Rethink Your Approach to Poverty, Tutu Urges Government - Think BIG

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BYLINE: Siyabonga Mkhwanazi

Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu urged the government yesterday to implement a basic income grant (BIG) to help relieve the plight of the poor and unemployed.

Speaking at the opening of the triennial national conference of the South African Council of Churches in Johannesburg,Tutu said in most countries where a BIG was offered, recipients were healthy and their achievement level rose constantly.

Tutu's call follows the ANC's rejection of a BIG at its national policy conference and decision that any welfare grants for the unemployed had to be linked to a job of some kind.

President Thabo Mbeki's cabinet, with the exception of Social Welfare Development Minister Zola Skweyiya, is also opposed to a BIG.

Presidential aides have said privately that a BIG would be more expensive to implement than comprehensive social security programmes.

But Tutu appealed to government to reconsider its position. "I hope our government can rethink the (question of) basic income grant. We are saying give people a regular amount," he said.

He explained that most countries in the developed world offer what they call income transfers, that had an impact on the quality of people's lives.

"The health of their children improved. Attendance at school improved. Their achievement level rises," he explained. …