Universal Basic Income (UBI) is an experimental idea that’s been deployed by local and national governments in the past. I’ve also written about it on a few occasions, for I find the idea intriguing. I’m still a bit unsettled by it, being a capitalist born and bred in America, but deep down the concept seems to ring true as the by-product of a just and civilized society.
The idea of giving people money―regular government payments to everyone who provides enough income to cover basic needs―gets people talking, on all sides of the aisle.
India, the world’s second most populated country with a growth rate far surpassing China, will soon have more people within its border than anywhere on Earth―and will likely remain the largest country on our planet for hundreds of years to come. India is also very poor in many parts, still very much an agrarian society on the local level; it, like much of the developing world, is a study in contrasts.
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, India is preparing to roll out some form of UBI shortly. A senior fellow of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace states that “this has now become an issue of when, not if” for India. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as the opposing Indian National Congress Party, have recently announced income support or minimum income guarantee.
It will not be cheap, as some estimates come in to as much as 3-5% of GDP. To put this into context, we in the U.S. spend about 3-4% of our GDP on defense. So while the actual dollar amounts are disproportionate (given the GDP wealth of the U.S.), it demonstrates the difference in mindset of each country as to where they’re placing their ‘chips.’
Therefore, this is no ‘experiment’ once the Indians pull the trigger as a means to alleviate, if not eventually eradicate, poverty in the subcontinent, a new era will emerge. No longer will people rely on subsidies based on political jockeying and administered by lumbering bureaucracies―it will be up to them, acting individually in their own self-interests, to guide a path to a better life and self-sufficiency.
A bold step that bears watching. Stay tuned!