The BIG question we cannot afford to ignore

19 July 2020 - 00:02 By Sunday Times Editorial

'Poverty in SA is not a 'worrying problem' or a 'persistent enclave' as in some countries. It is the dominant reality for the majority of our people." So said the Black Sash in a report called Breaking the Poverty Trap: Financing a Basic Income Grant in South Africa. In a post state-capture SA newly ravaged by Covid-19, these words ring loud and clear, and give heft to the proposal by social development minister Lindiwe Zulu to introduce a basic income grant (BIG).

But the report was published in 2004, two years after the Taylor committee recommended the BIG as the most effective way of combating income poverty. Back then the promises of a people-centred democracy had not yet faded, and the public purse was in relatively rude health. The committee recommended it be funded through taxes and that every legal resident of SA, regardless of age or income, receive it. This would get the funds into the pockets of recipients rather than being eaten up by the administrative costs of determining who qualified. Not to mention curtail opportunities for corruption...

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