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R350 grant would go a long way were it a basic income payment: UN

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The R350 social relief of distress grant (SRD) would go a long way if it became a basic income grant, says the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The grant was introduced to assist those in difficulty during the pandemic and was due to end in March. Last year, it was extended to March 2024.

The ILO held a meeting this week to discuss the matter.

Christina Behrendt, head of the social policy unit in the ILO’s social protection department, said guaranteeing basic income security was key to a national social protection floor.

“Minimum income grants and other social assistance benefits play a key role in guaranteeing at least a basic level of income security,” she said.

According to Behrendt, some of the issues a basic income grant could guarantee include:

  • Programmes anchored in national law, clear and transparent eligibility conditions (including on means tests), grievance mechanisms and rights of appeal
  • Adequate benefits for life in dignity
  • Regular review of benefit levels to ensure they keep up with living standards
  • Social dialogue that involves tripartite participation and other relevant stakeholder engagement

The employment and labour department’s acting deputy director-general, Sipho Ndebele, said the government recognised the importance of social protection promoting inclusive economic growth, reducing inequality, alleviating poverty and providing decent work.

“We must ensure social protection systems are effective, efficient and accessible to all workers, including those in the informal economy, as well as vulnerable groups.”

Ndebele said developing policies and programmes that enable informal workers to acquire skills and access opportunities for decent work was essential.

“We must ensure that informal workers have access to social protection that includes health insurance, pensions and others,” he said.

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela, the EFF and SACP previously called on the government to convert the SRD grant into a “universal basic income guarantee”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa last month said the government was looking at several options that would eventually replace the R350 grant.

He said while supporting the poor was a priority, government could not be “reckless” in solving the problem.

“Various options are being explored, taking into account affordability, financing and efficacy in addressing poverty. We are looking at how we move beyond the SRD grant. There have been calls for the basic income grant to be introduced, which will support a number of people, and that is being considered,” said Ramaphosa.

Speaking on eNCA, finance minister Enoch Godongwana said the government could afford a basic income grant, but it would come at a cost.

He said social grants cost the government about R400bn annually and over the coming years would cost about R1-trillion.

“What that means is we’ll have to cut [social spending] to fund it,” said Godongwana.

If government were to increase corporate tax to 28% and VAT to 16%, it would bring in about R60bn, but that would be insufficient to fund the basic income grant, he added.

Source: TimesLIVE 

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