Spain is to roll out a universal basic income (UBI) “as soon as possible” to mitigate the impact of coronavirus.
In an interview with Spanish news channel La Sexta, Minister for economic affairs Nadia Calvino told that the move was intended to help families during the pandemic.
Iran is the only country to have a UBI program in 2011 in the form of monthly cash transfers to individual family accounts.
Ms Calvino, who is also deputy prime minister, added that the government plans to make UBI as a permanent measure.
Spain is the second worst-hit country by the coronavirus pandemic, reporting a total of 135,032 positive cases and 13,055 deaths as of Monday.
The country’s economy has nearly ground to a halt during a strict lockdown imposed on 14 March, with the closure of schools, shops, and restaurants. People are only allowed out of their homes to get essential supplies, or to go to work if they cannot work from home.
The restricted movement will continue until 26th April.
If the payments are successfully implemented, Spain would become the first country in Europe to introduce them nationwide on a long-term basis.
What is Universal Basic Income?
UBI is an unconditional income that is sufficient to meet a person’s basic needs (at or above the poverty line). It can be a full basic income or a partial one to meet some of the needs
The payment is to be made on a regular basis to every citizen. The amount of money paid to each person may differ based on demographic factors, such as age.
There are some variants to basic income, where the governments pay a specified minimum which is called a guaranteed minimum income system. For example, Bolsa Família in Brazil is restricted to poor families and the children are obligated to attend school.
So far, Iran is the only country to have a UBI program in 2011 in the form of monthly cash transfers to individual family accounts. Most countries have only had done it as trials for a small group of people or for a short amount of time.
Finland carried out a UBI trial for a period of two years for its unemployed population through a monthly payment of 560 Euros.
Calls of UBI to be implemented In the US and UK to deal with the economic impact of COVID-19 are coming from several quarters. But the governments have not announced any relief in this direction.
In India, this was an idea that has been discussed for decades in both the public and private spheres.
India has also experimented with UBI in the form of two pilot projects since January 2011. There were fears among the government officials and detractors fo UBI that basic income will make people lazy and reduce the workforce. But the results were quite positive, with better health indicators and better school attendance. Villages spent more on food and healthcare, children’s school performance improved in 68 percent of families, time spent in school nearly tripled, personal savings tripled, and new business startups doubled.
The idea of UBI made a comeback in India in 2016, when the Economic Survey of India included a 40-page chapter on UBI as a serious and feasible solution to India’s poverty and hope for the economy as a whole.
Supporters believe this large-scale welfare program could be revolutionary and could provide a poverty alleviation blueprint for other developing countries. However, critics are wary of establishing such a wide-scale program because it might undermine the fragile social security architecture, cause already employed workers to drop out of labor force and encourage idleness, and also encourage wasteful spending.
In the forward, the Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian writes, “providing a Universal Basic Income (UBI) that has emerged as a raging new idea both in advanced economies and in India.” In the chapter itself, he notes: “Universal Basic Income is a radical and compelling paradigm shift in thinking about both social justice and a productive economy. It could be to the twenty-first century what civil and political rights were to the twentieth.”
Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Congress party in their election manifesto had promised a ‘Minimum Income Guarantee Scheme’ (MIGS), formally called Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), to five crore ‘poorest families ’ covering 25 crore people by assuring them a guaranteeing minimum income of ₹6,000 per month or ₹72,000 a year.