Missing from Economic Survey 2018: Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘Universal Basic Income’ dream for all

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New Delhi | Updated: January 29, 2018 3:46 PM

Economic Survey 2018 was tabled in the Parliament by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The survey predicts India's GDP is likely to grow by 7-7.5% in 2018-19, making the country one of the fastest growing economies.

narendra modi economic survey universal basic incomeEconomic Survey 2017-2018: Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with the media inside the parliament premises on the first day of the budget session, in New Delhi, India, January 29, 2018. (Reuters)

Economic Survey 2018 was tabled in the Parliament by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The survey predicts India’s GDP is likely to grow by 7-7.5% in 2018-19, making the country one of the fastest growing economies in the world once again. As compared to the Economic Survey 2016-17, this year the annual survey has dropped the “radical” idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI), which was discussed in detail last year. UBI is defined as a form of social security guaranteed to citizens and directly transferred to their bank accounts. The idea is being currently debated globally.

The Economic Survey 2017-18 has been published in two volumes and includes chapters like – State of the Economy, A New Exciting Bird’s-Eye View of the Indian Economy Through the GST, Transforming Science and Technology in India, Ease of Doing Business’ Next Frontier, Overview of India’s Economic Performance in 2017-18, Review of Fiscal Developments, External Sector, Industry and Infrastructure, Services Sector etc.

Economic Survey 2016-17 had a dedicated chapter on UBI: “Universal Basic Income: A Conversation With and Within the Mahatma.” The Survey had called UBI a “radical” idea that needed to be discussed.

“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. It is premised on the idea that a just society needs to guarantee to each individual a minimum income which they can count on, and which provides the necessary material foundation for a life with access to basic goods and a life of dignity,” stated Economic Survey 2017-18.

Explaining UBI, the survey had said, “A universal basic income is, like many rights, unconditional and universal: it requires that every person should have a right to a basic income to cover their needs, just by virtue of being citizens.”

The Economic Survey 2016-17 argued that “the time has come to think of UBI for a number of reasons.” The introduction of UBI could have helped solved issues like – misallocation to districts with less poor, exclusion error, out of system leakage, and other last mile concerns.

“If, as appears to be the case, that thinkers on both the extreme left and right have all become its votaries, then UBI is a powerful idea whose time even if not ripe for implementation is ripe for serious discussion,” the Survey had concluded.

The idea of UBI was also backed by the IMF in October last year. IMF’s Fiscal Monitory report had identified the UBI as an alternative to the existing system of state subsidies.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had in June last year said he supported the idea of UBI but it may not be politically feasible.

Last year, several media reports had highlighted UBI as one of PM Narendra Modi’s ambitious plan.

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