The party Pessoas Animais e Natureza (People, Animals and Nature – PAN) was the only one to include the Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) in its manifesto and it raised the issue for discussion in the Assembleia da República. Francisco Guerreiro, the national political commissioner of PAN, believes that the UBI has the basis to respond to a new economic model. Still without having defined a project for its implementation, this party has promoted parliamentary debate about the issue.
ECO123: Is the UBI a key policy for PAN at present?
F.G.: It is a debate that needs to be had in society and in all the parties. There are people who argue for UBIs linked more to the right or more to the left. PAN sees this measure as a requirement of the future. The process of debate, construction and planning of pilot schemes has to be done very rigorously in order to reach the best solution. Finland’s pilot scheme, for example, is only aimed at unemployed people. It has limited itself to one area, but it will enable the variables to be seen and conclusions to be drawn.
How much will the UBI be?
Two models have been presented now: one of €223 and another of €400; they are two models that will be funded in different ways. There is no consolidated study in Portugal that enables people to understand which amount to opt for. In the near future, it is important for us to present a project that recommends a pilot study to the government. It is only in that way that we can assign precise amounts which will not endanger the Welfare State.
Don’t you worry that citizens may reject these amounts?
The UBI is an additional benefit which will help citizens to meet their basic needs, a sort of cushion or safety net. If they are working, it will be added on. The study group must be as broad as possible. It is essential to understand if the beneficiaries have more or less social mobility, if they manage to save or reduce their family’s debt.
For what reason did PAN include the UBI in its manifesto?
The economy today is different from the assumptions on which it is based. We understand the evolution of a technological society clearly. Never has so much wealth been generated. However, much of this is not properly channelled to the State systems. The implementation of a pilot project must be considered, in a gradual manner, with a fixed income, with a lower amount for those under the age of 18… these are all possibilities to be studied.
Do you think that this measure could promote a lack of productivity?
As a rule, we consider work to be what we do to receive money to meet our needs. Perhaps in the future, with increasing access to goods, the capacity to produce them will also increase.
And how could the UBI be financed?
Better taxation and inspection would allow many millions of euros to be recovered. We are not talking about more taxes, but rather about an equitable distribution of wealth, without tax evasion. We could also tax financial transactions, at a European and national level.
And could it, in your opinion, encourage idleness?
It was Agostinho da Silva who said that “man is not born to work, he is born to create”. We are still very bound to economic assumptions and ways of thinking from the 18th and 19th centuries.
And would PAN’s proposal include the elimination of all social benefits?
That would mean that there would be nothing left of the Welfare State and so it is not something we would do.
Do you think it is possible to implement a pilot project in Portugal?
We don’t know. That depends on the other parties in Portugal. We have only one deputy among 230, and PAN will follow its path.