BIG for all depends on budget
At the end of 2006, the Basic Income Grant Coalition took it upon themselves and started a project to investigate the feasibility of introducing a government-backed support system for individuals without any income. This project, a first of its kind, was intended to make a difference in the lives of the destitutely poor.
Following the preliminary work, a pilot project on a small scale was spearheaded by Bishop Zephaniah Kameeta of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia. The project started in January 2008 and ran up to December 2009. The BIG was implemented in the Otjivero-Omitara settlement to about 1000 people. The pilot project was designed to conform to the principles of the BIG proposal i.e. it is to be a universal grant, it is to be a cash entitlement, it is to provide some form of income security and is to be built on redistributive justice. The pilot project aimed to establishwhether a BIG made any difference in the target community.
When the project commenced all residents below the age of 60 years received a Basic Income Grant of N$100 per person per month without any conditions attached. Results were monitored over a period of twelve months. It was established that the introduction of BIG ignited hope and the community responded by establishing its own eighteen-member committee to mobilise the community and to advise residents on how to spend the BIG money wisely.
The BIG contributed to a significant reduction of crime and a reduction in women’s dependency on men for their survival. Before the introduction of the project almost half of the school going children did not attend school. Pass rates stood at about 40% and drop-out rates were high. After receiving a BIG more than double the number of parents paid school fees and most of the children could go to school wearing school uniforms.
Kameeta urged the government to implement the project nationwide. He said the results of the pilot project have proven the effectiveness of a BIG to fight poverty, to foster social development and to kick-start local economic development.
“ The BIG is a form of social protection, which reduces poverty and supports pro-poor economic growth. As a national policy it would greatly assist Namibia in achieving the Millennium Development Goals to which the country has committed itself. It is the sincere hope of the Coalition that this experience and the positive examples will encourage others to demand what is rightfully theirs which is a ‘BIG for all”.