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Food Support Programme

Being a complex task it demands extensive and earnest management

By FARAZ SIDDIQUI
Sep 04 - 10, 2000

Keeping in view the sufferings of the poorest of the poor, Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf has given topmost priority to mitigate poverty in his agenda. Recently CE has launched its Food Support Programme(FSP) at Juhi as another landmark to his poverty alleviation programme. This programme emphasizes to provide financial aid for most poor section of the society to meet their nutritional needs.

Inaugurating the programme, Chief Executive said that the programme aimed at to uplift the remote and backward areas of the country. CE further said that under the scheme ration cards and cash would be provided to 1.26 million poor and deserving families. He further said that government would also provide direct or indirect employment opportunities to 0.5 million people through this programme.

General Pervez Musharraf in his speech on December 15, 1999, has showed determination to revitalise Food Support Programme. He expressed to broaden the scope of the programme at large. The most promising feature of this programme is its wide beneficiary base. Families whose monthly income is below Rs 2000 will get a bi-monthy subsidy of Rs 1000 to the poorest families on wheat. This time Food Support Programme will cover 70 per cent of the urban areas where poverty is pacing forward than urban areas. If this subsidy which is given after six months is approached through monthly or bimonthly basis than it could be benefitted to the society because it might be possible that the aided family becomes compelled to spent money on some other purpose than they should have some side way to encounter the situation.

Paucity of resources has pushed up the calorie-based poverty (headcount ratio) in the country. The persistent price-hike has worsen the situation, official statistics reveal that incidence of poverty has increased significantly in the 1990s. This phenomena has risen from 17.3 per cent in 1997-98 to 22.4 per cent in 1992-93 and further to 32.6 per cent in 1998-99. Although the programme is aimed at addressing the poverty but question arises that is it right direction to alleviate poverty? because bi-annually assistance seems inadequate.

The number of poor people that can not meet their daily requirements and fell below the poverty line, has increased from 17.8 million in 1987-88 to 43.9 million in 1998-99. Similar trends are observed in case of rural and urban poverty. According to the basic needs approach, the poverty has increased from 28.6 per cent in1986-87 to 35.9 per cent in 1992-93 and further to 35.7 per cent in 1993-94, but at greater pace in the rural areas than urban areas.

DIFFICULT TASK

Providing subsidy to the most impoverished people is the biggest task in this concern. The Rs 2.5 billion annual programme has many obstacles on its way as to provide subsidy to such a large number of beneficiaries is not an easy task. In past lacking of proper system and planning has been the great detriment to provide sheer benefit to the needed beneficiaries. It is commendable to provide support to such needy families but along this some prominent measures should also be taken to stop the increasing level of poverty.

Economic survey shows that Food Scheme Programme was introduced in 1997 to raise kitchen budget of families having monthly income of less than Rs 1500/-. Subsidy of Rs 200/- per month was provided to each family to lessen the load of price-hike. But this is for the first time that such a wide beneficiary is being provided subsidy in the history.

This time district government and army monitoring teams have formed three task forces in every province of the country including AJK, Northern Areas and FATA where description process is going with an unprecedented speed. Identification process should be headed by reliable and honest people in order to make the best use of programme. Initially Pakistan Bait-ul- Mal and local Zakat committee will provide lists of deserving people to the District Food Support programme. Steering committee headed by deputy commissioner of the district who will use the data as a significant source and task forces will substantiate the credentials of their beneficiaries.

Once beneficiaries are selected they will be informed by means of an authority letter to ask them to open their bank account with initial deposit of Rs 5. Such a mechanism is designed for the beneficiaries which will provide GSP subsidy across the counter same day of opening his account. Female as head of their house will be given preference, minorities are also duly considered under FSP with 3 per cent set out for minority communities. In rural areas it is a general experience that females are more serious and responsible as the bread winner, so women family members should be given priority for desired results.

Beneficiaries which are likely to get support are large in numbers but resources are limited. In this case provision of wheat, rice and other food items can also be a substitute to rise the food budget of deprived families as we are agricultural country and produce in abundance of these commodities. Through this way we can handle the money scarcity and other problems.

In order to make it transparent monitoring at federal, provincial and district level will provide credence to the programme. Major performing agencies of FSP includes Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal, Post offices and provincial governments. In order to avoid any misappropriation at lower official level computerization of FSP data is in the progress.

Food support programme has been initiated, let us see that how does it come to address the poverty and hunger. Being a complex task it demands extensive and earnest management to provide relief to such a grand beneficiaries and get desired results. Past experiences show a gloomy picture but task can be overcome by proper planning and management. Charity is not enough to address the poverty but there should be some long term remedy to end the process of becoming more poorer.