A 13-member group of Estonian citizens calls the Estonian leadership to look for ways in which Estonia can use the Unconditional Basic Income (UBI; in Estonia, it’s called mostly kodanikupalk – the Citizens’ Salary), independently and operatively in an emergency to protect people from the worst economic consequences of the pandemic.
“It is time to abandon the search for crooked paths and bureaucratic solutions to artificially keep legal bodies alive. Instead, we must immediately start protecting people, which is the only morally possible choice,” citizens say in a public letter to the President, members of the Riigikogu and the government, and to the MEPs elected from Estonia. At the same time, they are invited to publicly express their support for the introduction of UBI throughout the European Union. A European petition on the wemove.eu portal has collected more than 132,000 statements of support in a few weeks.
Signatories fear that the economic effects of such pandemics could, in the worst case, become a global security challenge. The letter compares society to a boat sailing at sea and suggests that a case when everyone is wearing a life jacket, corresponds to a society with a UBI.
The specific amount of the UBI in euros is not proposed in the letter, but the general view is expressed that it must cover the necessary costs to enable a person to live a modest but dignified life and to be an active member of society.
The signatories operate in various fields of life. These include politicians (including one member of the Riigikogu), entrepreneurs, journalists and other public figures. By the morning of April 3, the address had been signed by 13 people, but the letter will also remain open to new subscribers in the blog “Kodanikupalga Teataja” at https://www.kodanikupalk.ee/teataja/701
Commenting on his signature, Andrei Korobeinik (Member of the Riigikogu and entrepreneur, Centrist Party) recalled one of the master goals of the citizen’s salary – to replace the existing subsidies and thereby reduce the administrative burden of the state, because “otherwise it is just pointless populism”. According to Toomas Trapido (Biodiversity Party), the UBI, being introduced for a few months, is currently the only effective measure to overcome the economic shock. He made it clear that since the pandemic has hit virtually everyone, calculating “to whom how much” is a difficult but useless job. Enterpreneur Sven-Erik Reiter emphasized the simplicity and transparency of the administration of the UBI. According to Aleksander Laane (Green Party), it is a big mistake to redistribute the so-called money to banks instead of giving money to people.
Additionally, there are 2 more signatories who are members of political parties – Vahur Kollom (Free Party) and Aare Lapõnin (Estonia 200). But only Joonas Laks and Aleksander Laane expressed also their party’s opinion by signing the letter as greens have standed many years for the idea of a UBI.
The letter welcomes, among other things, the United States’ “cautious but bold” move. The U.S. Congress recently approved a stimulus package that provides a one-time allowance of up to $ 1,200 for each adult and $ 500 for children. For those with an annual income of more than $ 75,000, the grant will be reduced by $ 5 for each additional $ 100.
Earlier this week, another group of civic activists presented their proposals for state action to address the COVID-19 crisis. Among the proposals was the rapid introduction of a UBI.
On 17 September last year, the Social Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu rejected a popular initiative to conduct a study on the feasibility and impact of a UBI in Estonia. Today’s letter acknowledges that the materials from this initiative may be helpful in setting the emergency UBI but that there is no more time for calm analysis and regional testing.