UBI in poor countries

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.

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