Calls for basic income grant in South Africa grow as food price inflation rises to 13.4%

By: Yogashen Pillay

See original post here.

Durban – Civil society groups have called for a permanent basic income grant for the unemployed following figures from Stats SA indicating that food price inflation has risen to 13.4%, the highest since April 2009.

In his State of the Nation Address last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension of the social relief of distress grant and said the government would ensure that existing social grants were increased to cushion the poor against rising inflation.

He added that “work is under way to develop a mechanism for targeted basic income support for the most vulnerable”.

Mervyn Abrahams, programme co-ordinator at the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, said it was the poor who felt the impact of food inflation.

“I do think there is a need for a basic income grant, especially with the increase in food inflation. Remember the social relief distress grant was started in 2020 with an amount of R350, which is still the same. The issue is that with all the increases, there needs to be an increase in this.”

He said a basic income grant of R2 500 would be a liveable amount.

“However, we can’t have this basic income grant forever. The issue is that food inflation is going up and we need to find ways to grow the economy. We can’t simply have a basic income grant.

“There needs to be a way where members of the public can use the grant to generate more income, whether it’s buying and selling or any other way to make additional income. The government needs to create jobs.”

Professor Bonke Dumisa, an independent economic analyst, said the latest South African Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation figures showed that the CPI decreased from 7.2% in December 2022 to 6.9% last month.

However, he noted that national food inflation increased by 13.4% last month, which is the highest food inflation in 14 years since 2009.

Nonhle Mbuthuma, the spokesperson for Amadiba Crisis Committee, said there needed to be at least a R1  000 social grant for the unemployed.

“The R350 social distress grant was welcomed, however it is not enough and this amount was set three years ago, things have gone up since then.”

Mbuthuma added that there needed to be significant increases in pension and child support grants.

“Giving an increase of R20 is just simply not enough for single parents and the elderly. The child support grant needs to be increased to at least R600 for a child that is under 18 – this would help mothers. We want mothers to be able to survive with the grant that they are receiving. Even the pension grant needs to be increased to help our elderly folks.”

Dick Forslund, of the Alternative Information and Development Centre, said we might well see a basic income grant introduced.

“The R350 grant that was introduced in 2020 is much lower in value now and there is definitely a need for something more permanent. In reality, we need to have a basic income grant that is in line with food inflation. The issue is that government increases in grants are not in line with food inflation, and that needs to be looked at, and not just consumer inflation.”

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