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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

Coalition for a Basic Income Grant

2 December 2003

Reducing Inequality and Poverty - A BIG Solution National Conference, 2-3 December 2003, Soweto

Today at Ipelegeng Community Centre in Soweto, civil society organisations, government and business are meeting to discuss ways to work together to fight poverty. On the table is the innovative Basic Income Grant - a proposal to provide all South Africa ns with the means to survive and develop. Proponents of the grant include organised labour, faith based, HIV/AIDS, youth, aged, children and human rights organisations.

Opening the Conference, Dr. Molefe Tsele, Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches strongly voiced his support, "What was it that drove us to be part of the struggle? It was a moral struggle, it was not because at the end of it we woul d drive BMWs. The same should be happening against poverty, the fight against poverty is a moral fight! There is no better life, than what we are calling for - a BIG solution!"

The conference began with the government's ten year review which documents the scope of poverty. Yasmin Dada-Jones from the Office of the Presidency outlined the South African Government's commitment to eradicating the poverty which debilitates families and communities. Dada-Jones stated, "We have a dual economy and Government wants to create equity and expel exclusion."

More than half of all South Africans, including two out of three children, live in poverty. Nearly 12 million of the poorest South Africans live in households that currently receive no social assistance. South African is by no means a poor country but h as one of the highest rates of inequality in the world. This is clearly unjust and unsustainable.

The Basic Income Grant Coalition proposes a monthly grant that would be paid by the state to everyone legally resident in South Africa, regardless of age, income, family status, or other factors. The Basic Income Grant is one way of giving effect to the right to social security, guaranteed by the Constitution. Supporters of the grant have recommended that it be set at R100 per month at first, rising with inflation.

In a recently launched book on the BIG, researchers stressed the strong connections between poverty reduction, improved nutrition, health and education and labour market participation. There is a strong link between severe inequality and low rates of ec onomic growth. Where similar initiatives have started, they have promoted social cohesion and investor confidence. What more could we want for South Africa?

We are calling for serious engagement with government on this proposal, a year after the Taylor Committee of Inquiry submitted its report. Poverty is a national challenge, and we call for all parties to engage with the BIG proposal in the upcoming elect ions.

For more information contact: Solange Rosa, Media Coordinator, Children's Institute 084 408 2956

Patrick Craven Acting COSATU Spokesperson