Universal basic income
a model for Timor-Leste
The World Bank Report provides evidence that more than 1 billion people are still living in abject poverty. Drastic measures must be taken to ensure a decent livable human condition be afforded to everyone. If everyone is provided with enough sustenance to live a dignified life, the world will be a place where poverty will not quickly disappear, but drastically dissipates.
Many countries introduced some sort of social programs in order to provide an even keel to those who are not well off to look after themselves and may become trapped in precarious life situations if no assistances from the government are forthcoming. Despite such efforts, many are still sidelined, uncovered, and remain outside of the social protection system. Then surges the concept of the Universal Basic Income (UBI) as an alternative to the costly and often bureaucratic hassle to manage the existing social protection programs.
Pilot projects of UBI were introduced in many countries to investigate the effects on the beneficiaries. Interestingly, the data of these experiments showed that overall, UBI had positive effects than negative ones.
Furthermore, given that UBI has become a global issue in which many governments, organizations and interested stakeholders contemplate as an alternative to the usually heavy, costly and hard to manage many social programs and all the more so, with the onslaught of the advanced industrial revolution, it is time that this study looks at the feasibility of introducing the UBI in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste is a country with a population of slightly over 1 million people. The country has abundance natural resources such as oil, gas and other unexploited mineral resources. It has a Petroleum Fund, which currently has over 17 billion in reserve. The fund’s management is modelled after Norway with strong oversight and full transparency.
Timor-Leste is a welfare state and has introduced free education, free health care, lifetime pension for former holders of state organs (president of the supreme court, all members of the national parliament, all members of government and president of the republic), mother’s purse cash transfer, old-age and disabled pensions, civil servants pension and pensions for veterans. These benefits are provided with no means test. Successive governments introduced these policies since Timor-Leste achieved its independence on May 20, 2020 and therefore there existed a broader and cross political parties’ acceptance at the highest level to distribute the country’s wealth to its citizens.
Moreover, the country has a nascent social protection regime and can be easily replaced with one system, the UBI, should the opportunity present itself and enough resources and political willingness to seriously look at and support it.
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