Colombia’s finance minister promised Congress on Tuesday he would look into the possibility of implementing a universal basic emergency income in response to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.
In a virtual session, Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla gave in to the congressional majority that has been asking for a basic emergency income (BEI) while the country is struggling to reactivate the economy that was all but shut down in March.
The proposal is supported by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, which has urged countries to consider audacious measures to prevent extreme poverty.
Carrasquilla has slowly been moving towards the Congress’s position after initially dismissing the proposal that would cost approximately $10.4 billion (COP40.5 trillion), which is 4% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to Congress’ calculations.
The minister told the House of Representatives he was not considering the BEI as an emergency measure during the ongoing national emergency, but said a universal basic income (UBI) could be “a next step.”
I believe it is a step forward in terms of a major social policy effort that has been made in this country… I believe that, in this context, in which there have been gigantic advances, which have managed to reduce poverty from 50% to 25%, a next step can be a measure like a basic income.
Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla
Despite Carrasquilla’s step forward, Green Alliance Senator Ivan Marulanda told Spanish newspaper El Pais that a universal basic income is not the emergency measure more than 54 congressmen and influential politicians from both the liberal and the conservative side of the spectrum have been asking for.
What we are saying is that it has to be now because many companies have gone bankrupt, unemployment is increasing and people are enduring a lot of hunger.
Senator Ivan Marulanda
Congress and influential liberal and conservative politicians have become increasingly critical of Carrasquilla and President Ivan Duque over their response to the crisis that cost 5.4 million Colombians their job in April alone.
Basic income. That the State delivers aid to 9 million households. A monthly minimum income for three months… In supermarkets dozens are already begging for bread. The time has come for soup kitchens. Roosevelt did it.
Liberal Party mogul Humberto de la Calle
Ivan Duque lost control of Covid-19. The economy is in crisis and he rejects basic income. Foreign relations is in the hands of others. Public order and part of the army got out of control. Is protest coming? Will he lose control of the presidency?
Conservative Party mogul Alvaro Leyva
The situation could become more worrisome on September 1 when a ban on evictions of people who have been unable to pay rent comes to an end.
Duque, however, has refused to acknowledge the potential unrest the economic crisis and poverty could cause, but has been stressing the benefit of his response to the coronavirus.
In his daily Facebook show on Tuesday, for example, the president stressed his emergency response program provided stipends to 2,4 million Colombians, not even half of the people who lost their jobs.