Acceptance speech of Francine Mestrum at the ceremony of the ‘Jaap Kruithof Award’ in Ghent, 21 July 2016
Thank you very much for this wonderful award.
Its topic allows me to tell you something about solidarity, social protection and basic income. I want to be extremely clear.
First, poverty is a problem of income deficit. Poor people need to receive, without too many conditions, a serious allowance in order to be able to live a life in dignity. This is a matter of human rights. It means that our social assistance systems will have to be reformed, that rights have to be individualized, that humiliating controls have to be abolished, that allowances have to be at least at the level of the poverty line. That this still did not happen in a rich country such as Belgium is a real shame.
However, it is also a shame that at the same time some people are campaigning to give such an allowance to people who are not poor and even to the wealthy. They campaign for a universal basic income. It is something I cannot understand, probably because my priorities are different from theirs. Giving poor people an allowance equal to the poverty line hardly costs a couple of billion Euros; it is perfectly possible, right now. Giving one thousand euros to all people in Belgium will cost more than one hundred euros. This is far more difficult. Trying to promote such a ‘solution’ is a smokescreen in order to hide the real problems of our society. I cannot agree. Continue…