Flat rate universal basic income plan for everyone whether in work, unemployed or with disabilities

ubi swiss ubi posterSwiss to vote on UBI on June 5.

Several countries around the world are talking about the idea of introducing Universal Basic Income (UBI), not to be confused with Universal Credit which is being introduced in the UK to replace several means-tested welfare benefits.

Universal Basic Income is where the government pays everybody a set amount, whether they work or not, in place of means-tested benefits. Of course, the incentive to work is still said to exist as most people will want to have more money than paid by UBI.

On June 5, Switzerland is holding a referendum of its citizens that, if successful, means it will become the first country to provide universal basic income. They will be voting on a plan that could see all adults receive about 2,500 Swiss Francs (approximately £1,700; $2,460) a month, with children receiving 625 Francs (about £445; $615) for each child. There will be no additional disability benefits.

The Swiss federal government estimates that the proposal will cost around 208 billion francs a year and the Swiss parliament has called for voters to reject the proposal with all parties united against it. Only 14 MPs supported the basic income initiative. One MP described the initiative as “the most dangerous and harmful initiative that has ever been submitted,” mentioning the risks of immigration, disincentive to work, and that the basic income proposed would not be financially feasible.

The Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive branch, also recommended its rejection, noting that UBI would cause low-paid jobs to disappear or be transferred abroad and would send women back to house work or care work. They said that implementing the initiative would also raise taxes and weaken incentive to work.

To understand how this proposal has come so far despite opposition from the government, you need to know that Switzerland has a form of direct democracy alongside its Parliament. Citizens simply have to gather 100,000 signatures calling for a vote on a proposal, and a ballot must be held with its result binding.

There have been UBI-type policies and experiments in both India and Brazil that have suggested that, contrary to fears about ‘welfare sapping people’s initiative, a basic income might actually increase people’s appetite for work. It seems to increase their sense of stability.

In the Netherlands, in the city of Utrecht, there is a pilot UBI-ish scheme whereby people on benefits are paid unconditionally.  Other Dutch towns and cities look set to follow Utrecht’s example. Finland has plans to pilot an even more ambitious kind of basic income.

UBI ideas have been suggested in other countries, including both the USA and UK. So far, however, no firm proposals have been put forward in either nation.

 

Danger, corruption and drugs but no rock and roll

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Danger is part of an F1 driver’s life. Carlos Sainz survived this crash during practice for the Russian Grand Prix but other safety lapses need attention. (Pic: Rex)

In life there will always be lots of ups and downs, just ask any sportsman or woman, but sport in general seems to be going through some very hard times at the moment.

Thankfully, the troubles are varied, there does not appear to be one underlying cause. In fact, there are many; so many that it is impossible to mention them all here. That being the case, my remarks will be confined to just a few of them.

Drug-taking has created problems in more than one sport, with athletics and cycling bodies being determined to stamp it out. Both international organisations have chosen new presidents, coincidentally both British, with Brian Cookson now in charge of cycling while Lord Coe is now leading athletics. As Sebastion Coe, he won middle-distance Olympic gold medals in 1980 and 1984.

On being elected in September two years ago, Cookson said: “My first priorities as president will be to make anti-doping procedures in cycling fully independent……..(and) to ensure a swift investigation into cycling’s doping culture.”

Meanwhile Coe’s attitude to drugs in athletics can be shown by his words on being elected in August this year. He said: “There is a zero tolerance to abuse of doping in my sport and I will maintain that to the very highest level of vigilance.”

But the problems in those two sports combined are dwarfed by the goings-on in the world of international football, or soccer, this time not by the players but those who are in charge.

There have been allegations of corruption, illegal payments, unfavourable contracts and vote-buying in the run up to the decisions on where to hold the next two World Cup tournaments.

Internal investigations have taken place, criminal proceedings have been started in Switzerland and the USA, arrests have been made and extraditions started, It’s a mess.

Everyone involved has denied any wrong-doing but now FIFA’s Ethics Committee has suspended international president Sebb Blatter and UEFA (European) president Michel Platini because of criminal investigations.

I have no idea where this is all going to end, how high up the tree the allegations will be proved, but one thing is needed – transparency. Football fans everywhere need to be assured that all the guilty have been removed and steps taken to ensure that nothing like it can ever happen again.

Formula 1, the pinnacle of world motorsport, has its own issues but not of the kind plaguing other sports. In motor racing, the problems seem more about management and engineering shortcomings. The breakdown in the relationship between the Red Bull team and its engine provider Renault is one example of the latter.

The division of F1 income between the teams, however, is pure management of the financial side of the sport. The money is not distributed fairly and, although the top teams would say they deserve the lion’s share, the smaller teams really need greater support for their efforts. If F1 management want small teams to survive, they need more of the cash.

Safety is another area that needs greater attention. Great steps have been taken over many years but it has not been enough. Jules Bianchi died as the result of a crash at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2014; on Saturday, Carlos Sainz suffered a high speed crash in the final practice for the Russian Grand Prix and this just one day after diesel oil was spilled on the track by a truck – although those events do not appear to be connected. And you can add to that the spectacle of an F1 fan walking along the track during this year’s Japanese Grand Prix!

For a sport that prides itself on doing all it can to enhance the safety of everyone involved, whether in-car, in the pit lane and paddock or spectator areas, it is clearly not enough.

I could go on, about deflated balls in American Football and a lot more, but don’t want to risk becoming boring. It all needs to be fixed NOW.