Mayors in Greece positive to pilot Basic Income, if supported financially and institutionally

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On Tuersday, October 18th, 2022, CONTENTATIVA and the Department of Social Policy of Panteion University presented the results of the first survey on Basic Income conducted among Greek Mayors. The central research questions concerned the knowledge and attitudes of the Mayors on Basic Income, whether they would be willing to support a pilot programme for its implementation in their municipality and their views on current subsidy policies. The survey was conducted via an online research tool [questionnaire], addressed to all the Mayors in the country [332], between July and September 2022 and received a response from ¼ of them [78].

Main conclusions of the survey

  • According to the Mayors who responded to the survey, the biggest problem facing their citizens is the inability to meet their daily needs.
  • They consider the benefits provided to be little or insufficient, as well as the amount provided, as they believe that a basic financial benefit in Greece should exceed 500 euros.
  • An overwhelming majority of them declared themselves available to support a pilot implementation in their municipality, provided that funding and institutional framework issues are resolved.
  • Women mayors had a more positive attitude towards basic income and a higher proportion than men considered meeting the daily needs of their citizens as a key challenge.
  • They seem to need more explanation as to the characteristics of basic income so as not to confuse it with the minimum guaranteed income, especially in terms of universality.

On the issue of funding that concerns the Mayors, Prof. Costas Dimoulas said the following: “A debate has not been opened in Greece yet at least regarding the clarification of the necessary resources needed to finance basic income, so the impression is that the resources do not exist. If the basic income is implemented, there will be no more spending on other social policy programmes and that means savings. Since the basic income will be provided unconditionally, there will be a second saving of time and resources from the endless bureaucracy that is currently needed at both central and local government level. Finally, as it will be universal, even without adjusting the rates of the tax brackets, tax costs will increase and thus a part of the amount will de facto be returned to the Public Treasury.”

In England where some simulations were run, as better data were available, they showed that the overall burden on GDP would be about 2%.

“In essence,” Dimoulas continued, “this is not a prohibitive figure for our country, if we only consider that today in Greece – with government statements – 10 billion was given for the management of the energy crisis, about 5% of GDP. So it is more a question of values and orientation than of economics.”

In Kostas Dimoulas’ opinion, a bigger challenge is the need for institutional reform so that mayors can start a pilot implementation in their municipality, rather than the origin of the necessary resources.

The Catalan experience

The guest from abroad was Sergi Raventós, Director of the Catalan Basic Income Pilot Office. Raventós explained that, unlike other pilots around the world that provided basic income to people individually, in Catalonia they decided to study universality more broadly, but also the relationships that would be established at the local community level and the changes that would likely occur in interpersonal relationships within the families.

Using these criteria, they will select: a) a random sample of 700-800 households in the Catalan self-governing region (corresponding to 2500 people), where the basic income will be provided to each household member; b) two municipalities, each with approximately 1200-1300 inhabitants and located at a relative distance from each other. In the second case, all residents legally residing in these municipalities will receive it, thus in addition 2500 people, excluding the 10% of the richest, for methodological reasons.

The amount of income will be equal to the poverty line as established in Catalonia, that is, EUR 800 for adults and EUR 300 for each child. The income will be provided monthly, without any requirements and for two consecutive years. His office, in consultation with the Catalan Public Services Evaluation Authority, has planned an evaluation of the pilot implementation throughout the pilot programme and at the end, with a view to drawing conclusions that are useful both for the Catalan people themselves and – as was demonstrated by the interesting discussion that followed – for European and Greek realities.

The debate was attended by policy institutes, media, students, local authorities, civil society organisations and networks, public and private sector workers, unemployed, farmers, pensioners, etc. The final report based on the survey will be released by the organisers towards the end of 2022, with follow-up case studies expected in the following year. As CONTENTATIVA informed, the survey and the event were supported by the Office in Thessaloniki of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

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