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Statement: The Assembly of the Unemployed urges President Ramaphosa to implement a Basic Income Grant!

The Assembly of the Unemployed (AoU) is disappointed to learn that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s economic advisory council has warned against the implementation of a permanent basic income grant. 

AoU and other civil society movements have campaigned tirelessly for the implementation of a Basic Income Grant of R1500 per month for all unemployed between the ages of 18-59, including caregivers, home-based workers and precarious workers who earn below the national minimum wage. This will bring much-needed relief to millions of South Africans who are languishing in poverty.  

While there seems to be a lack of political will from the government to act on this, our hopes were temporarily raised when President Ramaphosa introduced the R350 Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant and we thought this would pave a way for an increase to the required R1500 as the government had already established a verified database through SRD. 

It is disheartening to hear that the so-called independent experts are choosing to turn a blind eye to the realities faced by millions of poor and unemployed South Africans. We reject the notion that is being pushed by the economic advisory council that this country cannot afford a Basic Income Grant. Last year, the Department of Social Development in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Joint Fund released a report which indicated that a basic income support grant was sustainable. 

According to academics Chatterjee et al (2021), the implementation of a progressive net wealth tax of between 3% and 7% on the wealthiest individuals in the country, could raise more than R140 billion each year. 

Hence we call on the government to tax the rich who have become even richer during the pandemic in order to address the deep inequalities our country is grappling with. We call on President Ramaphosa to disregard such anti-poor sentiments and tackle illicit financial flows, profit shifting and wage evasion. Halting profit shifting by transnational corporations would help to raise more than R100 billion a year. 

During the State of the Nation address next week, if President Ramaphosa and the government cares about the majority of people in the country, the president will announce the implementation of a decent Basic Income Grant. The Xcluded must not be punished for the continued failure by the government to create jobs and a thriving economy. Tax the rich to ensure a better life for all! Implement the BIG NOW! 

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