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Cash For All In Developing World? Algeria Ponders Universal Basic Income

Cash For All In Developing World? Algeria Ponders Universal Basic Income
Lucie Jung

It's the big idea of the moment among certain economists and activists in the West: Universal basic income (UBI), a policy of allocating a fixed amount of money to every citizen, is seen by some as a way to confront rising unemployment — particularly in the face of automation — in developed countries.

But while UBI has been tested (with mixed results) in local experiments and national referendums in Europe, some are now considering whether it could also be a recipe in the developing world. Last week, the think tank NABNI (French acronym for "Our Algeria Built on New Ideas') laid out the case for a fixed monthly income in the North African country. The Algerian daily El Watan reports that the proposed monthly income would come to 60 euros, which is about one-third of the current minimum wage in Algeria.

The think tank argues that de-industrialization, often cited as a challenge in the developed world, is also hitting countries like Algeria, which has to adapt its economy to the expansion of the service sector over heavy industry and agriculture in an increasingly globalized market, notes French daily Les Echos.

Similar factors have been cited by advocates of UBI in the West. A national referendum last year proposing a 2,500 Swiss Francs ($2,580) monthly income in Switzerland, which did not pass, garnered international attention; in neighboring France, Socialist party candidate Benoit Hamon made the idea a centerpiece of his (failed) campaign for president. The concept has had a bit more success in Finland, where on January 1, an unconditional basic income of 560 euros was granted to 2,000 unemployed people randomly chosen.

The possible deployment of UBI in emerging economies also includes India, which tried to implement a 200 rupees ($3.10) basic income in the region of Madhya Pradesh for 18 months from 2010. Researchers noted that the villages that benefited from this policy witnessed a drop of illness and an increase in food sufficiency. The Hindu newspaper reports that in January 2017, a national survey driven by the Ministry of Finance explored how UBI would be a solution to replace the various welfare programs, as most of the subsidies are inefficiently operated.

Though the introduction of UBI in emerging economies is driven by some of the same dynamics as in the developed world, the Algerian think tank notes that the universal income solution is also a way to simplify the current overly complex system of social welfare and solve the dilemma of job creation. It would also help reduce inequalities and ensure better living standard by encouraging people to do volunteer work.

Yet emerging economies could face certain obstacles developed countries have long since overcome. First, they have to solve the issue of low access to banking facilities: in Algeria, only half of the population has a bank account. Another sensitive question is determining the amount of the standard income, which must be enough to be effective, but not too much to trigger runaway inflation.

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The Problem With Always Blaming Climate Change For Natural Disasters

Climate change is real, but a closer look at the science shows there are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters. It is important to raise awareness about the long-term impact of global warming, but there's a risk in overstating its role in the latest floods or fires.

People on foot, on bikes, motorcycles, scooters and cars navigate through a flooded street during the day time.

Karachi - People wade through flood water after heavy rain in a southern Pakistani city

Xinhua / ZUMA
Axel Bojanowski


BERLIN — In September, thousands of people lost their lives when dams collapsed during flooding in Libya. Engineers had warned that the dams were structurally unsound.

Two years ago, dozens died in floods in western Germany, a region that had experienced a number of similar floods in earlier centuries, where thousands of houses had been built on the natural floodplain.

Last year saw more than 1,000 people lose their lives during monsoon floods in Pakistan. Studies showed that the impact of flooding in the region was exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, the outdated river management system, high poverty rates and political instability in Pakistan.

There are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters, but one dominates the headlines: climate change. That is because of so-called attribution studies, which are published very quickly after these disasters to highlight how human-caused climate change contributes to extreme weather events. After the flooding in Libya, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described climate change as a “serial offender," while the Tageszeitung wrote that “the climate crisis has exacerbated the extreme rainfall."

The World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) has once again achieved its aim of using “real-time analysis” to draw attention to the issue: on its website, the institute says its goal is to “analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events." Frederike Otto, who works on attribution studies for the WWA, says these reports help to underscore the urgent need for climate action. They transform climate change from an “abstract threat into a concrete one."

In the immediate aftermath of a weather-related disaster, teams of researchers rush to put together attribution studies – “so that they are ready within the same news cycle," as the New York Times reported. However, these attribution studies do not meet normal scientific standards, as they are published without going through the peer-review process that would be undertaken before publication in a specialist scientific journal. And that creates problems.

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