Pakistan signed a deal with the World Bank on Monday whereby the country will receive a loan of $150 million to include an additional 1.5 million families in the social safety net and help enroll three million children in schools.
The government intends to give Rs1,000 monthly to at least 85% of families indentified by the Poverty Card Survey.
The survey identified as many as 5.9 million families living below the poverty line. However, the government, under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), has only been able to provide grants to 3.5 million families, citing resource constraints and incomplete data of beneficiaries as reasons.
The agreement was signed by Economic Affairs Division Secretary Dr Waqar Masood, Country Director of World Bank Rachid Benmessaoud and BISP Secretary Muhammad Sher Khan.
The loan disbursements will be tied to the achievement of targets. Earlier, allegations were raised against Pakistan Post Office officials for taking bribes to deliver the grants.
Benmessaoud said the money would be utilised to increase the beneficiaries from 3.5 million households to five million. He added that the loan would enable “three million children to attend school.”
Benmessaoud said the BISP was looking at ways to lift people out of the poverty trap by implementing livelihood programmes to enable them to sustain themselves instead of depending on cash grants.
Benmessaoud said the loan is in addition to $60 million granted by the World Bank to BISP earlier.
He lauded the government’s move to constitute a new Board of Directors for the BISP by appointing half of its members from the private sector. The WB had earlier downgraded the BISP to “moderately satisfactory” due to its reservations on the board’s constitution. The programme has now been updated to “satisfactory.”
Speaking at the occasion, BISP’s chairperson Farzana Raja said that this year the government would enroll 500,000 children in the first phase. “The families of these children are subject to chronic poverty.”
While there is no official data available on poverty trends in the country, the scorecard survey provides a snapshot of the situation. The survey has set a score of 16.78 — this score is out of hundred and is a monitoring tool to extract social and public accountability and responsiveness of the service providers. The low score is due to limited resources.
According to the government’s Statistics Division, the average size of a household is 6.38 individuals. This means that 37.6 million people or 21% of the population is under the poverty trap. However, if the score is raised to 22, the number of families will increase considerably.
Raja said that under the Millennium Development Goals, every Pakistani child will enroll in school by 2015. According to the Pakistan Social and Living Standard Measurement Survey, only 60% of the children attend school.
Raja said the government used the earlier given $60 million to “conduct a poverty census of the 180 million” strong population.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2012.
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