During the first two quarters of this financial year, the government has disbursed Rs32 billion through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
So far, the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party governments have disbursed Rs192 billion among five million families from 2008 to 2014 under BISP.
“BISP is committed to reach 5.6 million families through its welfare programmes,” BISP Chairman Enver Baig told the diplomatic community and donor agencies on Tuesday.
Currently, the programme has 5.1 million beneficiaries. Of these, 1.8 million live in Punjab, 1.6 million in Sindh, one million in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 0.2 million in Balochistan and 96,440 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 0.1 million in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), 41,669 in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and 9,053 in Islamabad.
The government has also decided to redesign BISP and will work out a new policy for the anti-poverty scheme, said Baig. All the ongoing schemes will undergo “redesigning and restructuring.”
We urge the international community to help us achieve BISP’s ultimate goal to reduce the number of beneficiaries and help them graduate out of poverty, Baig added.
As a preliminary step, the government will conduct a poverty survey to identify ‘the poorest of the poor in the country,’ Baig stated while speaking to The Express Tribune.
The government has allocated Rs75 billion to run BISP’s affairs and will make sure that the maximum amount is spent on skill development schemes, he added.
He further told the diplomats that BISP is closely coordinating with the provinces to ensure the involvement of different federating units of the country.
Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif sought the management’s assistance to establish a similar programme in Punjab. “BISP will soon sign an agreement worth millions with the Punjab government,” he said.
“BISP is the only ray of hope for millions of under-privileged Pakistanis who subsist on less than $1.2 per day,” said Baig.
BISP has surveyed more than 25 million households in the length and breadth of the country, he added. Once the data entry is completed, the number of beneficiary families in the current fiscal year is expected to touch 7.7 million, said Baig.
This translates to 42 million individuals —almost 23 per cent of the entire population — which BISP will be supporting.
BISP intends to train skilled labour to meet Gulf market demands and enhance the flow of remittances to at least $24 billion in the next 12-24 months, Baig said.
He asserted that the government has and will remain a driver of social change for women empowerment in Pakistan. Thanks to BISP, more than one million women had their CNICs made in the last few years, including 100,000 women in Fata.
Baig expressed hope that under the current government, the programme will grow and an effective social protection system will be established in the country.
He illustrated that the unconditional cash transfer has been raised from Rs1,000 per month to Rs1,200 per month by the current government and is indicative of development.
Argentinean Ambassador Rodolfo Martin Saravia appreciated the government’s efforts to eradicate poverty, recalling the vision of the late premier Benazir Bhutto to empower women.
He suggested the government promote interaction with the international community by urging them to donate generously for uplifting the living standards of poor people in developing countries like Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2014.