Dearth of data delays Sindh's social protection programme

Sindh may have the funds for a relief initiative, but there are hurdles aplenty before implementation


Razzak Abro September 10, 2020
Villagers carry goats away from their flooded homes in Badin. Recent monsoon rains have left scores of villages submerged across Sindh, while the swelling Indus River has created the threat of further flooding in the province. PHOTO: PPI

KARACHI:

In June, the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government earmarked over Rs34 billion for a social protection package in the provincial budget.

Meetings were held as early as July 8, the decision to set aside Rs20 billion of the package to mitigate the financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic was announced, and implementation on the initiative was set to begin this month. The goal was to ensure food security, reduce the impact of inflation and unemployment.

Now, however, it appears that the initiative has hit delays due to the non-availability of data of those eligible for aid.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Haris Gazdar, Special Assistant to Chief Minister and the in-charge for the social protection programme, confirmed that the required data had not yet been received.

The initiative has been broken down into different phases, said Gazdar, adding that the lack of data is likely to affect the implementation of some of these phases.

To disburse cash relief from the Rs20 billion set aside for those economically hit by the pandemic, the Sindh government formally approached the Centre during the first week of August with a request to share updated Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) data.

It also sought data from the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) and the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics for implementing other components of the social protection programme.

Later the same month, it was said that the provincial government was beginning efforts to build its own database so as to avoid dependency on the Centre. Work on this is currently underway.

Currently, the only database available about people's socioeconomic conditions is through BISP, but it has not been updated for several years.

The tussle over data had risen earlier as well between the Sindh and federal governments when the province attempted to provide relief in the initial months of the pandemic.

Gazdar had earlier informed The Express Tribune that Sindh had received some data related to the census but NADRA authorities were awaiting clearance from upper echelons before sending the complete dataset to the province.

Under its social protection programme, the Sindh government aims to provide cash transfers, disburse loans to small and medium enterprises, provide subsidies for the agriculture, livestock and poultry sectors and fund various projects.

According to Gazdar, a provincial mechanism is needed in a very short time for Sindh to implement its social protection programme through a reliable database.

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