UN agency calls for temporary basic income for 2.7bn people

United Nations headquarters

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) said the measure could stem the spread of the virus by allowing those living below or just above the poverty line in 132 developing countries to stay home.

Seven out of ten workers in poorer nations currently earn money through informal markets and cannot afford to stay home, according to UNDP.

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented social and economic measures.

“Introducing a Temporary Basic Income for the world’s poorest people has emerged as one option.

“This might have seemed impossible just a few months ago.

“A Temporary Basic Income might enable governments to give people in lockdown a financial lifeline, inject cash back into local economies to help keep small businesses afloat, and slow the devastating spread of COVID-19,” UNDP administrator Achim Steiner said in a statement.

The agency estimates it would cost at least 199 billion dollars per month to provide such a time-bound, guaranteed basic income.

It could be financed by repurposing existing resources, such as fossil fuel subsidies.

Countries could repurpose the funds they would use this year to service their debt to pay for the grant, UNDP said.

“A comprehensive debt standstill for all developing countries, as called for by the UN Secretary-General, would allow countries to temporarily repurpose these funds into emergency measures to combat the effects of the COVID-19 crisis,” the agency said. (dpa/NAN)