Universal Basic Income Gains Support In South Korea After COVID-19

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Nikkei Asian Review: The debate on universal basic income has gained momentum in South Korea, as the coronavirus outbreak and the country’s growing income divide force a rethink on social safety nets. The concept was thrust into the spotlight in the country when Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung proposed a basic income of 500,000 won ($430) a year per person this year. He aims to gradually expand the figure until it reaches 500,000 won a month — roughly the equivalent of South Korea’s social welfare payments. An annual $430 payout means the program will cost $21.3 billion a year, which likely can be funded through budgetary adjustments. But a monthly $430 will cost $256 billion, which is over half the national budget.

“We cannot get to 500,000 won a month right now,” Lee said. “But we can get there in 15 to 20 years by bolstering taxes on land, which is a public asset, carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, and digital services developed using data we have produced.” Basic income “will be a major topic in South Korea’s next presidential election,” Lee said. Lee is advocating distributing basic income in the form of a regional currency — an experiment Gyeonggi Province already tested with coronavirus-linked assistance. Each resident received 100,000 won, about $85, in a regional currency, which needed to be spent in three months, allowing the entire sum used for the program to be recirculated back into the local economy. “Fourteen progressive lawmakers submitted a bill last week that would create a new committee to discuss how basic income can be funded, with plans to start distributing 300,000 won a month in 2022 and at least 500,000 won a month in 2029,” the report adds. “The lawmakers envision diverting some regional taxes to a special budget to fund basic income. Shortfalls could be addressed by streamlining redundant social benefits and reviewing tax relief programs.”

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