Greece to Test Minimum Guaranteed Income Program


Greek Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis announced yesterday that the country will be testing a "minimum guaranteed income" (MGI) measure for Greek citizens living in poverty. The country's current social welfare system is inefficient and incomplete, said Vroutsis, but the MGI "is the pillar of the social solidarity of tomorrow."

The pilot program will be implemented in 13 municipalities for six months. Participating individuals will receive 200 euros per month, plus an additional 100 euros per adult in the household and 50 euros per child.

Some version of a minimum guaranteed income plan—also called a basic income guarantee (BIG) or negative income tax—has been gaining tepid but bipartisan support in America. The proposal has managed to capture the imaginations of conservatives, progressives, and libertarians alike, although each tend to lend support for different reasons and envision a different finished product. The appeal from a conservative or libertarian perspective is that a basic income guarantee program could replace our current bloated, labyrynthian, work-disincentivizing welfare scheme (including everything from food stamps to unemployment benefits to Social Security) with one program that costs less, runs more smoothly, and empowers individuals to use benefits how they, not federal officials, see fit. 

This is not the income program that Greece is implementing. For one thing, Greece's program is designed solely for people with little to no income; the mimimum income plans en vogue here tend to involve a no-strings attached cash benefit for all Americans, regardless of income. And while proposals here—at least from the libertarian and conservative camps—hinge on eliminating other, function-specific social welfare programs, Greek leaders seem to view the MGI as an additional pillar of the country's welfare scheme. Greek Deputy Prime Minister* Evangelos Venizelos stressed that the MGI was "the minimum, it is not enough." 

* an earlier version of this post misstated Venizelos' title as vice president