Archive for the ‘Universal Transfers’ Category

Hong Kong changes leaders

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

… but not policies. Plans for a universal pension, in particular, will not be implemented, nor even debated, by the Legislative Council.

A long-forgotten peace resumed in the Legislative Council on Wednesday as the city’s new leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor attended her first question-and-answer session ….

While radical lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung was again ousted from the chamber as he protested against Lam for not implementing a universal pension scheme, lawmakers from both sides agreed the meeting was more constructive and peaceful than those attended by Lam’s predecessor Leung Chun-ying. ….

But not all people were happy.

“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung feared the [pan-democrat] camp would become more passive – or even be dismantled.

Jeffie Lam and Kimmy Chung, “Peace returns to Hong Kong’s legislature as new leader Carrie Lam attends first session – but how long will honeymoon last?“, South China Morning Post, 6 July 2017.

UBI in poor countries

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

This is a great column. Mr Sandu does not mention it, but a universal pension is also good for poor countries (and wealthy countries as well). A universal pension, after all, is a universal basic income (UBI) limited to older folks and younger persons with disabilities.

[T]he debate in rich countries tends, naturally enough, to focus on the affordability and desirability of UBI in rich countries. But there is much to learn — for rich countries, too — about whether UBI would make sense in poorer ones. The answer is, perhaps paradoxically, that there is a good case for low-income countries to leapfrog the rich world in welfare policy.

John McArthur asks how many poor countries could afford to pay a UBI large enough to eradicate extreme poverty. The answer is stunning: 66 countries could do this at a cost of no more than 1 per cent of their national income. Doing so would lift 185m people out of extreme poverty, a quarter of the global total. A further 25 countries could do the same at a cost of between 1 and 5 five per cent of national income, eradicating extreme poverty for another 150m people. ….

UBI is the new frontier in welfare reform. At the moment it looks more likely to be conquered by the developing world, while countries known as advanced economies look on from behind.

Martin Sandbu, “Leapfrogging to universal basic income“, Free Lunch, Financial Times, 7 June 2017 (unfortunately gated by a paywall).

Mr Sandbu cites “How many countries could end extreme poverty tomorrow?“, 1 June 2017, a blog by John W. McArthur, senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution.

waiting for universal pensions in Hong Kong

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Hong Kong is a city of immense wealth, but it is also a city where far too many residents – especially older residents – live in poverty. The people of Hong Kong have shown remarkable patience while the government refuses to implement a universal pension recommended long ago by their own consultant, University of Hong Kong professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun. (more…)

Finland’s experiment with universal basic income (UBI)

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Finland has begun a basic income experiment with 2,000 people, randomly selected from unemployed persons aged from 25 to 58 years. They will continue to receive a basic income for two-years regardless of their employment status. This is not a true basic income, which would continue for the life of each participant, but some positive results have already emerged. (more…)

towards ‘universal’ pensions in Bangladesh

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

The government of Bangladesh plans to introduce a scheme that promises a ‘universal’ pension to everyone who contributes to a pension pot. Those who contribute little will receive little in their old age. Those who contribute nothing will receive nothing. Is this a universal benefit? Not by my definition.

More than 6% of Bangladesh’s 169 million residents are older than age 60. These older persons cannot save much for their old age, as they have already reached old age. Nor can we expect unpaid caregivers or workers in the informal sector to participate in the proposed ‘universal’ retirement savings scheme. (more…)

basic income works

Monday, May 15th, 2017

The current issue of Boston Review, a bimonthly American political and literary magazine, contains a forum on “Work Inequality Basic Income”. Here are excerpts from an online essay that contains links to numerous studies of basic income experiments. My only complaint is the neglect of the effect of income tests, which amount to a large taxes on earnings, with a predictably negative impact on employment.

In my opinion, the main problem with basic income is that most often it is not universal. Means tests (the lack of universality) stigmatizes beneficiaries, increases administration costs, and discourages recipients from working for pay. (more…)

elder poverty in Myanmar (Burma)

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Buddhist teachings have traditionally emphasised respect towards the elderly, and on the surface it seems like family structures are still strong, with 86 per cent of elderly folks reportedly living with family.

But cases of abuse and abandonment are on the rise, so much so that a law was enacted in December 2016 to address the issue. The law sets out to protect the rights, health and economic well-being of the elderly.

Daw Khin Ma Ma is one of the lawyers who worked on drafting the law, and she also runs a nursing home for the elderly who have been abused or abandoned. ….

[She said] “Poverty is at the centre of all this … if an elderly person suffers a stroke, they become a burden. The family still needs to make their living every day, children have to go to school. Who will take care of them?”

Some mentally-ill folks are simply driven somewhere and abandoned by the side of the road, unable to tell rescuers where they live.

Other times, seniors are found literally thrown into a rubbish pile, beaten and left for dead. “There have been so many terrible cases that strip off human dignity,” Daw Khin said. ….

Financially and administratively, the government is limited. Just last year, the Ministry of Social Welfare proposed a universal pension of 25,000 kyats (S$25) for citizens over 65, but had to cut back on its plans because of insufficient budget.

Eventually, it compromised on a monthly pension payout of 18,000 kyats (US$13) for seniors over 90 years of age. The average life expectancy in Myanmar is 67 years.

Lam Shushan and Ray Yeh, “Poverty forces families in Myanmar to ditch their elderly“, Channel NewsAsia, 21 April 2017.

HelpAge International, a London-based charity, is working in Myanmar to lower the age of eligibility for the universal pension. An earlier proposal was to set the age of eligibility at 100 years! HelpAge is active also in other aspects of the lives of older persons.

Through a programme called the Older People’s Self Help Group, HelpAge trains seniors to form a network of support for each other, which encourages them to keep active both economically and socially.

Widow Daw Hla Than, 75, makes a dollar or two for a massage that lasts as long her clients desire. (Photos and video: Lam Shushan and Ray Yeh)

Watch also the 5-minute video “Daw Hla’s story

ending poverty in China

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Elimination of poverty is no easy task. Even if the state obtains adequate resources for the project, there remains the problem of transferring income to those living in abject poverty.

In China, the targeting of relief for the poor is improving, but is still fraught with incompetence and fraud. As a result, there are huge errors of inclusion (benefits that go to the non-poor) and exclusion (the poor who receive no benefits). (more…)

Australia looks at universal pensions

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Australians are beginning to show interest in New Zealand’s universal pension scheme. Here is a column the could have been written by my friend and colleague, New Zealand economist Susan St John. (Susan, were you the ghost writer?) (more…)

robots and universal basic income (UBI)

Friday, April 7th, 2017

In the fourth of his Free Lunch series on automation, Martin Sandbu defends the universal basic income (UBI) as a way to distribute benefits of increased productivity. (more…)