by Alisha Syali
Editorial Note This blog has been written by a finalist of the Blog Wars event organised the PeaceX. The writing prompt, "As Simone de Beauvoir, write an essay on the topic 'The Elimination of Poverty with Universal Basic Income'", was created from a writing prompt generator to allow participants to step into the minds of the most famous and influential of international personalities, and recreate their vision on contemporary issues. We encourage you to read, like and share your favourite posts, which can be found here! Happy reading, Blog Wars Organising Team
Humanity is not just another animal species. We are so much more than that, we are capable of creating, innovating, flourishing and more importantly, rising from even the most adverse situations.
It is important to remember that the strength of humanity is only when we live together, work together and strive together, otherwise we are no different them animals living in the jungle fighting for their space and their existence. Thus, it is imperative that all members of the human family must not forget their ethical responsibility that the individual has to him or herself, towards other individuals and also to oppressed groups.
Mahatma Gandhi said that “Poverty is the worst form of violence,”. It is one of the worst plagues affecting the humankind. It is also said that one of the central features of oppression around the globe. It is because, poverty suits the oppressors, as the poor remain too entangled in their daily worries regarding their basic needs of food and shelter and thus, neither they have the time nor do they have the energy to care about the acts of their oppressors.
Also, the other members of the society who are relatively well-off, seldom seem to care about the inhumane conditions in which a large chunk of people struggle to survive. Also, it must be understood that poverty is society’s means of everlastingly dehumanizing individuals and exposing them to inhumane living conditions and simultaneously trying to find reasons to suit this situation as “just.” People often accept (or pretend to accept) that the system generating poverty is just and thus fair. It is tough to refute the sturdy connection between wealth and race, but paradoxically, that’s what has been happening. Its effects include mental and physical ailments, poor nutrition, food scarcity, low education levels, etc. It must also be noted that the effects of poverty affect the most side-lined sections of the society the most, such as minorities and women. Thus, this issue does not get much attention as most people do not care about these communities.
Further, to understand the severity of the situation, it is important that we look at some facts. Poverty is a phenomenon which is prevalent around the globe and 85% of the world’s population survive on less than $30 a day, 2/3rd live on less than $10 a day, and every 10th person lives on less than $1.90 a day. This shows, very clearly that we are doing not enough in this regard and as a society we have truly failed.
The reason for the same is that the society in general is run by a small fraction of very well-off individuals. These people deny prospects to the marginalized sections of the society. The impoverished sections of the society are made to work for menial wages and are forced to scuffle to earn or acquire the necessary elements to secure the basic human standard of living such as having food and shelter. The deprived are deliberately controlled by the people in power and are barred from shaping or battling the forced will of the wealthy. This is a sample of a society where the poor are oppressed and nobody wants to find a solution in this regard. The basic reason for such indifference has perhaps got to do with our societal values. Most cultures and religions preach about charity and compassion but not a lot seem to worry about equality, rights and fairness. People often believe that the poor are poor because of their Karma or maybe because it is God’s will. It is their fate and therefore, it is what it is.
Further, after the elation of liberalisation that elevated many from the lower middle class to middle class, many who were left behind by the free market have lost even this aid. It is often told to them that it is better for them to wait tolerantly for some goodies to dribble from the indulging lives of the high and mighty. Even if they expect any help, they must earn it.
It is important that we move over this attitude and actually think upon a possible solution to make the world a fairer place for everyone.
One of the possible solutions in this regard is ‘Universal Basic Income’. It is a simple social policy that comprises of ensuring for everyone- modest, regular, and unconditional cash payments, without any task in return. In simple terms, it means which comes from the government, which is handed out to everyone, without any conditions. The basic aim of such a scheme is that people should not have to worry about basic means of survival and also helps the economy sustain meanwhile.
Also, we mustn’t forget that the spread of COVID-19 has deeply dazed economies, and people have started to question current economic models and this pandemic has really disturbed the present levels of injustice and disparity across the globe. So braver ideas such as ‘Universal Basic Income’ (USB) are the need of the hour including some, that formerly, were put aside, and if we don’t ensure a minimum and ensured income floor to rely on when such a situation ensues, people plainly have no choices. Without the means to feed and sustain their families, they are far more likely to surrender before the hunger or other ailments well before the pandemic gets to them.
Millions of people have lost their jobs. A huge share of these unfortunate individuals was employed in the informal sector, meaning thereby that they worked without a contract, insurance, and had highly unstable jobs. Also, there are displaced persons, refugees, and undocumented individuals who were never a part of any system, ever. These people cannot survive without a guaranteed support from the government, thus, it is of utmost importance that we engage in a serious conversation regarding universal basic income, and also make it a central feature of the fiscal packages that countries are bringing.
Also, it has to be understood that the money invested in this regard, is much cheaper than the huge investments brought to bail out entire economies, or pay for fossil fuel subsidies in case the situation takes an even worse turn. Another argument against this scheme is about the cost, many countries are already suffering financially because of the high domestic debt or high external debt, and such a scheme will only aid in growing the debt burden, and that will not be good for any one, neither now, nor in the future.
But what we forget is that in most countries suffering financially, the tax to GDP ratio is very low, and majority of public money is raised by inflicting upon the already suffering masses, regressive, indirect taxes meaning that, it is mostly the poor who are taxed disproportionately which is wrong. These loopholes slowly eat into a country’s tax revenue as seen in countries allowing for their economies to become tax havens and tax. This is a huge wastage of public resources. Also, developing countries lose over a trillion dollars annually because of domestic corruption and inefficiency.
It is imperative that we stop this financial bleeding. This would help us in freeing up the required money to ensure universal basic income. These steps have to be taken immediately because of the social and economic losses caused by COVID-19, it is required right now. Universal basic income is no doubt not the ultimate solution, but is certainly enough to save people from falling off the edge.
Lastly, we must understand that the society and its basic structure, portrays needs as fact. For example, it is a fact, that an individual to survives require food and shelter, but the political class in power in portrays these basic needs as fact and are benefitted by the eternal struggle of the poor for these needs and thus advocates labour, exploitation and private ownership which in reality are not facts but rather are ideological issues as it serves the interests of a few at the cost of others. The Universal Basic Income will help us overcome this eternal struggle and will help the impoverished to look for something beyond animal existence.