Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Kirk Humphrey has dismissed the idea of introducing universal basic income (UBI) in Barbados.
Responding to a question from Senior Minister Dr William Duguid on the feasibility of such a system in Barbados, during debate on the 2023/2024 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, he said UBI was not a realistic concept for a small island developing nation like Barbados.
UBI is a government programme that provides monthly direct cash transfers to every adult citizen.
“If we accept that to give a universal income means that you give everybody an income, everybody gets a certain amount of money to live, it couldn’t be then that the money that they get would be money that keeps them below the poverty line if the idea is to take them out of poverty. If you calculate a universal basic income for everybody, you are talking about putting a small island developing state under extreme financial pressure,” Humphrey said.
“If you then were to modify that and you offer your basic income to perhaps a category of the population . . . you then would have to give basic income to 50 000 people,” he added, referring to the estimated number of people who fall below the poverty line in Barbados.
“Just to meet your basic living standards, you are already talking about significant, almost unimaginable and unsustainable financing.”
Humphrey stressed that poverty in Barbados, like in any other jurisdiction, had no single, easy solution.
He opined that providing assistance to citizens who need it most was the better approach.
“Poverty is multidimensional and you therefore need to be able to target people to get different things, so not everybody’s poverty is the subject of just pure income debt privation. A universal basic income assumes that is what it is. We know, for example, that a lot of people would need [a] parenting programme; we know a lot of our people need access to housing, proper health care, various things. There are so many things affecting people. Our position on this matter was that we offer a targeted intervention,” Minister Humphrey said.
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