First, Barbados said goodbye to the Queen and dubbed Rihanna a 'national hero.' Now, it wants to give money to its citizens forever.
The Barbados government proposed giving its citizens universal basic income.
It's unclear how much the UBI would be, but Barbados' reverse-tax-credit grant is $644 a year.
In the past two weeks, it removed the Queen as head of state and dubbed Rihanna a national hero.
First, Barbados severed ties with the British monarchy. Then, it crowned Rihanna as an official national hero. Now, the country wants to give all of its citizens a universal basic income.
It's been a busy two weeks.
The Barbadian government intends to regularly give some of the income produced by the country back to its adult citizens, Avinash Persaud, the special envoy to the prime minister of Barbados on investment and financial services, said in the comments section of a recent Facebook post. Barbados, like many countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, has suffered financially from the pandemic, and it's looking to provide a cushion for struggling households.
Specifically, Persaud proposed that citizens receive regular payments through a citizen's dividend, which typically gives residents sums of money based on government investment in natural resources. The Alaska Permanent Fund, for instance, gives its residents yearly stipends based on profits from the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., which is owned by the state and funded by oil revenue.
Persaud suggested that a citizen's dividend for Barbadians could be combined with the annual reverse tax credits that residents already receive to form a universal basic income. Barbadians who earn less than 25,000 Barbadian dollars a year — about $12,386 — are eligible for a reverse-tax-credit grant of 1,300 Barbadian dollars, or about $644, a year.
Universal-basic-income programs are government initiatives in which every adult citizen is given a regular set amount of money with no strings attached, which is where they differ from typical welfare programs.
UBI programs have surged in popularity in recent years around the world, partially because of the financial strain the pandemic has caused for people with low incomes. Insider identified over 30 guaranteed-income programs that had recently given out funds to people in the US, most of which began in the past year or two.
While guaranteed-income programs are getting pilot runs through small portions of city and state populations, a true UBI program like the one Barbados is proposing allocates funds to all of its citizens.
"Despite all the pressure from international agencies to 'target' we hold the line on universality," Persaud wrote. "That's why we restored free tertiary education for all. International studies have shown this is critical to social mobility and opportunity. The less well-off cannot take on the payments, risk and worry of getting heavily in debt to secure their future."
Barbados eyes UBI as a way to help citizens out of poverty
There's a reason that the global superstar Rihanna is so beloved in her home country of Barbados, other than her music. She's perhaps the country's most high-profile philanthropist.
In March 2020, for instance, as the coronavirus swept through the world, Rihanna offered $5 million to help impoverished countries and gave $700,000 worth of ventilators to Barbados through her Clara Lionel Foundation. Over the years, she's given millions of dollars to healthcare and education efforts in the country.
Barbados has welcomed those efforts. The pandemic, along with the climate crisis, a shrinking labor force, and the persisting effects of colonialism, had hurt the country's stability in recent years.
The pandemic has afflicted the region as a whole — in a World Bank survey of Caribbean and Latin American households released this month, at least half the respondents said they had not been able to reach their income levels from before the pandemic, which has caused a drop in educational and health standards.
The most recent World Bank report on the country's economics, from 2017, said poverty rates had risen in Barbados, and experts say it has likely increased since then because of the influence of the coronavirus on Barbados' tourism industry.
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