Government must figure out how to best implement a basic income grant, ANC NEC says

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The ANC’s national executive committee  has resolved that government must look into how to best institute a basic income grant to assist the country’s poor and unemployed, President Cyril Ramaphosa said. Picture: Gallo Images
The ANC’s national executive committee has resolved that government must look into how to best institute a basic income grant to assist the country’s poor and unemployed, President Cyril Ramaphosa said. Picture: Gallo Images

The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) has resolved that government must look into how to best institute a basic income grant to assist the country’s poor and unemployed, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa said in an address at the conclusion of the NEC’s lekgotla on Sunday that the special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant (SRD) of R350 had made a "significant positive impact on the lives of the poor but more particularly the unemployed".

"Government must examine the feasibility, the lekgotla said, and affordability of providing some form of income support for the poor and unemployed going forward," Ramaphosa said.

The SRD is expected to end in March.

In December a panel recommended the country gradually implement a basic income grant, beginning with the institutionalisation of the SRD.

"There is no alternative to a system of income support for income-compromised adults from the ages of 18-59 as a permanent part of the social protection framework," Alex van den Heever, the chair of social security systems administration and management studies at the University of Witwatersrand and a member of the panel, said at the time.

The panel was appointed by the Department of Social Development, the International Labour Organization and the United Nations-backed Joint Sustainable Development Goals Fund.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana was more circumspect on the issue in his first medium-term budget speech in November, stressing that SA is already spending R1.1 trillion on grants, while struggling with snowballing government debt of R4 trillion.

But he added that a decision about government's interventions to expand the "social security net" would be provided in the February 2022 Budget. The decision on the BIG will be made by Cabinet.

Godongwana said that while the Covid-19 pandemic increased the national debate on the possibility of a universal basic income grant, any social protection programme should complement a "vibrant job-creating economy".

"In the absence of faster job-creating growth, it is essential to maintain social protection in a sustainable way. Any proposals to expand this system should meet the test of sustainability and effectiveness by being fully and appropriately financed to ensure that the fiscal balance does not deteriorate," the medium-term budget policy statement read. 

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