lessons from failure
Now, my perspective is probably going to be quite unique. I was born in Windhoek [Bernard Poolman] growing up in Okahandja, very close to Ontjivero where they did the BIG Pilot Project. Growing up in the community and with the culture and with a unique understanding of the dynamics there, allowed me to see how things really work – let me give my two cents of this project.
The project was based on giving a community a 100 Namibian dollars a month as a basic Income. Now, first point is to understand that Namibian dollars are not American dollars, it is very easy to mistake this point. so to give you at the current exchange rate an estimate, a 100 Namibian dollars = 10 American Dollars approximately, so it is certainly not a Basic Income that is being given, it is not making any significant change, it does not impact the ‘dollar a day’ poverty bracket, it doesn’t even take the person over that. So from the perspective of what a Basic Income should be, this is hardly a ‘Pilot Project,’ it’s more a feel-good project and certainly not something with which one can sway a government to implement a Basic Income Project.
Next, Ontjivero is far out, there are no industries as such, there’s no employment as such, the only thing the people can do there is buy consumer stuff which are very basic survival stuffs, and obviously buy alcohol as that is the foundation of each of the smaller communities, because they have no entertainment, they have nothing else to do and it’s become part of the culture. It is the same culture that is being used by ‘the white man’ so to speak over centuries, keeping the locals busy with a very structured way of alcohol consumption – when they have money, the tendency is to get some more.
The products/ the goods that will come in and those that may start a little business to sell to the community will be buying this in the closest towns which is either Okahandja, but more probably Windhoek because your hyper stores are in Windhoek, Okahandja as a community is really very small – and the goods will be sold as prices that are highly inflated because the consumer base in Ontjivero is very small, so you have to make profit, you have to make quite a profit on every product sold. A 100 Dollars a person extra into the economic scenario will obviously bring a significant increase in spending power from the spending power they had before. So it will look like it is a ‘significant point,’ but one needs to look at what was there before this pittance was added to remind the people of how little they have.
So some will make some more money and there will be more food on the table because the staple foods being mealiemeel which is porridge made from corn, selling approximately at 80 rand (+- 8 us dollars or 6 euros) for a bag of 10 kilograms, which will feed a person, probably for about 10 days with 3 meals a day – obviously who cares that they are eating the same food 3 times a day, which in itself leads to malnutrition – nobody would ever do that in the western world, eating 3 same meals a day for a whole month, but that is what it boils down to, you can buy one staple food that will last for part of the month, and you have to eat the same food every day. And the fact that there is no electricity or running water or toilets or anything relevant to a normal town scenario – that means there are no costs for that, but there are also no benefits of this – would mean that a significant amount of time is spent in preparing food because the person would have to go into the veld to find wood for the fire, they’ll have to go and get water and then they have to cook the food on the fire. Now the pots they cook this food in are iron pots, an iron pot costs in the region of 300 Namibian Dollars, that’s without the transport to get it there – that is if you buy it in town (capital) and obviously the transport from Ontjivero to the closest town is quite expensive because it is a significant way to travel.
To give you an idea, I grew up in a small town where there was no entertainment. To get to the closest movie theatre, was 80 kilometers, to go and do shopping from the whole sellers – because you couldn’t find all the stuff in the small town – was 80 kilometers. So it is a significant point that must be planned well and that is quite costly to bring resources to the town.
Now there was some researcher from Germany writing a negative article about the pilot project and some of his observations only confirm the level of ignorance that exists within the so-called ‘researchers.’ One of his complaints was that the Namibian University was not involved in the research project. To involve a person – or several of them from that university in the project – will cost more than the total money that goes into the pilot project – that should be realized as the first point.
Secondly, the level of Education of the people in an area like that is so insignificant, their capacity so stunted as the current research shows that a person that grows up in poverty will be equal to a person that had a stroke, which would mean that their ability to answer questions – specially from a person not understanding the basic cultural language, even through an interpreter – is not going to get you relevant feedback, because you don’t understand the dynamics that exist within the survival pattern of the particular group of people.
And in Namibia, the basic language for instance there would be like Herero and Afrikaans, as English is not a major language, specially outside the cities to such a degree that when I came to South Africa in 1981, I failed my first year university because I couldn’t speak English, because English was not emphasized – although obviously under the auspices of the ‘United Nations’ and all the wonderful tools with which they pretend to stop poverty, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and stuff like that, the main language has been made English but there has been no significant input to bring about this change, specially where it’s outside the main centers.
So the person is not going to be able to understand the context of the questions and the interpretation of any form of research material will hardly be of any significant value.
Furthermore this researcher claimed that there were no empirical economists to overview the project, so now you want to add another part of the Empireconomists to this whole pile which will increase the cost even more, because this empire – you call them ‘empirical’ I call them ‘Empire-Economists’ because they justify the process of empire – these Empire Economists will cost even more for money that could have gone to the Basic Income Project will now be diverted to the few researches which – whether they’re black or white are in fact actually white, because those blacks that are significantly educated become like white people, because that’s how the brainwashing functions.
So, the research would not have been significant because the statistics used would be to justify why the project can’t work which is exactly what your major organizations like the World Bank and the IMF actually do. Their point is not to find a working model, their point is to justify the model they’re already using and therefore, they’ve already shut down the Basic Income Grant overall because there is no way at the level of the brainwashed Empireconomists where there is any form of understanding that there could be a better system that will involve for instance a Basic Income Grant.
Furthermore this researcher – I don’t know if one can call them ‘researchers’ if they are that ignorant, but let’s attempt to value this point – claimed that in all the years has been ‘no infrastructure development‘. Now tell me, in a community where a bag of mealiemeel is nearly the price of the 100 Namibian Dollar allowance, you want to tell me they have sufficient to buy bricks to do some improvement. Now to give you an idea of what the price is for a brick, the price for a brick before delivery and the delivery will double the price due to the distance – virtually where this is located, the bricks are 5 rand each which is 5 Namibian Dollar Each, which gives you 20 bricks if you take the Basic Income Grant allowance that was received by a person that can buy 20 bricks a month if they don’t eat bricks, they don’t buy food and they accumulate it, it will take them several years to have enough bricks to build an outside toilet, just to satisfy these dear researcher’s peculiar strange conclusion.
So I would not pay much attention to those that claim they are working at some University in some project, doing some form of research that apparently means that they care about what’s going on, they are just being paid with grants, grants that should have been focused on and pulled together for a Basic Income Grant. All these researchers will no longer exist in a Living Income Guaranteed project because there, people will do research because they really care, not because they need the money or they pretend to care. I would not give much attention to how this is all being viewed.
Overall, there would be some change, I mean having money to buy mealiemeel and to have some food where you have virtually no income in a community, certainly is a massive impact, but is it significant that it will actually make a permanent change to the cultural tradition and to the human nature in that area? No, it will not make any significant difference, it will not bring about significant change where the person can make a life changing decision because there is no possibility. This particular Pilot Project is more a project where one will have a look at how effective slavery can exist within the minimum income bracket of the poverty line as accepted. One can call the BIG Project rather a World Bank or an International Monetary Fund Project. Obviously it’s been funded by the church which is some of the significant influencers and supporters of things like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, because the church does not question the suffering and poverty, they in fact ensure that it exists.
So therefore the money that is there is really completely insignificant, the project is insignificant – obviously the people are grateful, they’ve got some ‘more food,’ food that otherwise would not have been there and due to the continuous process of globalization that is even affecting Namibia, there will be less food and less money in this type of communities. But if you guys can continue getting the money to this people, let me tell you: they really need it, it’ll buy them some mealiemeel, they will smile for you, you can take some snaps and publish it all over and tell the world how good you are because you are feeding the starving – they will make a living, they will survive, they will give you the photo opportunity and the public relations opportunity – but don’t fool yourself, your Pilot Project is insignificant and is of no real value. In fact, it only gives an actual overview of the nature of the current Basic Income Grant Project, that the people behind it don’t have a clue what it means to make a difference in a person’s life, it is actually disrespectful to do so little and to blow it out of proportion so much.
So it is important to realize that economics should not be based on statistics, it must be based on fact and another word for fact, the word for Economic Fact is Mathematics and for that you need correct data and then you can work out what is the real situation and what is best.
Now what I suggest to a researcher: if you want to have a model of establishing what would be acceptable in another person’s life: you start with your life and you assess what it takes to have your lifestyle. you do the mathematical data collection and then you start to remove stuff from your life to see at what level you reach the point where your lifestyle is no longer acceptable, and when you get to your threshold, then you have to live that for a significant period, like for instance in the BIG Pilot Project it’s being going on for several years so you have to live at this threshold for several years and then see if it is still acceptable.
From that perspective you can work out exactly what you would be willing to live with as a Basic Income and thus, that is what you propose for everyone else because then you do onto others as you would like to be done onto and thus you give as you would like to receive, and so unless a researcher in economics follows the principle of assessing their own lifestyle and establishing what is acceptable or not within their own life – they have no way except a mathematical way to establish what is valid and what is not.
So at the moment we have no real data all around about establishing an Economic System in the world that is Best for All. The Living Income Guaranteed as we are proposing is coming with suggested data models, how to take data into account and how to adjust the structure of consumerism and thus improve capitalism to bring about a sustainable Basic Income for everyone that qualifies.
So investigate the Living Income Guaranteed – we really care and actually do research.
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