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As the COVID-19 pandemic sinks economies around the world leading to record rates of unemployment, politicians, scholars, and other key actors across the ideological spectrum have increasingly turned their attention to basic income guarantee. Against the backdrop of growing international policy interest in basic income as a pathway toward equitable and transformative social protection systems, this study seeks to present a preliminary analysis of the prospects of implementing a basic income guarantee in the Philippines. The study is chiefly based on desk review of normative literature on social protection and development. It examines theoretical arguments for and against basic income drawing upon relevant empirical evidence where necessary. The findings indicate that, while there is limited international experience for benchmarking a prospective basic income guarantee, the current pandemic makes a compelling case for introducing the scheme as a platform for channeling immediate crisis response. In the medium-term, basic income guarantee can be an important policy instrument for tackling 21stcentury risks and vulnerabilities, including inequality, economic insecurity, precarity, technological disruption, and ecological degradation. Ultimately, basic income guarantee should be seen as a new form of transformative social protection focusing on addressing structural gaps such as asymmetrical wealth distribution as opposed to the prevailing residualist model, in which efforts are more targeted at the individual constraints of the ‘needy but deserving’ rather than the elimination of broader societal inequalities. Since it will entail enormous costs, innovative and progressive funding mechanisms, comprising of wealth taxes and carbon taxes among others, must be seriously considered to maximize the full potential of basic income in achieving the goal of ensuring a universal and transformative social protection. In view of institutional and political challenges, the most viable way to initiate a basic income guarantee in the Philippines is to carry out a pilot, tapping government agencies like SSS and GSIS, which have technical and administrative capacities for payment delivery. A top-up approach, which will allow basic income to complement established social protection programs, may also be explored since this is less complicated and found to be more effective in terms of reducing poverty. The pilot can also generate public discourse and potential support for large-scale implementation of basic income guarantee.

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Title: Exploring a BIG Idea: Prospects and Challenges of a Basic Income Guarantee in the Philippines

: Maria Isabel D. Artajo