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By: Vetondouua Tjivikua

Michael Samson, Research Director at the Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI, South Africa), said the Basic Income Grant should be essential for economic recovery.

The Basic Income Grant Coalition has called for a universal monthly grant for all Namibians aged 18-65 of N$500 per month rather than an ineffective targeted approach.

Samson also said a Basic Income Grant (BIG) is necessary with Namibia’s widespread poverty, inequality, and unemployment.

“A BIG during an economic crisis is affordable. The cost depends on a number of factors, including the benefit size, how delivery interacts with other grants and the financing approach”, he said.

Samson added: “Universalism builds national solidarity and social cohesion. The targeted approach excludes many of the poorest, and it is expensive and wasteful for the government and people. Basic income is the best way to reach all poor and vulnerable without any.”

He further stated that a pandemic like Covid-19 affects all. He said that universal approaches minimise perverse incentives and strengthen employment and economic growth. He argued that universal approaches build political support for sustainability.

“It provides dignity and reinforces self-esteem. BIG improves tax morality by including everyone in the fiscal system.”

While BIG has a specific social purpose of reducing poverty, it is also associated with economic growth impacts, making it a crucial economic recovery element.

“The impending global recession requires effective and efficient demand-side fiscal stimulus. The developmental capacity of income will address the long-term supply-side requirements and ensure economic balance. BIG will help the economy as it increases buying power allowing people to become consumers of locally produced basic goods”, he said.

Samson said the international BIG case studies also found that the recipients of BIG were four times more interested in launching a new business than their counterparts who did not receive the grant.

Samson stated tax collections represent an essential part of the social contract between citizens and the government.

As a primary source of income for the government, he said it is morally right for citizens to demand social protection against poverty.

Following an extensive review of the relevant literature and an analysis of possible alternative strategies, the BIG Coalition found that the best method of addressing poverty and inequality would be an unconditional BIG scheme.

He further explained that BIG is not about dishing out cash to able people.

“People are willing to work, but there are no jobs in Namibia.” That is, Namibia has the second-highest unemployment rate in the world. Besides this, no job market in the world can absorb the entire workforce.

“Namibia’s land belongs to all of us to make its atmosphere, water, fisheries, and mineral deposits. Yet, no ordinary Namibian can tell you how they have benefited from its resources. BIG represents a share of our country’s resources”, he stated.

He said the past 30 years, many Namibians have lived under inhumane and degrading conditions. We have been struggling to meet our basic human needs but were confronted without a decent income, decent roofs over our heads, clean water and sanitation.

“Our human rights are violated by our leaders who have failed to improve our lives after independence”, he stressed.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Namibia continues to be among the countries in the world with the lowest living standards and extreme differences between the rich and poor without genuine efforts being made to tackle the problem.

“The fight for our rights is not over yet! Our leaders’ promises of protecting us from poverty and improving our lives have been nothing but lip service. We now demand the implementation of BIG as our human right! It is about time that all Namibians organised themselves to demand the implementation of BIG”, Samson said.

Rinjani Musutua, who is the spokesperson of the Basic Income Grand Coalition of Namibia during the press conference held on Monday, said the idea of the government to give the Basic Income Grant to the Harambee recipients is not the right way to do it because “you are excluding a large number of society.”

Julia Heita

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