Government fast-tracks plan to introduce a basic income grant in South Africa

Social Development minister Lindiwe Zulu says her department has received widespread support for the introduction of a basic income grant (BIG), with proposals and financing options for the plan expected to be finalised within the next financial year.

“The discourse on this grant has been ignited by the significant increase in poverty and unemployment induced by the worst economic downturn we have experienced since the dawn of democracy, Covid-19.

“It would be recalled that President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced the R500 billion social and economic relief package in March 2020 to cushion our economy and the most vulnerable in society against the impact of Covid-19,” said Zulu.

She said that at least R17 billion of this was allocated towards the provision of a R350 Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant targeted at unemployed adults aged between 18 and 59.

“The department has received widespread support for the BIG policy during the consultations with various stakeholders from academia, civil society and organised labour since we began consultations in 2020.

“The determination of the appropriate path is a mammoth task that requires us to combine the lessons we have learned at home with international best practices to come up with creative ways to chart a pathway for our own country.”

Zulu said that government’s approach will aim to ensure that it links the income support to developmental opportunities that enable people to access skills training, work opportunities and other developmental initiatives to put them on a sustainable path out of poverty.

“The BIG is part of a broader agenda to ensure universal coverage of all citizens in a comprehensive and coherent social security system.

“We hope to finalise our proposals, including financing options and implementation pathways in the coming financial year, following which we will seek cabinet and approval of the necessary legislative processes.”

“Our ongoing consultation processes seek consensus on a social compact with the Sector, Government, organised Labour, Community and Business constituencies for the implementation of a sound BIG policy that all South Africans can rally behind.”

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