targeting old age benefits in the Philippines

October 17th, 2018

The older persons of Bangued, a city with a population of nearly 50,000 and capital of the Philippine province of Abra, celebrated this year’s National Elderly Week by questioning government officials on distribution of benefits intended for the poor, in accord with the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010. The targeting is by household, regardless of whether individual members of the household receive adequate care and nutrition. Even with perfect targeting, many senior citizens would be left in poverty. And the targeting is far from perfect. Read the rest of this entry »

universal age pensions for India

October 8th, 2018

This is one of the best, concise essays I have seen in defence of universal age pensions. The author, Prabhat Patnaik, is an Indian economist known to be a Marxist, but I see nothing Marxist in this essay. Since the newspaper link may not last long, I have taken the liberty of sharing with TdJ readers an edited version that is about half as long as the original. To download and read the full essay, click on the link below. Read the rest of this entry »

universal pensions in India?

September 28th, 2018

Assam, a state in Northeast India with a population of more than 31 million, on October 2nd will launch universal pensions for residents 60 years of age or older. Read the rest of this entry »

Frank Field on universal pensions

September 24th, 2018

The British politician Frank Field, on the 70th anniversary of the famous Beveridge report that established a welfare state in his country, expressed very clearly my own views regarding the important but limited role of government in provision of old age pensions: there should be a universal pension for everyone of pensionable age, financed from general government revenue, regardless of the income or wealth of a beneficiary. Everyone is free to supplement this basic pension with his or her own savings, or wages from working beyond the official state retirement age.

This system, though simple, is rarely put into practice. Read the rest of this entry »

towards universal pensions in the Philippines

September 10th, 2018

A Philippine Senator has introduced a bill in Congress to double the social pension for his elderly countrymen and remove the means test, leaving only a pension test. If his bill passes, every resident aged 60 years and older without access to a contributory pension will receive a monthly benefit of one thousand Philippine pesos (approximately 18.50 US dollars). Pension coverage, currently 72% of the country’s senior citizens, would increase to 100%.

The proposed social pension is far below the poverty line (8,378 pesos a month in 2014), but would mark a beginning towards guaranteed basic pensions for all in the Philippines. Read the rest of this entry »

targeting the poor does not work

September 4th, 2018

Targeting the poor provides opportunity for corruption in delivery of benefits, even when the beneficiaries are older persons. Here is an example from Nueva Ecija, a province in the Central Luzon region of the Philippines. Read the rest of this entry »

‘universal’ pensions in South Korea

August 29th, 2018

The only thing universal about South Korea’s “universal pension system” is the rate of contribution. The more a worker contributes, the higher the pension she receives. With no contributions, there is no pension.

The pension system is supposedly pre-funded, but the contributions are not sufficient to pay the pension promises. Actuarial projections predict that assets in the fund will be exhausted by the year 2057. To prevent this, the government proposes to either (1) raise contributions to 10.8% of salary from the current 9% rate or (2) lower the promised income replacement from 45% to 40% “while raising contributions to 13 percent by 2033”. Read the rest of this entry »

basic income pilot in a California city

August 27th, 2018

Beginning in 2019, a demonstration of basic income will begin in Stockton, a city of about 300,000 residents, in California’s Central Valley. One hundred households will be selected randomly from neighbourhoods where the median household income is at or below the city median of $46,033 a year. One person, 18 years of age or older, in each selected household will receive $500 a month for 18 months. It is not clear how the recipient within each household will be selected. Benefits will be unconditional, meaning that there are no work requirements and no restrictions on how the money is spent. This makes the experiment more universal than most of this type. The benefits will be funded entirely from private donations, so there is little chance that payments will continue beyond the 18-month period. Read the rest of this entry »

air conditioning and global warming

August 24th, 2018

Air-conditioning has been a godsend for hot countries, and hot regions of otherwise temperate countries, but it comes with a huge environmental cost: the electricity needed to power these machines fuels global warming. A leader in this week’s Economist magazine argues that more needs to be done to make these machines more energy efficient, and that buildings, even entire cities, should be designed so that less air-conditioning is required. Here is a self-explanatory excerpt, with a link to the full article. Read the rest of this entry »

map of the day: China’s high-speed rail tracks

August 14th, 2018

This is amazing. In December 2009, China inaugurated its first long-distance high-speed rail service, moving trains 1,100km between the cities of Guangzhou and Wuhan in just three hours. Today, two-thirds of the world’s HSR tracks have been laid in China.

Critics point out that the rail construction has been financed with debt, and the interest costs of this debt exceeds the operating revenue of China Railway. I am not worried. It takes time to attract riders, and travel by electric rail is better for the environment than travel by air, provided electricity is not produced by burning coal or other fossil fuels.

For more information, see Tom Mitchell and Xinning Liu, “China’s high-speed rail and fears of fast track to debt“, Financial Times, 14 August 2018.