Friday, May 23, 2008

More On Global Problems

After lamenting yesterday about the paucity of wealth to go around on a global scale, I ran across a BBC report about a pilot Basic Income Grant project in Namibia. The program, organized by a civil society coalition, gives US$13 per month to every member of the community under pension age. Now, $13 certainly doesn't sound like much ($20 PPP, ICP 2005, though I wonder exactly what kind of market basket they used)---and it isn't, in absolute terms; but in relative terms, $13 can be quite a lot. After all, that comes to more than a quarter of monthly income for half of the country's population (HDR 2007/2008, Table 3); and even if it isn't "living large," a 25% bump in income surely can do a fair amount to propel one toward improving quality of life.

And anecdotally (according to the BBC article), many program participants are using the grant for little things that can do just that. For example, some have used the money to buy clothes for their children and pay school fees. The former helps children focus on their studies without worrying about their appearance, and the latter gives parents the confidence to engage school officials on the quality of their children's education. Others have used the funds to supplement their food budget, and the local clinic has seen a drastic reduction in cases of seriously malnourished children. The grants have also provided capitol to allow the establishment of a new grocery store, a hairdresser, a barber, and an ice-cream vendor. Of course, none of these things means poverty has been solved in this village by only $13/person, but each of them has the potential to contribute to a virtuous cycle in the gradual ascent toward a more equitable society.

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