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India Set to Approve Universal Basic Income © REUTERS/ Himan
Fri Jan 6, 2017 10:56

India Set to Approve Universal Basic Income © REUTERS/ Himanshu Sharma

BUSINESS 02:37 05.01.2017Get short URL43833229 The Indian government is likely to introduce Universal Basic Income, a practice of paying every person a fixed sum of money as a means to stimulate the economy and improve the quality of life of its citizens, according to the concept’s leading proponent.

© AP PHOTO/ AJIT SOLANKI Delhi Makes Double Green Energy Breakthrough… Or Does It? The Indian government is preparing a report documenting that a Universal Basic Income (UBI) is "feasible" and "basically the way forward," according to professor Guy Standing, a leading advocate for UBI, and the leader of the Basic Income Earth Network movement (BIEN).

Universal Basic Income, originally proposed by Thomas More in his 1516 book Utopia, and later endorsed by Thomas Paine, a founding father of the United States in 1796, is simply that every person in a city, state or country receives a fixed monthly payment, regardless of the person's gender, wealth, occupational status or voting history. The wealthy, the poor, the employed and the unemployed all receive the same sum from the government.

Proponents of the idea point out that people have natural right to receive food and other basic survival commodities, and that right must be guaranteed by the state. Moreover, UBI proponents observe that citizens are routinely forced to do what the market demands of them, instead of doing what they really want, be it art, education or other less-than profitable occupations.

A UBI guarantees that people will not be impoverished, will not go hungry, and will be protected from job loss due to automation and offshoring, and will also cut the need for many forms of social protection, including unemployment benefits. UBI opponents say that paying people money for nothing will eliminate a person's incentive to work.

A 2016 poll in Switzerland, however, indicated that only 2 percent of potential UBI respondents would abandon work if they received a monthly amount. A UBI referendum in the wealthy country lost last year, as just 18% of Swiss voters were found to support the program.

© PHOTO: PIXABAY Finland Unveils Universal Basic Income Scheme Another concern routinely brought against UBI is immigration, and the potential for a free ride at the expense of working citizens. Some suggest that UBI payments be arranged not only inside the country of origin, but also in neighboring territories, as a means of countering illegal immigration.

The practice of implementing a Universal Basic Income has been tried in three pilot schemes in India, two in Madhya Pradesh, and a smaller effort in West Delhi, in close cooperation with Standing's BIEN organization.

According to Standing's reports, welfare improved dramatically in the villages, "particularly in nutrition among the children, healthcare, sanitation, and school attendance and performance."

But the positive social and psychological effects were even greater, a powerful result that the team did not foresee. "The most striking thing which we hadn't actually anticipated is that the emancipatory effect was greater than the monetary effect. It enabled people to have a sense of control.

They pooled some of the money to pay down their debts; they increased decisions on escaping from debt bondage. The women developed their own capacity to make their own decision about their own lives. The general tenor of all those communities has been remarkably positive," he reported.

© FLICKR/ TONY WEBSTER Another Canadian Province to Implement Universal Basic Income The upcoming report by the Indian government is a direct result of these pilot schemes, and Standing says he is "very excited" about the successes.

Standing recently returned from California, where he consulted on similar program that could be launched later this year. According to a December 17 New York Times article about a pilot Universal Basic Income program in Finland, the practice might be just the right solution to meet the global demands of increasing populations.

"The search has gained an extraordinary sense of urgency as a wave of reactionary populism sweeps the globe, casting the elite establishment as the main beneficiary of economic forces that have hurt the working masses.

Americans' election of Donald J. Trump, who has vowed to radically constrain trade, and the stunning vote in Britain to abandon the European Union, have resounded as emergency sirens for global leaders.

They must either update capitalism to share the spoils more equitably, or risk watching angry mobs dismantle the institutions that have underpinned economic policy since the end of World War II," according to the article.

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Another Canadian Province to Implement Universal Basic Income © Flickr/ Tony Webster

US 03:36 09.12.2016Get short URL296945 Prince Edward Island in Canada has passed a law to implement a Universal Basic Income pilot program on the tiny island province, beginning in 2017.

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a form of social security in which every citizen is afforded an unconditional sum of money, typically enough to provide themselves with basic needs. Proponents argue that it would eliminate poverty, increase economic growth, and reduce the bureaucracy of welfare systems. Critics claim UBI would decrease labor participation and cause major inflation.

As labor forces are threatened by mass unemployment as a result of increasing mechanization, many first-world nations have begun to flirt with the implementation of UBI.

Tesla Motors CEO and futurism icon Elon Musk told CNBC in a November 2016 interview that there is a “pretty good chance” that developed nations will adopt UBI as mechanization-induced unemployment surges.

A 2014 Pew Research study showed a near 50-50 split among technological and economic experts over whether advancing technology will led to a net increase, or decrease, in jobs.

Less-developed nations, including India and Kenya, are experimenting with UBI. Arvind Subramanian, chief economic advisor to the Indian government, told the Times of India that, “People are dragged into poverty due to droughts, declining agriculture opportunities, disease, and so on.” He called UBI a “safety net” that could replace the thousand-plus poverty-assistance programs that already exist in India.

Prince Edward Island lawmakers follow in the footsteps of Finland, the city of Utrecht in The Netherlands, and their fellow Canadian province of Ontario, in adopting a UBI pilot program. © FLICKR/ ITU PICTURES Swiss Ambassador Explains Reasons for Voting Against Universal Basic Income Not everyone is in favor of UBI. A Swiss referendum on UBI was rejected by nearly 80 percent of the population.

Had the bill passed, every Swiss citizen would have received a monthly sum of 2,500 Swiss francs (about $2,460). Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest province, both by size and population. It also has Canada’s lowest per-capita GDP. Its three largest industries are agriculture, fishing, and tourism.

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Finland Unveils Universal Basic Income Scheme © Photo: Pixabay

EUROPE 15:49 03.01.2017(updated 15:50 03.01.2017) Get short URL573864 Finland has become the latest country to experiment with a Universal Basic Income (UBI) policy, with 2,000 unemployed citizens scheduled to receive a guaranteed minimum monthly income of €560 (US$587) over the next two years. The scheme was launched January 2, by Finnish social insurance agency KELA, in the hope it would alleviate poverty, reduce bureaucracy and boost employment in Finland; presently, 8.1% of the country's 5.5 million-strong population is out of work.

​Recipients, who are randomly-selected, are still entitled to receive the benefit even if they find work — a contrast to current rules, under which unemployed Finns lose benefits commensurate with their in-work income. ​Marjukka Turunen, head of KELA's Legal Affairs Unit, said the test-run was the first step in a planned series of experiments that would test a variety of basic income solutions: "For someone receiving UBI, there are no repercussions if they work a few days or a couple of weeks.

Incidental earnings do not reduce the basic income, so working and self-employment are worthwhile no matter what. People working part-time or temporarily do not have to report the number of hours they work or to fill in various forms. The income is paid in advance at the beginning of each month, so recipients can count on having the money at their disposal.

" ​Attempts to trial and implement UBI have been ongoing worldwide for some time. © FLICKR/ MARTIN ABEGGLEN Swiss Basic Income Vote Sparks Discussion Despite Failure to Pass In June 2016, 76.9 percent of voters in Switzerland rejected its proposed introduction.

Under the plans, every Swiss citizen of working age would receive a monthly guaranteed stipend of 2,500 Swiss francs, although the plans were branded a "Marxist dream" by critics, who foresaw sizeable spending cuts and/or tax increases to fund the scheme, and economic chaos arising from citizens quitting their jobs en-masse.

In early 2015, the scheme was tested in Utrecht, Netherlands. In November 2016, a UBI scheme was launched universally in Ontario, Canada on a two-month basis, with each citizen receiving US$1,320 every month.

The policy has increasingly gained in popularity in recent years, as the proliferation of automation and artificial intelligence threatens jobs in numerous sectors.

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