April 29, 2005

Coalition launched for promoting basic income grant

The Basic Grant Income Coalition, a group of churches, non-governmental organisations and trade unions, have launched a campaign to promote the idea of a basic income grant (BIG) to reduce poverty in Namibia. The proposal to implement a basic income grant, which would pay every Namibian citizen N$100 a month, was made by the Namibia Tax Consortium in 2002. This, if implemented, would make Namibia like some European countries, which pay social benefits to their unemployed citizens every month. But in Namibia, the envisaged grant would be paid to all citizens, whether employed or not. Proponents say it would lower inequality in the country by reducing the dependence of a whole family on one breadwinner.
If there are six people in a household, for example, such a household would receive N$600 from the state every month. While the poor now pay around 20 per cent of their income as remittances to other family members, high-income earners are only paying 10 per cent.
According to the National Planning Commission (NPC), 75 per cent of Namibians live below the poverty line. Furthermore, Namibia has the most unequal distribution of income in the world.
One of the options for financing BIG is to adjust the tax system, so that higher-income earners bear the cost in the form of a 'solidarity levy' to finance the benefits of the poor.
The Namibia Tax Consortium has also proposed that BIG can be funded through an increase of 6,5 per cent in Value Added Tax. Some of the organisations that have joined the BIG Coalition are the Council of Churches in Namibia, the Legal Assistance Centre, the Labour Resources Research Institute (LaRRI), Namibia NGO Forum (Nangof) and the Namibia Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW). (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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