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BISP has good value and power of positivity

Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) is Pakistan’s largest social safety net that offers quarterly stipends to over 5.4 million of the most vulnerable families of the country. These cash transfers ensure empowerment of the beneficiary women and feeds directly into PM Nawaz Sharif’s sustainable development goal of eradicating severe poverty and hunger.

Present government-led by Nawaz Sharif has raised BISP budgets from Rs40 billion to Rs115 billion since it took charge during 2013.

Number of beneficiaries has risen from 1.7 million to 5.4 million in the same period. Quarterly stipends which were not on time earlier and were only Rs1,000 and now raised to Rs4,834.

BISP has increased per adult equivalent monthly level of consumption expenditure of BISP beneficiary households by Rs187. Using the FEI poverty line BISP has declined poverty rate by 7 percent points. Using CBN poverty line BISP is associated with a reduction in poverty gap by 3 percent points. The program is leading to a rise in per adult equivalent monthly food consumption by Rs69 driven by a higher quality of protein. The program has led to a higher reduction of malnutrition and stunting in female and not in male, which is consistent with worldwide data. BISP has led to a decline in the deprivations against indicators of living standards amongst the average BISP beneficiaries chiefly in terms of the quality of flooring in their households and the quality of cooking fuel used.

Women empowerment indicators have enhanced as a consequence of BISP and for the first time statistically significant effect on the mobility of beneficiary women has been noticed with more women being allowed to freely travel to main localities alone.

Because of collection of transfer this mobility has risen and is also having an affect on independence of women other than the beneficiaries because of them.

Change in livelihood policies have led to overall reduction in dependence of beneficiary households on casual labor as major source of income. There has been a rise in proportion of beneficiary households that own small livestock. This is significant because livestock is a productive investment and also valuable for those families with low financial access.

Presently, BISP will enlarge its segment Waseela-e-Taleem to 50 districts of Pakistan by the end of 2018. Under this program beneficiary families would receive Rs750 per quarter per child from the age of 5 to 12 years with the condition of 70 percent compulsory attendance. BISP would also achieve the target of enrolling 1.6 million children to schools by June 2017. School attendance deprivation on MPI indicator has declined from 56 percent in 2013 to 49 percent during last year because of BISP.

Child immunization deprivation on MPI indicator has declined from 17 percent in 2013 to 13 percent during 2016 because of BISP.

Drinking water deprivation on MPI indicator has declined from 27 percent in 2013 to 19 percent in 2016 because of BISP.

Financial savings has risen over the period 2011-2016 from 9 percent to 13 percent. During 2011 just 40 percent of women in beneficiary households recorded they were always probable to vote whilst during last year this number has increased to 70 percent showing huge change in implementation of democratic rights.

It is also registered that the proportion of beneficiary women who can visit market alone has gone up from 25 percent during 2011 to 37 percent in 2016.

Average time nationwide taken to reach payment point in minutes was 48 minutes during 2013. It is now 35 minutes in 2016. Proportion of beneficiaries who paid a ‘fee’ to collect last transfer was 40 percent in 2013. Last year, it has been declined to 22 percent showing crackdown on beneficiary voluntarily created agent mafia.

Direct costs of travel to the collection point are relatively low amounting to 2 percent of the total value of the transfer. Majority of beneficiaries retain control over how the BISP cash transfers is normally spent even when it is collected by another household member. 76 percent decide on how to spend it herself during 2016 versus 64 percent during 2014.

Experts revealed that the overall 96 percent of beneficiaries are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their experience in how they collected the cash transfer.

Almost 33 percent beneficiaries collect cash themselves, 32 percent get it collected by household member and 35 percent by some other individual. Around 91 percent of BISP beneficiaries were either ultra poor, poor or vulnerable to being poor in 2016.

BISP has had a positive and statistically significant effect on the proportion of households that own TV (14%), bike (7%), cooking stove (12%), washing machine (13%), heater (4%). 55,000 beneficiary committees have improved women empowerment through BISP.

Experts also revealed that the low levels of literacy and education of beneficiary women with 9 percent literacy.

CONCLUSION

BISP’s primary objective is to empower women, spread a message of hope while instilling values of empowerment, dignity and promoting interprovincial harmony/equalization.

BISP recognizes and applauds the role of women in nation building of Pakistan.

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