Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is advocating Universal Basic Income (UBI), which is something Modi government believes as “an idea whose time has come” for India. UBI aims to provide a fixed monthly pay to all citizens. In a Facebook post, Mark talks about how guaranteed Basic Income has proved “meaningful” for residents of Alaska in the US. Mark says that Alaska has form of basic income called the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). “Every year, a portion of the oil revenue the state makes is put into a fund. Rather than having the government spend that money, it is returned to Alaskan residents through a yearly dividend that is normally $1000 or more per person. That can be especially meaningful if your family has five or six people,” he writes. According to Mark, Alaska’s PFD is a novel approach to PFD for two reasons. One, it is funded by natural resources, not by raising taxes. Two, “It comes from conservative principles of smaller government, rather than progressive principles of a larger safety net.”
The Economic Survey of India this year noted, “UBI’s appeal to both ends of the political spectrum makes it an idea whose time has come perhaps not for immediate implementation but at least for serious public deliberation.” UBI can replace the existing subsidy-based poverty alleviation programmes in India. “Universal Basic Income is a radical and compelling paradigm shift in thinking about both social justice and a productive economy. It could be to the twenty-first century what civil and political rights were to the twentieth,” the Survey said.
Mark says he has learnt that “organizations think profoundly differently when they’re profitable than when they’re in debt. When you’re losing money, your mentality is largely about survival. But when you’re profitable, you’re confident about your future and you look for opportunities to invest and grow further. Alaska’s economy has historically created this winning mentality, which has led to this basic income.”
Alaska also has another type of basic income for the residents in the form of Native Corporations, according to the Facebook founder. “In Alaska, native land is owned and developed by private corporations, which are run and owned by Alaska Natives. These corporations also pay out annual dividends to their shareholders, who are largely natives, based on the resources they develop. So if you’re an Alaska Native, you would get two dividends: one from your Native Corporation and one from the state Permanent Fund.”
As Modi governments wants to make UBI a reality in India, it can certainly take some lessons for Alaska’s novel ways. But the country would need to create a “winning mentality” for this, as Alaska has done for itself over the years. UBI need not be implemented by raising taxes but by creating new sources of income.