The Indian government is about to endorse giving all its citizens free money
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Professor Guy Standing, an economist who co-founded advocate group Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) in 1986, told Business Insider that the Indian government will release a report in January which says the idea is "feasible" and "basically the way forward."
The idea behind universal basic income is simple: a regular state payment made to all citizens (one variation specifies adults), regardless of working status.
Advocates say it would provide a vital safety net for all citizens and remove inefficient benefit systems currently in place; critics say it would remove the incentive for citizens to work and prove to be wildly expensive.
It has, however, attracted a growing amount of attention across the world, in both rich and developing countries.
Standing, professor of development at the School for African and Oriental Studies, is considered one of the leading proponents of UBI. He has advised on numerous UBI pilot schemes, and recently returned from California, where he consulted on a $20 million trial set to launch in California this year.
He was closely involved with three major pilot schemes in India - two in Madhya Pradesh, and a smaller one in West Delhi.
The pilots in Madhya Pradesh launched in 2010, and provided every man, woman, and child across eight villages with a modest basic income for 18 months. Standing reports that welfare improved dramatically in the villages, "particularly in nutrition among the children, healthcare, sanitation, and school attendance and performance."
He also says the scheme also turned out some unexpected results.
"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 said.
"As a consequence of this, the Indian government is coming out with a big report in January. As you can imagine that makes me very excited. It will basically say this is the way forward."
The report will likely form part of the Economic Survey, a document prepared annually by India's Ministry of Finance. Arvind Subramanian, the Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India, confirmed to Basic Income News in October that the pros and cons of universal basic income would be a theme of the upcoming report.
Standing said: "I don't expect them to go the full way, because it's such a dramatic conversion. But [BIEN] now have a huge network in India, and we've got a big conference scheduled in March in Delhi funded by the Canadian government, and partly funded by the Azim Prenji Foundation which is the biggest philanthropic foundation in India."
The Economic Survey will be published on January 31.
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