South Africa Needs A Basic Income Grant Says Experts

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In March 2021, the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant will come to an end. This will leave nearly ten million people without any financial assistance from the government. 


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The SRD grant was introduced by the South African government during the Covid-19 pandemic to support unemployed individuals between 18 and 59 years old.

A panel of experts on Basic Income Support (BIS) were recently appointed by the Department of Social Development to study the impact of a Basic Income Grant (BIG).

The team have recommended in a report that the South African government gradually introduce a basic income grant. The panel’s chair, Professor Alex van den Heever says that if a BIG was introduced carefully, it would not result in major trade-offs in relation to existing social support mechanisms, economic sustainability and the fiscal position of the government.

Van den Heever believes there are no alternatives other than a BIG to address the economic challenges faced by many South Africans. In South Africa, around 46% of the population are benefits of a South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) grant.

He warns that the consequences of not having access to money or a grant is severe and harmful.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu believes that engagement on a BIG needs to end at some point and that a pilot program needs to be put in place.

“It is in this context that our efforts must be targeted at improving the state of the people where they live. I am pleased to receive the Expert Panel Report on Basic Income Support today. This report is now an integral part of our policy engagement arsenal,” concluded the Minister.

Oxfam Economic Justice Lead Thembinkosi Dlamini says Oxfam supports the idea of a BIG as it will provide people with dignity. He explains that the consequences of not having a grant could lead to lack of nutrition as well as people not having access to essential hygiene products. It will also rob people of the opportunity to overcome poverty and inequality.

Dlamini argues that while 46% of the population can be viewed as unsustainable, the money people would receive will go straight back into the economy. He says that this would in turn grow local economies and could create employment in the long run which would lessen the reliance on social support grants.

“It is an issue where we need to choose carefully the path we want to take simply because we know that once we have inclusive economic growth, it will have some positive spin-offs which will tend to benefit the economy overall and resolve some of the problems we’ve been having such as the unemployment problem, the inequality problem and the poverty problem” said Dlamini.

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