Research Analyst
1 - 7, 2011

Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) was initiated by the government of Pakistan with initial allocation of Rs34 billion (US$425 million approximately) for the financial year 2008-09.

BISP has established an elaborate targeting mechanism for identification of the poor through the introduction of poverty scorecard along with creation of a database accompanied by data validation and verification.

The allocation for the last fiscal year was Rs70 billion to provide cash assistance to five million families which constitutes almost 15 per cent of the entire population.

The program aims at covering almost 40 per cent of the population below the poverty line. The enrolled families are paid a cash assistance of Rs1000 per month at their doorsteps.

A monthly payment of Rs1000 per family would enhance the income of a family earning Rs5000 by 20 per cent. BISP is being implemented in four provinces and Islamabad capital territory (ICT).

A total number of 750 registered beneficiaries of BISP under the current targeting mechanism are selected through a monthly draw. Each of them is provided with an interest-free loan worth Rs0.3 million, repayable in installments over a period of 15 years.

The government has decided to reform the targeting process to minimize the inclusion and exclusion errors and identify the underprivileged through a transparent, impartial and objective mechanism; and also give equal chance to each one for applying to the program for enrollment for cash and various other benefits.

As one of the best known practices for targeting the underprivileged, a scientifically developed instrument named poverty scorecard based on proxy means testing has been adopted. It has been decided to implement the poverty scorecard; and a nationwide poverty survey has been planned to identify the underprivileged families. Hence, beneficiary identification through parliamentarians was stopped on 30th of April 2009.

A test phase of the poverty scorecard based survey has been completed in 16 districts. Data entry and data verification/validation have been completed in all these districts and a list of eligible beneficiary families is ready for payment of cash benefits.

Government has also decided to extend relief under the BISP to the earthquake affected districts namely Pashin, Ziarat and Loralai of Balochistan. This relief has been provided in the form of emergency relief package (ERP) i.e. Rs1000 per family per month with retrospective effect from October 2008.


BISP is making elaborate arrangements for continuous updating of this database through its peripheral offices and the case management system. Once the survey in the entire county is completed and data entry is done, BISP targeting database will serve as the national registry on social protection for the benefit of all the pro-poor program initiated in the public and private sector at each level (federal, provincial, district).

Parallel to the above described targeting mechanism, there is need for a similar well documented payment mechanism which can cater for the demands of all types of cash transfer programs to be established at each level. This is important since a speedy, efficient, transparent payment mechanism lies at the heart of the design of any cash transfer program for the poor in the area of social protection.

It is important for such a payment mechanism to provide arrangements for cash disbursements close to the homes of the beneficiaries in order to reduce the private costs to be incurred by the beneficiaries for getting benefits.

Hence, the payment mechanism needs to have a maximum outreach and backing of maximum institutional capacity.

Since anyone payment mechanism i.e. Pakistan post money orders, ATMs, branchless banking, smart card cannot provide such an ideal outreach, there is perceived need for a composite payment mechanism in which the suitable payment mode can be applied in the appropriate areas keeping in view the infrastructural deficiencies/constraints. However, all the payment modes need to fit into central payment software to be maintained by BISP for payment generation, grievance redressal and reconciliation.

Transparency of processes is the hallmark of BISP. In order to further strengthen the transparency, disbursement of monthly cash assistance would now be carried out electronically through branchless banking system.

In this context, the alternate payment mechanism has already been launched in the four districts (Mianwali, Multan, Sanghar and Mirpurkhas), where the poverty scorecard survey has already been completed.

It is expected that similar services will be expanded to other districts around the country once the poverty survey is completed in those districts. Requests for proposals have already been called for implementing the payments through the Benazir smart card in the remaining twelve districts of the test phase poverty survey.


BISP provides the much needed assistance to the deserving poor families. As it gains strength over time, the BISP should also consider expanding its role by introducing new measures like provision of microfinance, skill development and education opportunities for the poor segments of the society.


Budget allocation 50,000
Regular beneficiaries 5688.58
Waseela-e-Haq 94.85
Waseela-e-Sehat 190.07
Waseela-e-Rozgar 13.94
ERP-IDPs 261.97
Benefits payments (New System) 4842.8
Total benefit payments 11092.21
BISP administrative costs 611.87
Pakistan post 133.19
NADRA 180.90