The Expert Panel Report on Basic Income Support has recommended a gradual introduction of a Basic Income Grant in South Africa, according to a Bloomberg report published on Monday.
The Department of Social Development, International Labour Organisation and UN’s Joint Sustainable Development Goals Fund jointly established the panel earlier this year.
‘No alternative’ to Basic Income Grant
“There is no alternative to a system of income support for income-compromised adults from the ages of 18-59 as a permanent part of the social protection framework,” Alex van den Heever, a member of the panel, was quoted saying in the Bloomberg report.
Van den Heever is also the chairperson of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at the University of Witwatersrand.
According to the panel, the gradual implementation of a Basic Income Grant should start with institutionalising the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant introduced last year to cushion the poor against the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact.
The SRD grant lapsed in April this year, but the government reintroduced it in August following persistent lockdowns and a civil unrest in July.
Launch of expert panel’s report
The expert panel’s report was officially launched on Monday (13 December) in an event officiated by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.
“The Expert Panel Report on Basic Income Support that we are launching today forms an important element of our ongoing efforts to institutionalise basic income support,” Zulu said.
“Owing to the inter-disciplinary investments by all our partners in academia, civil society and multilateral institutions, the Expert Panel Report provides persuasive guidelines with which we must respond to the questions of the appropriateness and feasibility of extending basic income support to our citizens who are between the ages of 18 and 59.”
Civil society groups and labour unions have pushed for the grant’s introduction to replace the SRD grant, which is ending in March 2022.
However, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana failed to make a firm commitment about funding the grant in his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement presented in Parliament in November.
“The social relief of distress grant was extended to the end of March 2022. Between now and March, the government will decide what will happen, not the Treasury,” he told media reporters after presenting the Statement.