Vol.1 No.20, 07 December 2001
Basic Income in Europe and South Africa
In South Africa the payment of a Basic Income Grant (BIG) is being actively promoted by a coalition of NGOs. Readers of SANE Views will have noted that we are actively involved in this process, and currently we have two interns from the US who are working with us on developing ideas and doing background research on the BIG issue. On our website you will find a number of papers and references dealing with this topic, specifically as this can best be introduced in South Africa.
To help us understand the issues around the introduction of the BIG in South Africa, it is important that we take a look at BIG processes in other parts of the world. It is therefore very useful that there is an organisation which keeps up to date with developments in Europe and beyond. This organisation is that of BIEN (Basic Income European Network). BIEN, (an acronym meaning 'well' in French) publishes a bi-monthly 'news flash' which is distributed electronically. Below we provide a brief summary of what may be read in the most recent BIEN News Flash #12.
I think it is important not to slavishly follow for South Africa the model of the basic income as it is proposed for European and other countries. Our country is very different from all of them (except perhaps that there may be important similarities to a country such as Brazil). In most countries the poor and destitute make up a relatively small proportion of the total population; in South Africa it is the majority. In developed countries a small proportion of the total labour force can produce enough for the entire population. In South Africa there is a vast amount of work to be done to develop poor communities; there are enough hands to do the work but there is no money to pay them or to supply the materials needed. A basic income will go a long way towards lifting the entire economy out of its serious depression and unemployment problems.
Aart Roukens de Lange
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