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Here is the executive summary of a report on a "basic income grant" project in Namibia.

For a great illustrated article on this topic, see what Der Spiegel had to say: A New Approach -- How a Basic Income Program Saved a Namibian Village.

In January 2008, the Basic Income Grant (BIG) pilot project commenced in the Otjivero-Omitara area, about 100 kilometres east of Windhoek. All residents below the age of 60 years receive a Basic Income Grant of N$100 per person per month, without any conditions being attached. The grant is being given to every person registered as living there in July 2007, whatever their social and economic status.

This BIG pilot project is designed and implemented by the Namibian Basic Income Grant Coalition (established in 2004) and is the first universal cash-transfer pilot project in the world. The BIG Coalition aims to practically pilot the Namibian Government's NAMTAX recommendation of a BIG for Namibia. Thus the BIG Coalition regards this project as the first step towards a BIG for all. The BIG Coalition consists of four big umbrella bodies in Namibia, namely, Council of Churches (CCN), the Namibian Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), the Namibian NGO Forum (NANGOF) and the Namibian Network of AIDS Service Organisations (NANASO). Funds to start the pilot project were raised through voluntary contributions from supporters of the idea from all sections of Namibia's society, and by support from people, churches, organisations and donors in other countries. The BIG pilot project will run for a period of 24 months up to December 2009.

The effects of the BIG pilot project are evaluated on an on-going basis. Four complementary methods were used. First, a baseline survey was conducted in November 2007. Second, panel surveys were conducted in July and November 2008. Third, information was gathered from key informants in the area. Fourth, a series of detailed case studies of individuals living in Otjivero-Omitara was carried out.

This report presents the socio-economic results after the implementation of the BIG for 12 months. The key findings include the following:


The BIG pilot project in Otjivero-Omitara has shown the wide-ranging benefits of a universal income grant in addressing poverty. The findings contained in this report document the social and economic changes that occurred during the past 12 months some of them being nothing less than spectacular.

The Basic Income Grant is more than an income support programme. It provides security that reinforces human dignity and empowerment. It has the capacity to be the most significant poverty-reducing programme in Namibia, while supporting household development, economic growth and job creation. A BIG has various developmental impacts. A grant of N$ 100 per person per month would generate a net benefit of over N$ 900 million a year reaching the rural communities in Namibia. It can be argued that this would work as an engine for local economic development. The poor would have the ability to spend larger amounts on locally produced goods and services. This would create more viable and sustainable opportunities for employment in the rural areas. Furthermore, if people are constantly confronted with economic insecurity, they will not be able to engage in entrepreneurial activities. The BIG would therefore provide income security, which has the ability to free resources for entrepreneurial risk taking. A BIG is not an added burden at a time of economic crisis, but an appropriate intervention that will stimulate demand - particularly for basic consumer goods.

The BIG is a form of social protection which reduces extreme poverty and supports pro-poor economic growth. As a national policy it would greatly assist Namibia in achieving the Millenium Development Goals to which the country has committed itself. These goals include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, the pro- motion of gender equality, the reduction of child mortality, combating diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, and ensuring environmental sustainability. The empirical results in Otjivero-Omitara have shown that a BIG will have a positive impact in all these areas. While the BIG alone cannot solve all of Namibia's social and economic problems, it will certainly make a substantial contribution. One of our findings in Otjivero- Omitara was that the grant has reduced the dependency of young women on men for their survival. The BIG has given women a measure of control over their own sexuality, freeing them to some extent from the pressure to engage in transactional sex.

There is no doubt that the cost of a BIG is substantial - ranging from 2.2% to 3.0% of national income. As shown by the calculations in this report, Namibia has the capacity to mobilise the necessary resources without undermining financial stability. On the contrary, over time, as Namibia benefits from the long term growth impact, the Basic Income Grant will become increasingly more affordable. Moderate adjustments to VAT and income tax, alternatively royalties levied on natural resources, or a shift in budget priorities or a combination of these interventions, will make a national BIG an immediate option for Namibia. Its implementation is thus merely a question of political will.

Also see:

All About the Citizens Dividend

Basic Income Guarantees

Worldwide Network of Social Dividend Advocates

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