Archive for the ‘Universal Transfers’ Category

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…)

toward universal pensions in the Philippines

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

There are signs of movement, but the pace is very slow.

[Philippine] President Rodrigo Duterte, last January, granted the P1,000 [US$100] pension hike for Social Security System (SSS) beneficiaries. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) also has a larger budget for social pension for indigent seniors, effectively doubling the target coverage from 1.3 million elderly in 2016 to 2.8 million this year.

Despite these, a study by the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), in partnership with HelpAge International, showed that 38% of senior citizens will still not be provided with social pension. It also said 34% of SSS members receive less than P2,000 every month. ….

Using data from the Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS) released in 2013, the study did a simulation that shows the poverty rate would be reduced [by 3 million] from 25.4% to 22.3% if a P2,000 universal social pension is provided. ….

The study said the government, realistically, could increase the amount of social pension to P1,500 monthly. This would cost P143.97 billion or 0.97% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 4.80% of its [total government] expenditures.

Patty Pasion, “Pension for all seniors to lift 3 million out of poverty – study“, Rappler, 19 February 2017.

The study’s recommendation is an improvement, but still leaves about 23 million persons – 22.9% of the population of older persons – in poverty. The Philippines’ latest poverty line for 2014 is a per capita income of 100,534 pesos a year, equivalent to 8,378 pesos a month. Providing all older people with a pension this size would eliminate elder poverty. Is it worth doing? Would it be money well spent? This is a political question that must be decided by the taxpayers of the country.

One way to reduce costs is to provide a universal pension half this size for the ‘younger old’, aged 60-64, who can continue to participate in the paid labour force. In addition, benefits should be taxed as regular income, so that older persons of any age who are continue to work contribute also to the budget of the country.

the failure of universal pensions in Hong Kong

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

The outgoing Chief Executive of Hong Kong failed to keep a promise to push for universal pensions. Hong Kong is a wealthy territory. Taxes are very low, and government spending is even lower, leaving large fiscal surpluses. There is no economic reason to deny Hong Kong’s elderly citizens access to a basic pension. There is a universal pension in effect, but the amount is so small that it is known as “fruit money”. What is needed is a pension large enough to satisfy basic needs.

[Chief executive] Leung Chun-ying’s question-and- answer session for his swan song policy address was cut short after pan- democrats protested the ejection of lawmaker Lau Siu-lai for playing a recording of the outgoing chief executive’s “broken promises.” ….

Leung was answering questions about the policy address he delivered on Wednesday. When it was Lau’s turn, she played a 2011 video clip on her phone in which Leung “promised” to push for universal retirement protection.

In the press conference that followed his address on Wednesday, Leung denied having shown any support for universal pension when he ran for chief executive.

But in the clip Leung can be heard telling a senior citizen, Lo Siu-lan, that “we don’t need to be vigorous in implementing universal pension, we just need to be serious.”

When Lau told Leung he failed to fulfill his election promise, Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen ordered her to leave the chamber.

Chaos broke out as 10 pan-democratic lawmakers surrounded security guards who tried to escort Lau out of the chamber.

Andrew Leung suspended the meeting and in the melee that followed several people fell to the floor, some on top of Lau and independent lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching.

After more than 20 minutes, Andrew Leung asked the pan- democratic lawmakers to return to their seats. And when they refused he adjourned the meeting at about 11.45am.

Phoenix Un, “Leung session ends in bedlam“, The Standard (Hong Kong), 20 January 2017.

See also this earlier post.

 

the politics of universal pensions in Hong Kong

Monday, January 16th, 2017

One of the three candidates for Chief executive of Hong Kong is a strong supporter of universal age pensions for the territory’s residents. Suffrage in Hong Kong is severely limited, though, so the pro-universal candidate has little chance of winning the election, scheduled to take place at the end of March.

Chief executive hopeful Woo Kwok-hing warned voters against his “dangerous” rival Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, describing her as an autocrat who would decide everything by herself for the Hong Kong people.

Speaking before a public forum yesterday, Woo described Lam, who resigned as chief secretary on Thursday, in a negative light when asked by Lay Yan-piau, an Election Committee member from the social welfare subsector, to comment on Lam’s disregard of University of Hong Kong professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun’s research report which endorsed a universal pension.

The retired judge said Lam was “dangerous” as she talked like an autocrat, making all the plans for Hong Kong without public consultation on issues which should engage the public. ….

Woo reiterated his support for a universal pension scheme financed by tripartite contributions from employers, employees and the government as suggested by the scholarly proposal.

Phoenix Un, “‘Dictator’ Lam mustn’t lead HK, warns Woo“, The Standard (Hong Kong), 16 January 2017.

Woo Kwok-hing (born 1946) is competing against two pro-Beijing candidates: Regina Ip (born 1950) and Carrie Lam (born 1957). A new Chief executive will be selected by the 1,200-member Election Committee on 26 March 2017. Woo would like to see the voter base for choosing the Election Committee expanded from the current 250,000 to one million by 2022, three million by 2032 and eventually near-universal suffrage.

update on Hong Kong’s universal pension proposal

Friday, December 30th, 2016

The government’s lack of sincerity is becoming increasingly evident. (more…)

stumbling toward universal pensions in Hong Kong

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

Sad news from Hong Kong. What is the point of government consultation with voters, if government chooses to ignore dissenting views?

An official advisory commission on universal pensions, after three years of discussion and consultations, convened and released its Report on Thursday, 15 December. The Commission on Poverty of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) discussed the Report. LegCo is expected to retain a means-test for social pensions, even though the Report finds overwhelming public support for universal pensions. (more…)