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Govt’s wise move to cutback poverty, look up education

Pakistan’s first-ever official report on multidimensional poverty was released in 2016, and it revealed shocking figures. According to the study, 39 percent (38.8%) of Pakistanis live in multidimensional poverty, while 24.4 percent of those don’t even have enough money to satisfy their basic needs. It was in this backdrop that the government launched ‘Ehsaas’, a poverty reduction program, developed by Dr. Sania Nishtar, with aims to change the lives of at least 3.3 million poor people in the next four years.

The government has allocated a massive amount of Rs. 80 billion –expandable to Rs. 120 billion by 2021 – for anti-poverty drive which is founded on the importance of strengthening institutions, transparency, and good governance. The program has four focus areas and 115 policy actions, which will reduce inequality, invest in people and uplift lagging districts. The four pillars include addressing elite capture and making the government system work to create equality, safety nets for disadvantaged segments of the population, jobs and livelihoods, and human capital development. The program is designed for the extreme poor, jobless, poor farmers, laborers, sick and undernourished as well as for students from low-income backgrounds and for poor women and elderly citizens.

The government is establishing the National Socioeconomic Registry 2019, which will make the database of the poor class. Multiple validation procedures will be run for the collected data through follow-up review surveys to identify the real poor correctly. Once the data is completed, the government plans to roll out two social protection programs Kifalat (sponsorship or support) and Tahaffuz (protection). Both programs will be run under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP).

Kifalat: Under the program, 5.7 million women across the country will get savings accounts in the nearby banks on one woman one bank account policy. The women of impoverished areas, without the bank facilities, will be given mobile phones to receive the funds. As many as 5,000 ‘Digital Hubs’ will be established on district level all over the country which will provide details about job opportunities for the local youth and will make the government’s digital resources accessible.

Tahaffuz: This program will provide one-time financial aid to the poor against catastrophic events. This may aid interest-free easy loans for housebuilding (especially for landless farmers), free legal assistance in severe cases, financial aid for widows who don’t have children earning money, Ehsaas homes for orphan children, Panah-gahs (shelters) for homeless people, Health Cards for 3.3 million people, which will cover several wide-ranging medical and surgical procedures including heart surgeries, stunts, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, dialysis, maternity amongst others.


Human Capital Development

Human capital development plays a significant role in the wealth of a nation and requires prioritizing investments in the early years by controlling malnutrition, providing preschool or early education and protecting children from harm. So the government besides setting up a Multi-sectoral Nutrition Coordinating Body and the first-ever university hosted National Centre for Human Nutrition, it also includes the 5+1 model of desi chicken and goat asset transfer, kitchen gardening, seed distribution for poverty alleviation and nutrition. The program also promises specialized nutritional food for stunted children in a cost-effective manner and to address the issue of fake and adulterated milk.

Pro-Poor Education Program

Under this initiative, the government aims to give people in the far-flung areas access to free and quality education through vouchers where only private schools exist, and by contracting the private schools for this task. It also includes increasing the budget for the National Education Foundation so that there’s no hurdle in the policy implementation. It also offers the following:

  • Free e-learning content for students.
  • The conditional cash transfer program.
  • Second chance program for overaged girls in schools, colleges, and universities.
  • Need-based undergraduate scholarships for students from low-income families.
  • Vocational training for girls and women.

Ehsaas aims at adopting a universal health coverage policy in both federal and provincial levels with innovative technology tools to provide healthcare access to as many people as possible – especially in underprivileged areas.

The writer is a Karachi-based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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