Rihanna speaks in Barbados.
Rihanna Fenty speaks after becoming Barbados' 11th National Hero during the National Honors ceremony and Independence Day Parade at Golden Square Freedom Park in Bridgetown, Barbados, on November 30, 2021.Randy Brooks/AFP
  • The Barbados government proposed giving its citizens a universal basic income. 
  • While it's unclear how large the UBI would be, Barbados's current reverse tax credit grant is about $644 per year. 
  • In the last two weeks, it has removed the queen as head of state, honored Rihanna as its national hero, and rolled out UBI plans.

First, Barbados severed ties with the British monarchy. Then, it crowned Rihanna, an unofficial national hero, as an official one. Now, the country wants to give all of its citizens a universal basic income. 

It's been a busy past two weeks. 

The Barbadian government intends to regularly give some of the income produced by the country back to its adult citizens, said Avinash Persaud, Special Envoy to the Prime Minister of Barbados on Investment and Financial Services, in the comments section of a recent Facebook post. Barbados, like many countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, has suffered financially from the pandemic, and it's looking to provide a cushion for struggling households. 

Specifically, Persaud proposed that citizens would receive regular payments through a citizen's dividend, which typically give residents sums of money based on government investment in natural resources. The Alaska Permanent Fund, for instance, gives its residents yearly stipends based on profits from the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, which is owned by the state, and is funded by oil revenue. 

Persaud suggested that a citizen's dividend for Barbadians could be combined with the annual reverse tax credits that residents already receive to form a universal basic income. Currently, working Barbadians who earn less than $25,000 BDS per year — about $12,386 — are eligible for a reverse tax credit grant of $1,300 BDS, or about $644, also per year. 

Universal basic income programs are government programs in which every adult citizen is given a regular, set amount of money with no strings attached, which is where they differ from typical welfare programs. 

UBI programs have surged in popularity in recent years around the world, partially due to the financial strain the pandemic has caused low income people in particular. Insider identified over 30 guaranteed income programs that have recently given out funds to people in the US, most of which began in the last year or two. 

Although guaranteed income programs are getting pilot runs through small portions of city and state populations, a true UBI program like the one Barbados is proposing allocates funds to all of its citizens. 

"Despite all the pressure from international agencies to 'target' we hold the line on universality," Persaud wrote. "That's why we restored free tertiary education for all. International studies have shown this is critical to social mobility and opportunity. The less well-off cannot take on the payments, risk and worry of getting heavily in debt to secure their future."

Barbados eyes a UBI as a way to help citizens out of poverty 

There's a reason that global superstar Rihanna is so beloved by her home country of Barbados, other than her music. She's perhaps the country's most high-profile philanthropist. 

In March 2020, for instance, as the coronavirus swept through the world, Rihanna offered $5 million to help impoverished countries, $700,000 worth of ventilators also going to Barbados through her Clara Lionel Foundation. Over the years, she's given millions of dollars to healthcare and education efforts in the country. 

Barbados has welcomed those efforts. The pandemic, as well as climate change, a shrinking labor force, and the persisting impact of colonialism, have hurt the country's stability in recent years. 

The pandemic has afflicted the region as a whole — at least half the households in the Caribbean and Latin American have not been able to reach their income levels from before the pandemic, causing a drop in educational and health standards, a World Bank survey released this month said. 

The most recent World Bank report from 2017 saw poverty rates rise in the country, and experts say it has likely increased since then due to the impact of the coronavirus on Barbados's tourism industry. 

Read the original article on Business Insider