Universal basic income worth a shot

Kenneth Cheng Chee Kin

Homeless men bathing near Sg Klang in Kuala Lumpur. A certain nonagenarian politician’s usual argument that the poor should ‘work their way out of poverty’ does not hold water in the new normal forced by Covid-19. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, August 3, 2020.

THOUGH I’m fortuitous enough to have never experienced extreme poverty, I grew to empathise with the poor and be aware of the effects of lacking the means to survive. I shudder to think of what might happen if I had to struggle to put food on the table each day – something that many low-income households are going through in these dire times.

Poverty harms you psychologically – this idea has stuck with me since young, mostly because of the work of one of the greatest writers of all times. In Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell recounts his experience of both the psychological and physical effects of having little means to live: “It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.” The impoverished don’t grapple only with hunger, but also the various social stigmas of being poor.

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