Conservative party president calls for universal basic income
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Conservative party president calls for universal basic income

Georges-Louis Bouchez. Credit: Belga

Working towards a universal basic income is urgent, says Georges-Louis Bouchez, president of the conservative Mouvement Reformateur party (MR).

Bouchez spoke about the idea of a guaranteed €1,000 monthly income for Belgians that would replace all other social services, calling it an opportunity for people to “take control of their lives,” in an interview with De Tijd.

It isn’t the first time the MR president has brought up the idea. He wrote about universal basic income (UBI) in his book, where he also said, “My generation is the first in contemporary history to consider that its future will be worse than that of the one that precedes it.”

By using UBI to replace other social services, Bouchez says it will be affordable without having to increase taxes.

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“If the existing social security benefits and [other] benefits are replaced by a basic income, you already have about 70% of the funding. You also achieve efficiency gains,” he says.

But people are divided over whether or not a UBI will discourage people from working. Belgian economist Koen Schoors wrote an editorial alleging that it will reduce labour participation at a time when we need more of it than ever to pay for ageing costs and coronavirus pandemic-related expenses.

Bouchez disagrees, saying that people will still be encouraged to work because they’ll earn more money if employed. He also points out that there are already people who do not work and instead earn money through existing unemployment benefits.

“In Belgium, you have people who are unemployed for life, who receive unemployment benefits of €800 to €1,000 per month, without having worked one day,” he says.

“You see people in unemployment for three generations. I am convinced that social security, as it is now organised, does not allow people to take their lives into their own hands. A basic income can liberate people.”

Mouvement Reformateur is a French-speaking political party in Belgium that was also the party of previous prime ministers Charles Michel and Sophie Wilmès.

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times