New Delhi: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said universal basic income (UBI) could be a useful tool for reducing the income and social divide, which has been widening over the last three decades despite the county’s strides in economic growth, infrastructure creation and global standing.
Addressing a gathering in New Delhi at the release of India 2047, Voices of the Young, a collection of essays by young professionals at government think tank Niti Aayog edited by member Bibek Debroy, Jaitley said social divide and insurgency which can be relatable to social injustice are serious problems for which solutions have to be found.
Jaitley said the economic surveys prepared by chief economist in the finance ministry and “free thinker" Arvind Subramanian are unconventional and float ideas for the future, UBI being one of them in the latest report.
“This year (in Economic Survey 2016-17), he wants to do away with the current system of subsidies altogether and substitute it with UBI. Let us hope that by the time he publishes the next Survey, in some parts of the county the idea of UBI gets experimented and it helps in reducing poverty rate and helps us in reaching the destination we want to 30 years from now," said the minister.
The Economic Survey 2016-17 advocated UBI replacing existing poverty alleviation schemes if macro-economic stability permitted without it becoming an add on to existing welfare schemes.
Jaitley’s concern on social and income divide stems from the fact that in the 1970s and early 80s, it was thought the social and income divide would decline over the subsequent two or three decades, but the opposite has proven to be the case.
“Whereas in terms of growth, economic development and our place in the world, we can look at a far more positive situation 30 years down the line, the jury will still be out if we will be able to get rid of this baggage (of social inequality and insurgency) because this is one area that has been sliding down in the last thirty years," the minister said.
The issue of social divide could be relatable to injustice or downright political ambitions that seek to foster the divide and a group of voters, the minister added.
Subramanian, who wrote the foreward for the essays, and Niti Aayog chief executive officer Amitabh Kant were present on the occasion.