SA won’t have universal basic income grant this year

Social development minister says plan should be ready in March.
Image: Shutterstock

South Africa will not implement a universal basic income grant until at least March, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said in an interview on Friday, rolling back a pledge to have it ready by October.

Zulu unexpectedly announced the plan two weeks, reviving a policy that was the centrepiece of Nelson Mandela’s government when apartheid fell in 1994.

Zulu told Reuters a draft policy would be ready at the end of the financial year, in March. In the meantime, she would seek support from cabinet colleagues.

“In cabinet, no one has come to me and said this is nonsense,” she said. “We’re having the conversation, but I still need support in implementation.”

An emergency unemployment grant of R350, as well as top-ups to existing child and old age grants, were introduced earlier this year as South Africa entered a pandemic lockdown.

They are due to expire in October, but Zulu said it was unrealistic to expect a universal basic income grant by then.

No country pays out an unconditional universal basic income, according to the World Bank, but the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus has put the idea back on the table, even in fiscally conservative countries.

The United Nations says a temporary basic income for the world’s poorest 2.7 billion people could help slow the spread of the virus.

Zulu’s plan has been welcomed by unions and civil society, but the presidency and the treasury have yet to give explicit backing.

Guy Standing, professor of development studies at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and former adviser to the labour ministry, said Zulu was making “good noises” but needed cabinet support, especially from the finance ministry:

“Now’s the opportunity for (finance minister Tito) Mboweni to go back to the man he was in the 1990s … who has these transformative ideas in his mind. He can help Minister Zulu.”

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I certainly hope that Mr Mboweni does not become the man he was in the 90’s, because then he and the entire ANC believed that there is a pot of gold somewhere which will solve all the problems. He became one of the few in the ANC who has by now realized that the pot of gold was never there. This handing out of taxpayer’s money is maybe possible in a rich country where the majority of the citizens are hard working and productive, like prof. Standing’s Britain, but obviously he has no idea of the bankrupt state the ANC have made us.

There is some very interesting work being done on universal basic income grants in West Africa. If I remember correctly it’s by GiveDirectly

As a result I am for it. However to fund it I believe many of the complex ineffective government projects should be stopped and excess staff retrenched.

Gina, I am a pensioner, I believe I have worked quite hard and saved for my lifetime to earn a decent retirement. I am now outside the targeted group, which means I will not get the tax rebate, but I will certainly be taxed to pay the grant for a few other people. The problem I have with this, I will illustrate with an example. I know a guy who came from England, worked here for a number of years, got married, got children and then one day he just left his job and took his family with him back to England. There his wife found that he was quite happy to live of the British welfare system ( I think they call it the dole), because his parents have done that for most of their lives and most of his other family there were on the system. All perfectly healthy, but why work if someone else can pay? I thought the Andy Cap cartoon was funny, until I saw this guy. That system is creating perpetual laziness.
What is happening in SA now already is that whole families are living off one member’s old age pension, another one’s disability grant, a third one’s child grant, etc. With enough grants, there is no need for anyone in the family to work. Other people pay.
What boggles my mind is that intelligent people like Professors Taylor and Standing are supporting this system, but can not see this simple pattern of some people working their whole lives while other people just see now reason to work, because they get all this grants. They are proposing an ever growing pattern of laziness. The more grants there are, the more the unemployment figures will rise.
I am quite willing to pay my taxes to assist those who really can not help themselves, but to support perfectly healthy people – sorry, you will not convince me.

The problem with a country like SA is that our tax base is too small. We have unemployment in excess of 50%. We have only around 3.5 million people paying roughly 90% of the personal income tax.

What we do need desperately, is job creation. However before we can create jobs, we need to educate our people. Having people not being able to read or write when they are already in Grade 4 presents a huge gap in the education system.

Of course it is all those illiterates that are voting time and again for the ruling party, because they don’t even have a basic understanding of Economics.

End of comments.

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