15 October 2015

Namibia: Basic Income Grant Back On National Agenda

Windhoek — Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare Zephania Kameeta confirmed in an interview yesterday that following consultative meetings, all 14 regions are eager for the implementation of the long-awaited universal Basic Income Grant (BIG) as one of the key instruments to eliminate poverty.

Over the past few weeks the Ministry of Poverty Eradication has been involved in consultative meetings in all 14 regions to debate possible interventions to eradicate poverty and distribute wealth more equally in Namibia.

"We picked it (the widespread support for BIG) up during the national dialogue when we visited the 14 regions on wealth redistribution," the minister confirmed. "In all the regions, people mentioned that they want the implementation of BIG to eradicate poverty. We are compiling a report, which will be discussed during the national conference scheduled for end of this month," he revealed.

Many critics say the introduction of a BIG would be an act of charity, rather than an economic right and method to break the shackles of poverty that trap so many Namibians.

Others feel the universal grant would lead to laziness among Namibians, especially the youth.

Kameeta said they are currently compiling a detailed report with all the suggestions on issues of BIG, water, unemployment, housing and electricity among other critical suggestions gathered from the regions.

Once the report is compiled, it will be up for discussion at the national conference to be held on October 26-27.

The results emanating from the national conference, he said, will determine the way forward on BIG and the many proposals gathered from the regions.

He noted that after the conference, the report would be submitted to Cabinet before it goes to the national assembly for debate and scrutiny ahead of further implementation.

Kameeta is a long-time proponent of the basic income grant and served as former chairperson of the Namibian BIG Coalition. He was appointed minister of poverty eradication in March by President Hage Geingob, who himself is seen as having a soft spot for the BIG idea.

The pilot project for such a grant was conducted over two years - from 2007 to December 2009 - and ultimately showed that it could be a significant step towards the provision of a BIG for everyone in Namibia. Funds for the pilot project were raised through voluntary contributions.

Namibia's BIG pilot project, which was conducted in the Otjivero-Omitara area near Windhoek was the world's first universal unconditional cash transfer.

In the pilot phase N$100 was given every month to all residents under 60 years old living in the said area.

People over 60 are excluded only because they already receive a State pension.

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