday, we are holding the world's first ever conference to explore the proposal for a worldwide basic income. We are delighted that twelve excellent speakers and around 120 guests will be packing out our small venue in Salford.
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Title photograph by Koustav2007 (Own work), CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons