The United Nations Development Agency UNDP calls for a temporary basic income (TBI) to mitigate the effects of the Covid pandemic in developing countries and to slow the spread of the disease. In a study published yesterday, the agency identifies three policy options for a TBI that would guarantee a minimum income above the poverty line for people in 132 developing countries. Depending on which policy option is chosen, the TBI would amount to between 0.27 and 0.63 per cent of these countries’ combined GDPs.

The UNDP proposes financing of these temporary transfers to vulnerable populations by a temporary reallocation of external debt service payments. The G20 group of leading economies has already offered debt relief, albeit smaller in scope than what the UNDP proposal would envision.

The world’s developing countries are hit particularly hard by the pandemic, in part due to their lack of a social safety net. If workers cannot afford to stay home, they won’t be able to follow the WHO’s guidelines on how to slow the spread of the virus, including self-isolation and the avoidance of crowded places. “A temporary basic income might enable governments to give people in lockdown a financial lifeline, inject cash back into local economies to help keep small businesses afloat, and slow the devastating spread of Covid-19”, UNDP administrator Achim Steiner said in a statement.