S.KAMAL HAYDER KAZMI,
Research Analyst, PAGE
Nov 26 - Dec 2, 2012
In Pakistan, Poverty is increasing mainly due to high food inflation, stagnant real incomes, rising unemployment and shrinkage of industrial base due to the rising cost of doing business and security issues triggering flight of capital and forcing many industrialists to relocate their businesses to other countries. The situation of falling foreign and private investments, the incidence of poverty has not shown any signs of easing. In fact, the numbers have gone from bad to worse.
For poverty alleviation in Pakistan, no doubt, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is a commendable initiative aiming at poverty alleviation and women empowerment. Various interventions including those in health and education sector have been introduced to uplift the living standards of underprivileged segments of society. BISP is a unique intervention in the social sector as its offering various services under one roof. The government is committed to reduce the poverty and promote the human capital in the country.
The government launched BISP with initial allocation of Rs.34 billion for the FY 2008-09. Moreover, the programme has given the women folk their identity as 15 million female has got themselves registered with NADRA to fulfill the requirements of getting enrolled with the BISP. BISP is being implemented in all four provinces including FATA, AJK and Islamabad capital territory. BISP identifies the poor people through the introduction of poverty scorecard and the nationwide survey along with creation of a database accompanied by data validation and verification.
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. The allocation for the last fiscal year was Rs. 70 billion to provide cash assistance to 5 million families which constitutes almost 15 per cent of the entire population.
Furthermore, the level of poverty had declined from 34.4 per cent of the population in 2001 to 28 per cent in 2005-06 in the country, but the high food inflation in the last three years has brought it back to 33 per cent, pushing at least 11 million people below the poverty line. The country's citizens are deprived of basic necessities of life such as clothing, shelter, food, education and medication, such families and their children will be forced to think of their survival only.
BISP aims at covering almost 40 per cent of the population below the poverty line. The enrolled families are paid a cash assistance of Rs.1000 per month at their doorsteps. A monthly payment of Rs.1000/ per family would enhance the income of a family earning Rs.5000 by 20 per cent.
BISP through Waseela Haq Programme had provided loan amounting up to Rs 300,000 to the randomly selected beneficiary families, who were receiving the cash transfers to be validated through the programme eligibility criteria. All the 44 projects of BISP are achieved in a year's record time of three and half years, while developed countries take decades in achieving and executing such programmes. Over 35000 youth in Sindh have been provided basic health and education facilities through loans in a transparent way while Punjab has also sought their help.
More recently, President has launched Waseela-e-Taleem initiative under the umbrella of BISP whereby over 3 million children of the poor families of the country would be provided financial assistance for enrolling them in primary schools in next four years. The government was according high priority to the promotion of education as no country can make any progress without investing in its human capital. This program lays solid foundation for brighter future of the poor children of Pakistan. Much research has shown that there is a correlation between educational attainment and economic growth in developing countries. The low level of education must therefore be understood as slowing economic growth. Similarly, the chronic child malnutrition in rural areas, which appears to have not changed in severity in 15 years, impedes the economic prospects of affected adults in their later lives. Many studies thus also argue that low education and health indicators have themselves been part of the reason that Pakistan's economic growth rate has not been sustained through the 1990s.
BISP's data shows that over 71 per cent children of its beneficiaries have never attended a school. Waseela-e-Taleem would facilitate the families to send their children to school by linking BISP's cash transfers with human capital development. It is expected that the efforts of BISP's Waseela-e-Taleem would ultimately lead the country towards the establishment of a social welfare with a more productive and educated population. And hence, it will get a dignified status among the comity of the nations as a modern, progressive and prosperous country. India wants to learn from the experiences and success of BISP.
Off course, BISP is the good sign for poverty alleviation from Pakistan which provides assistance to the deserving poor families. The government should establish the bank of the poor which would provide the loans on lower interest rate to the poor.
INFLATION INDICES IN PAKISTAN (Base 2007-08)
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