BAITUL MAL TARGETING POOREST OF THE POOR

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Mar 29 - Apr 4, 2010

Poverty has risen to 40 per cent in Pakistan, according to the official estimates. Without having an access to the grassroots level, one cannot see or assess the afflictions of poverty. What we actually see at the grassroots level are the worn-out households, unhygienic living conditions, small children working, unemployed youth and a plethora of social ills.

We also see at this level the poorest of the poor, which include orphans, widows, destitute and disabled persons.

Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM) is an important government department that is actually targeting the poorest of the poor through its pro-poor programs. It can contribute significantly to reduce poverty and develop the ever-neglected social sector in Pakistan. PBM can help rehabilitate the deserving people instead of doling out money for their subsistence. Social protection expenditure however needs to enhance in poverty reduction strategy.

The PBM's image was tarnished by stories of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds under Ret Brig Sarfaraz who took over in May 2000 as the PBM's Managing Director under former President Pervez Musharraf administration. Rs3.6 billion Tawana Pakistan scam came to surface under the former PBM's management. Brig Sarfaraz had come for two years in 2000, but his services were extended five times and his last extension ended on May 31, 2008.

Under the new Managing Director Zamurad Khan, Bait-ul-Mal emerged as frontline relief department in national disasters and crises including war on terror and earthquake.

The department took the frontline role in the rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) of strife-torn Swat and Malakand in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) last year after Pakistan army launched a full-fledged military offensive against Taliban insurgents.

Zamurad Khan launched many social safety net projects to target the poorest of the poor including disabled persons, orphans and widows. Under his management, the PBM made a significant contribution to poverty reduction through its various poorest of the poor focused services providing assistance to destitute, widow, orphan, weak and other needy persons under various PBM's schemes across the country.

He ever tried to take a lead in serving the poor and needy. This month, he adopted the newly-born disabled twin babies of a poor family in Faisalabad and brought them to a hospital in Islamabad for medical treatment. The heads of the twin sisters were joined. He paid Rs 0.6 million to the needy family and also assured the parents of every possible help, even sending the twin babies to abroad for surgery if needed.

"I am ambitious to launch mega support programs for orphans and disabled persons this year," Zamurad Khan told Pakistan & Gulf Economist (PAGE).

He said, "We are about to launch Visa card system for disable, as we have worked out a strategy for this program that would extend Rs1000 to Rs4000 to family and also provide wheelchairs to the disabled person in the family. Moreover, we expect to adopt 15000 orphans this year."

In an exclusive interview with Page, Managing Director Zamurad Khan at PBM's head office in Islamabad explained the ongoing projects of the PBM all over the country.

CHILD SUPPORT PROGRAMME (CSP)

Under Child Support Programme (CSP), Bait-ul-Mal is providing additional resources to ultra poor families for sending their children to schools in order to promote primary school education and reduce dropout ratio. Under CSP, the PBM provides Rs300 per month for one child and Rs600 per month for two or more children. An amount of Rs57.29 million has so far been disbursed among around 12000 households beneficiaries having 35,700 children (Table.1).

Zamurad said, "We plan to scale up CSP in 29 districts across the country in next fiscal year 2010-11.In the next phases, CSP will cover 144 districts countrywide, he added.

Table 1
CSP 2009-10

Years Districts Beneficiaries Amount paid Beneficiaries Paid Total Amount
2009 4th CSP Payment
Bhakkar 2745 2,580,260 7861 7,863,794
Tharparkar 2459 2,599,344
Kohistan 2657 2,684,190
5th CSP Payment
Bhakkar 2697 2,617,350 6854 6,367,500
Tharparkar 1873 1,573,650
Kohistan 2284 2,176,500
6th CSP Payment
Bhakkar 2423 3,980,100 6860 10,031,850
Tharparkar 2061 2,793,750
Kohistan 2376 3,258,000
2010 7th CSP Payment
Bhakkar 2517 4,346,677 6985 11,620,384
Tharparkar 1985 2,998,800
Kohistan 2483 4,274,907
Total Amount (All Seven Payments) 57,288,776

SWEET PAKISTAN HOMES

An important PBM's project for the rehabilitation of orphans is the establishment of Sweet Pakistan Homes. Such homes for 100 orphans in 11 districts in all the four provinces and Azad Kashmir at a cost of of Rs20 million each are being established on pilot basis. Presently, Pakistan Sweet Homes in Gilgit & Rawalpindi Pakistan Sweet Homes are being run successfully.

ASSISTANCE TO SPECIAL PERSONS

PBM has also taken initiative for providing "right based life" to hundreds of Special Persons in the country. The department is providing Rs25,000 to each special family annually. A Family who has 2 or more special persons will be called as "Special Family". Under this scheme, Rs45.94 million have so far been distributed among 4,120 Special Persons in the country (Table 2).

TABLE 2
ASSISTANCE PROVIDED TO SPECIAL PERSONS

NO. CATEGORIES BENEFICIARIES
(APPROX)
1 Wheel Chairs / Tri Cycles 9,000
2 Assistance to Special Persons / Family (10,000-25,000) 4,120
3 Hearing Aid 300
4 White Cane 2200
5 Artificial Limbs 200

LUNGAR PROGRAMS IN HOSPITALS

PBM has launched "Lunger project" for the poor attendants of patients in 200 designated hospitals of 144 districts of the country. Zamurad Khan told Page that the objective of Lungar project is to mitigate the suffering of attendants of poor patients, who come from far flung areas for treatment in hospitals. PBM decided to reduce their miseries through providing food in the evening at hospitals with the budget of Rs.3 million each.

VOCATIONAL /DASTKARI SCHOOLS

Established in 1995, the vocational/Dastkari schools are providing free training to widows, orphans & poor girls in different skills including drafting, cutting, sewing, knitting, and hand and machine embroidery throughout the country. So far 49,123 trainees have been passed out. The department also provides a daily stipend of Rs10 on attendance basis to each trainee.

MD Bait-ul-Mal said that the PBM's training motive has been to involve poor widows and orphan girls in income generating activities.

INDIVIDUAL FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE (IFA)

Zamurad Khan said that the poor, widows, orphans and disabled persons are supported through IFA in the form of cash assistance, education, medical treatment and rehabilitation. Under IFA, assistance is provided to the needy individuals on first come first basis having no support or source of income. At present, the department is addressing 70,000 deserving beneficiaries throughout the country with annual budget of Rs1billion. Since 1992, an amount of Rs.4990 million has been disbursed under IFA.

He said, "IFA fulfils the immediate need of the poor which could be the treatment of major ailments and disabilities of the poor patients."

FOOD SUPPORT PROGRAM (FSP)

The PBM administers FSP in collaboration with Pakistan Post Office and provincial governments. Launched in August 2000 with annual budget of Rs2.5 billion, the FSP is a social safety net targeting poorest of the poor to provide relief due to increase in the wheat prices. In the fiscal year 2007-08, the annual budget of FSP was increased from Rs4.38 billion to 6 billion along with coverage from 1.46 million to 2 million households. Federal government revised the ceiling from Rs2000 to Rs2400 in fiscal year 2003-04 and paid bi-annually and from Rs2400 to Rs3000 in fiscal year 2005-06 annually along with increase in coverage from 1.25 million households to 1.46 million households. Since inception of FSP Rs24.215 billion have been paid in 13 installments.

PBM's FSP has been much-publicised as the programme targeting poorest of the poor. Initially, the FSP was started in 2002-03 with an annual subsidy of Rs2,000 in two biannual installments of Rs1,000 each to 1.25 million poorest of the poor families through post offices with an annual budget of Rs2.5 billion countrywide. During 2003-04, the government increased the rate of annual subsidy from Rs2,000 to Rs2400 bringing the budget to Rs3 billion. However, during 2005-06 the rate of annual subsidy was further increased to Rs3,000 per year with an enhanced coverage of 1.46 million households. During the year 2005-2006, Rs4.38 billion was provided to 1.46 million families under this programme throughout the country.

Bait-ul-Mal is the only public department that can serve and deliver at grass root level. For the past six decades, the grass root level remained a grass root level with all its agonies and miseries. What still lies at this level is the plethora of problems, which are perennial in nature.

Grass-root area is the hub of problems. The people at this level are afflicted with all troubles and tribulations of life. They are poor, deprived, downtrodden and aggrieved section of people seeking or dreaming every time a messiah for the redressal of their grievances. Majority of the people is living below poverty line.

By launching social safety net projects, the PBM has actually addressed those areas where people live below the poverty line. Under its social protection programs, the PBM has organized formal and informal organizations under one umbrella to target the poorest of the poor in the society.