Vol.2 No.14, 08 July 2002

The Taylor Commission and the BIG

Recently the report by the Committee of Inquiry into 'A Comprehensive System of Social Security for South Africa', chaired by Prof Viviene Taylor, was made public. This was accompanied by an open invitation for submissions to be directed to the Department of Social Development in response, an opportunity of which SANE availed itself. We expressed our approval that the introduction of a Basic Income Grant (BIG) was strongly promoted in the report but also indicated that we believed this measure should be expanded beyond the level at which it was dealt with in the report. We have also communicated this response to members of the Cabinet and to other relevant senior government officials. The essence of our submission is quoted below:

"The South African New Economics (SANE) Network is a member of the BIG Coalition which has submitted its response to the Taylor Committee of Inquiry. This Committee has communicated its support of the BIG cause to Ministers of Government who will be participating in July's 'Lekgotla' where the BIG idea will come up for discussion.

"SANE has developed further aspects of the BIG idea which it believes to be essential for its effective implementation. We have communicated this to the Department of Social Development and provide here the essential issues which need to be explored and which could provide new insights into the process of poverty relief:

"...... Information and SANE Views on these topics can be read on this web site. We shall continue to explore these topics in future issues of SANE Views."

One of the topics we want to develop further is that of payment of the BIG in terms of a local currency. We have written in SANE Views about this innovation (SV 1#3&19) but it has not been widely supported, probably mainly because of ignorance and fear of the unknown. However the concept of complementary currencies has been widely explored and implemented in many parts of the world and ideas around it have been investigated by Bernard Lietaer in his book "The Future of Money" and by Richard Douthwaite in his booklet "The Ecology of Money".

We were delighted by the support from Norman Reynolds for the concept of paying the BIG in terms of a complementary currency. Dr Reynolds is an ex chief economist for the Zimbabwean government and writes regular articles to the press on development issues. He also serves on the BIG Coalition in Gauteng and has encouraged "thinking Bigger about BIG". In particular he has written about the payment of a BIG in terms of Soweto Dollars. Here we quote his ideas:

"The BIG should be issued in a local currency, the Sowetan dollar (S$). It would then have to stay and to circulate locally as it could not be spent outside Soweto. Together with a local economic plan, these funds would quickly achieve a higher local multiplier of 3.5 or better. "

The introduction and control of the S$ money supply would obviously require careful conceptualisation and regulation but the basics of a powerful idea are there for creative action.

Aart Roukens de Lange
SANE Views editor

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