Drink While You Think - John Surcombe on UBI

20 May 2021

Vision Technology

Is Universal Basic Income feasible? Is it a human right? According to the Founder of UBI Guernsey, the answer to these questions is a resounding ‘yes'.


John Surcombe leads a voluntary group researching a system of UBI that could be implemented in Guernsey. The idea is currently being trialed in several places around the world, and support for it has been growing in recent years.

Just this weekend, it was announced that a pilot UBI scheme will be launched in Wales.

Mr Surcombe presented the universal benefits model to a group of business leaders, political figures and other attendees at a ‘Drink and Think’ event, hosted by POS Interiors.

The crux of UBI is to provide all residents of Guernsey with a basic income of roughly £60 per week, which Mr Surcombe says would offer the struggling members of our society with a 'reliable base' for day-to-day essentials and future planning. 

However in practice, it would cost millions to introduce and would likely require a substantial tax hike. Despite this, Mr Surcombe says the positives far outweigh the negatives.

“For me basic income is not about reducing inequality, it’s about breaking the link between poverty and insecurity – it’s about protecting people from financial coercion.

“It can soften the route out of welfare dependency and help people think strategically and stop them spiraling down in the first place,” he said.

During his talk, Mr Surcombe denied that the rich would just get more ‘free’ money and the less well-off would simply use it to buy ‘fags and booze’.

“We have this outdated stereotype of poor people who spend more of their income than is advisable on alcohol on tobacco,” he said. “It’s simply not true.”

Mr Surcombe concluded his talk by suggesting universal basic income is a universal human right.

“We are entitled to this. Why? Well, we live in a very rich capitalist economy, and these economies work by placing a lot of money and power in the hands of relatively few people.

“Wealthy people stand on our shoulders and they control the capital of our island on our behalf. We give these people control of our laws and regulations, of our infrastructure – we cede control of all this to a minority of wealthy people. 

“We’re shareholders of this system we’ve created, and it is reasonable to be paid a dividend from this."


Author: Matt Leach. Snr Reporter at the Bailiwick Express

Photography: Paul Chambers