In Namibia, a pilot project is examining the impact of a Guaranteed Livable Income program referred to as BIG: a basic income grant. This project is being assessed every 6 months, and the 1 year evaluation has just been released.
The results are very encouraging. Building on the progress of the first six months, the community continued to see an increase in health, economic activity and self-sufficiency.
The grant of 100 Namibian dollars a month is given to every person under the age of 60 who was registered as living in the Otjivero-Omitaro region in July 2007. The grant has resulted in increased migration to the area as people come to live with family members who are receiving the grant. In consequence, per capita income in the region has actually gone down since the pilot project started.
However, other markers are quite positive. Poverty (measured using a food poverty line) has decreased significantly, from 76% to 36%. The drop is even bigger for those households who have not been affected by migration – poverty is down to 16% for them.
Activities for income have increased by 10% in the community, and a local market has been created since the community now has purchasing power.
Children’s weight-for-age has greatly improved, suggesting much less malnutrition. Only 10% of children are underweight for their age, down from 42% before the grant.
More children are also in school – 90% of families pay school fees, compared to just less than half previously. It is believed that many of the remaining children who are not in school are from families that have migrated and do not receive the grant. Meanwhile, drop-out rates have declined from 40% down to practically 0%.
Adults are healthier too. Many more are able to pay the N$4 fee to visit the health clinic, which has also had the effect of quintupling the resources of the health clinic. Those who are HIV positive have much greater access to anti-retrovirals and nutritious food.
Household debt has been reduced by about one-third, and many families have been able to invest in livestock. Women’s dependency on men has been decreased because of the grant, with some women being freed from engaging in transactional sex for survival. And the overall crime rate has declined 42%.
In short, as Bishop Zephania Kameeta says in his introduction to the report, the BIG has brought hope to a region that is hopeless. Kameeta compares the BIG to the feeding of the 5000, where sharing leads to a multiplication rather than a division. .
There is no sign yet that the Namibian government is interested in picking up the idea once the pilot project ends. However, Namibia’s BIG serves as a powerful example to every country that meeting people’s needs empowers them to contribute back to their society.
Chandra Pasma is a former CPJ Public Justice Policy Analyst.
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