Call for an immediate introduction of UBI during pandemic

The corona pandemic has clearly shown worldwide the need for permanent measures that could prevent not just people’s poverty but the worst economical consequences of such sudden crises which could be serious enough to become a global security issue. One of the preventive measures is an Unconditional Basic Income, which is popularly called kodanikupalk (a citizen’s salary) in Estonia.

It is time to abandon the search for crooked paths and bureaucratic solutions to keep legal bodies artificially alive. Instead, we must immediately start protecting peope, which is the only morally possible choice. We call the government to look for ways in which Estonia can use its unconditional basic income independently and operatively in an emergency. The materials of the research initiative, which was rejected in the last autumn, may be helpful, but now there is no more time for calm analysis or any regional experiments.

At the same time, we call the President, the Riigikogu and the government, as well as Estonian Members of European Parliament, to publicly support calls for the introduction of a (emergency) UBI throughout the European Union and / or to create an EU financial instrument to support it. The petition of the European UBI network UBIE in the portal has collected more than 130 thousand statements of support across the European Union in just couple of weeks.

The Americans were the first to show that they understood the gravity of the situation. The stimulus package approved by the US Congress is a cautious but still bold step, given the prejudices in society. We welcome the UBI-like measures already taken or planned by the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries, in the hope that they would be an encouraging precedent for Brussels, Kadriorg and Toompea..

Of course, we thank our fellow citizens who, under the leadership of Clara Pope-Sutherland, in her public letter to the President, the Government and the Health Board on 30 March, emphasized, among other things, the need to introduce a UBI. At the same time, we are very disappointed that among all media channels only Kanal2 / Postimees TV “Reporter” considered it reflectable and the content of the letter cannot be consulted in the document registry of any relevant authority. We do not know whether the amount of the UBI was also proposed in their address, but the thousand euros a month mentioned in the video story is as arguable as any other amount. Therefore, no specific numbers are offered in any of the petitions. However, the general view of UBI advocates is that it should cover at least the necessary living expenses, allow for a modest but dignified life and be an active member of society.

Providing people with such a steady monthly income, independent of other incomes, will also help many companies, especially those that provide daily vital products and services, to survive such crises without direct state support. In any case, the money paid to an individual goes to business through consumption, in the case of unpaid compulsory leave, only wages are lost, not all income, as the state payments covering basic needs remains. Thus, it seems very unlikely that companies and other organizations that have been forced to suspend their activities, including the cessation of all wages, will also need state support when people get UBI. Needless to say how important for small-businesses and the self-employed is such „money for nothing” paid to individuals.

Given the nature of the crisis, it even seems inappropriate to ask whether to pay a UBI only to citizens or to all legal residents. Undoubtedly, in the long run, it must be avoided, the introduction of this idea in a way that would make Estonia (and the entire European Union) a magnet for welfare tourism and thus, among other things, distort the demographic picture to the detriment of indigenous peoples. However, it is obvious that in the current situation, the state cannot leave any of its inhabitants to fate. And the borders are closed.

Imagine our society as a boat with a dozen people sitting and a couple of “targeted” lifebuoys (for those who “really need it”). Now, let’s imagine that instead of these two lifebuoys, everyone is wearing a life jacket, regardless of their swimming skills or ability to stay afloat. We believe we don’t need to say which trip is safe.