Citizen’s Income News, Autumn 2010

One of the more interesting pieces of news to come out of the recent Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) congress is that Iran might become the first country to establish a Citizen’s Income. Hamid Tabatabai’s paper on the subject is soon to be published in Basic Income Studies. Tabatabai ‘explains the development of the main component of Iran’s forthcoming economic reform plan – the replacement of fuel and food subsidies with direct cash transfers to the population – and shows how a system of universal, unconditional and regular cash transfers is beginning to emerge, rather haphazardly but inexorably, as a by-product of an attempt to transform an inefficient and unfair system of sharing the country’s oil wealth with the population through price subsidies.’ For more information, see Basic Income Studies

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has published a briefing note on the distributional effects of the recent Budget: ‘The measures introduced in the June 2010 Budget are regressive overall. Once we consider all reforms to be introduced by April 2014, the cash losses are smallest for the seventh, eighth and ninth income decile groups, and are very similar for all of the bottom seven expenditure decile groups. The progressive nature of the pre-announced measures is not sufficient to offset this, so the overall package of tax and benefit reforms is also slightly regressive, at least within the bottom nine income decile groups. The biggest losers from the June 2010 Budget are low income households of working age, while better off working-age households without children lose the least.’

The Guardian Weekly reports on a campaign in India for a ‘universal distribution [of food stocks], rather than a targeted one, because the “poverty accounting” criteria in India are controversial and the lists are frequently manipulated and therefore unreliable. “A universal public distribution system would be a life-saver for the hungry, while for the others it would be a form of financial support and social security,” explained Jean Drèze, an economist and member of the Right to Food movement. The Indian Government is to publish a Right to Food Act before the end of the year.

Research reported in Social Policy and Administration relates public attitudes in the UK and in Israel to the social welfare systems which have evolved in the two countries. The authors discuss the inefficiencies of the UK’s means-tested system – ‘it is expensive to administer and often misallocates resources’ – but that it is ‘relatively effective at preventing extreme poverty. … The British public may not support sufficient levels of redistrubution to end poverty but repeated surveys have shown that the overwhelming majority of the British public believes that no one should be unable to afford the basic necessities of life’ (Menachem Monnickendam and David Gordon, ‘Poverty, Government Policy and Public Opinion in Britain and Israel: A Comparative Analysis’, Social Policy and Administration, vol.44, no.5, October 2010, p.570).