Big discussions on BIG

a streetkid begging at a service station in Ondangwa (northern Namibia)

Many people in the rural areas sell firewood to generate much needed income. This photograph was taken in north eastern Namibia outside Bukalo

The Basic Income Grant, better known by its acronym BIG, was piloted in Omitare. Through the BIG scheme which will ultimately be a national project, Namibians are entitled to a monthly stipend of N$ 100. The pilot project in Omitare has been successful with the group of organizations, known as the BIG Coalition, lauding its success in helping people start small businesses, access health services and generally have a hopeful outlook to life. For now it seems that the criticism of the grants bringing about laziness has been discredited because Omitare recipients of the grant have started taking initiative and changing their lives.
But now the initiative has suffered a major setback. The National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) which was a founding member of the initiative has pulled out, claiming like many critics that the initiative was unsustainable. The NUNW is a democratic institution and are allowed to get out of any initiative if they feel that it does not meet their objectives. But is it really such a bad idea? For 20 years the emphasis has been on foreign investment and private sector to strengthen the economy and provide jobs. To date this has not been a successful approach and the current 51% unemployment is a clear indication. I think the unemployment rate among youth is more than 70%. I agree with the coalition that the grant can be implemented to support other existing initiatives.

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