ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government of Pakistan on Friday signed a $200-million loan agreement for additional financing to help support the Pakistan’s flagship social protection programme – the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
The agreement was signed by ADB Country Director Xiaohong Yang and Economic Affairs Division Secretary Noor Ahmed while Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar witnessed the signing ceremony.
BISP is part of a larger government strategy called Ehsaas aimed at reducing poverty and inequality. BISP, primarily funded by the government of Pakistan, supports Ehsaas through cash transfers, poverty graduation programmes and a targeted safety net.
The ADB-financed social protection development project, approved in October 2013, has enabled the enrollment of over 855,000 women beneficiaries in the programme.
The $200-million additional financing will lend support to the initiative and help BISP implement institutional strengthening measures.
“ADB’s additional financing will further support institutional strengthening of BISP,” said Xiaohong. “A policy research unit will be established within BISP to help monitor and improve ongoing programmes and design new evidence-based initiatives such as conditional cash transfers following global best practices.”
She added that the ADB was committed to helping the government of Pakistan implement alternative modalities for social protection and poverty reduction that promoted improved human capital and reduction in intergenerational poverty.
Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar appreciated the ADB’s commitment to support the government of Pakistan and its people.
“Assistance from the ADB will help further strengthen the national social protection programme and provide support for the poorest segment of the population under the government’s Ehsaas strategy,” he said.
Azhar emphasised that Ehsaas was a multi-pronged strategy consisting of many pro-poor initiatives, which were not only aimed at poverty alleviation but also included poverty graduation programmes.
Also speaking on the occasion, BISP Secretary Ali Raza Bhutta said the government valued the long-standing partnership with the ADB and its support for the Ehsaas strategy.
He was of the view that the policy research unit, to be established by the ADB, would help BISP in developing and refining new initiatives for promoting primary education and to address the issue of stunting among the poor population through conditional cash transfers.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2019.