Budapest, May 18 (MTI) – The introduction of a basic income is not a goal but a means to create a better society, the leader of the Socialist Party said at an international conference in Budapest on Wednesday.
József Tóbiás told the conference on basic income organised jointly by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies and the Tancsics Foundation that the discussion about basic income should focus on whether it can be used to advance social mobility.
He said an unconditional basic income would constitute a nationwide zero-sum redistribution scheme. It would help promote domestic consumption, encourage couples to have more children, reduce poverty and crime and boost social integration, he added.
A basic income would mean that people would not only receive “financial recognition” for their work, but they would also be seen as being useful to society for the value they produce, Tobias said.
Tóbiás said there is need for a radical paradigm shift in the economy that could bring about a more socially just, “more humane” world. This, however, would require more reforms than just the introduction of the basic income.
Zita Gurmai, the deputy president of FEPS and a board member of the Socialist Party, said that in “[Prime Minister] Viktor Orbán’s Hungary”, the discussion about social rights is not about expanding them but rather about protecting the ones that are still left.
Workers’ rights are ignored in Hungary today, the number of working poor is growing and there are over 4 million people living under subsistence level, Gurmai said. She said it was “unacceptable” that the government wants to change the way the subsistence level is determined just to “make the statistical data look better”.
The ruling Fidesz party responded saying that the Socialists now wanted to give “free” taxpayer money “to anyone”. It said in a statement that this would lead to austerity, indebtedness and higher taxes. The party said that the discussions about basic income indicated that the Socialists were now “not only planning the relocation of migrants” to Hungary but also the means for funding them.
The opposition Dialogue for Hungary (PM) party responded by saying that it had submitted a proposed budget amendment which included a plan to introduce the basic income in Hungary, but it was voted down both by Fidesz and the Socialists. Tímea Szabó, the party’s co-leader, said in a statement that Tóbias had not supported the proposal in parliament’s welfare committee, while it was “probably the most important budget amendment in the past 26 years”. With regrouping 2,202 billion forints (EUR 6.98bn) in the budget the basic income could be introduced without increasing the budget deficit, she insisted.