TICO BULL – Could it work in Costa Rica, universal basic income, to reduce poverty?
The general concept of basic income involves a government handing out a flat-rate income to every single citizen within a country, either by replacing existing benefits or to top them up.
The Province of Ontario, Canada, has announced it could soon be sending a monthly cheque to its residents as it plans to launch an experiment testing the basic income concept.
In Britain, the concept of basic income has been gathering attention in recent months.
Finland and the Netherlands have already shown their interest in giving people a regular monthly allowance regardless of working status, and now Ontario, Canada is onboard.
Ontario’s government announced in February that a pilot program will be coming to the Canadian province sometime later this year.
The premise: send people monthly checks to cover living expenses such as food, transportation, clothing, and utilities — no questions asked.
It’s a radical idea, and one that has been around since the 1960s.
Officials at the Basic Income Canada Network, the national organization promoting basic income, have high hopes.
“We need it rolled out across Canada, and Quebec, too, is in the game,” said chair of BICN, Sheila Regehr, in a statement. “So there’s no reason why people and governments in other parts of this country need sit on the sidelines – it’s time for us all to get to work.”
Ontario officials haven’t decided when or where exactly it’ll roll out the program, nor how much each person will receive. When it does, the money will come from a portion of Ontario’s budget set aside for the experiment.
In Finland, a small social democratic country, people will receive an additional 800 euros per month, or just shy of $900. In various cities throughout the Netherlands, people receive an extra $1,000.
In Canada, last month Jean-Yves Duclos, the minister of families, children and social development, appeared to endorse the idea, telling the Globe and Mail that the concept had merit as a policy for the government to consider.
“There are many different types of guaranteed minimum income. There are many different versions. I’m personally pleased that people are interested in the idea,” Jean-Yves Duclos, Canada’s minister of families who is spearheading the Canadian poverty-reduction strategy, told the Globe and Mail.
If Costa Rica wants to seriously combat poverty, in theory, “basic income” could work.
While the instant reaction is to argue that free money creates a lazy working class, research suggests the opposite is true. Supported by the financial safety net, people in one 2013 study actually worked 17% longer hours and received 38% higher earnings when basic income was given a shot.
In a country like Costa Rica, where health care is already highly socialized, it isn’t farfetched to think a steady income paid for by the taxpayers could reduce poverty.