LETTER: BIG is just one more grant
To truly help people out of poverty they need access to employment and entrepreneurial opportunities
The proposal by Dr Roelof Botha and Daryl Swanepoel to address SA’s poverty with a basic income grant (BIG) is well-intentioned but misses what South Africans truly need to escape the poverty trap (“Feasibility of a basic income grant for SA”, May 23).
It is true that many South Africans rely on existing grants and welfare schemes. The grant system has no doubt kept a large proportion of South Africans from destitution. However, in the decades since the project’s inception it has not truly addressed poverty or dependence on welfare.
An additional grant will not help matters. The BIG proposal has been surrounded by a lot of hype, but at the end of the day it’s just a grant; a stopgap to keep the poorest of the poor from destitution. And while this provides an important safety net to many, it doesn’t elevate them. It doesn’t help them in the long run. And it doesn’t help society at large.
The success of a welfare system shouldn’t be measured by how many people it provides for. Its success should be measured by how many people no longer need it. By this metric SA’s welfare system has failed dismally, and I cannot see any reason why giving away additional free money will change this.
To truly help people out of poverty they need opportunities. They need access to employment, entrepreneurial opportunities, and an environment where they can trade, work and innovate freely. SA’s crime, corruption and draconian regulations don’t allow for this.
The budgetary constraints exist regardless of the authors’ claims. Even if a BIG were affordable with the dismal state of SA’s finances, it wouldn’t solve the heart of the problem. That is simply that SA needs functional institutions for the market to prosper. If that happens fewer people will need welfare. And a BIG will not even need to enter the discussion.
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