A Slice of Knafeh for Everyone? A Critical Introduction to Universal Basic Income in MENA
Choucair Vizoso, Julia
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The Covid-19 crisis is igniting interest in the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the Middle East and North Africa region, as policymakers, economists and activists grapple with deteriorating economies and major gaps in social protection. This paper outlines the concept’s multiple – and often conflicting – origins and supporters and explores various UBI experiences worldwide. It asks and tries to answer the fundamental question of whether UBI can be a way to realize social justice demands in MENA and if so, whether it should be a key demand for those pushing for a progressive agenda. With millions of workers around the world losing their income as they are forced into physical isolation or culled from the labour market, the Covid-19 pandemic has reignited interest in an old idea: Universal Basic Income (UBI). In April, Spain made global news for its high virus-related reported deaths, but also for the government’s plan to unveil a permanent national income. The Pope’s Easter addresses were marked by an empty St. Peter’s Basilica, but also by his conviction that “this may be the time to consider a universal basic wage”.