The United Kingdom has reiterated its support for the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has agreed to a revised memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the BISP Secretariat and the Economic Affairs Division, with UK Minister for International Development Desmond Swayne penning the agreement.
BISP Chairperson Marvi Memon said the MoU covers three new agreements.
The agreement brings forward some of the core financing for the programme and agrees to support the enrolment of 500,000 children of BISP beneficiaries into primary schools by 2017 using supplementary conditional cash transfers as an incentive, according to a press release issued on Thursday.
It also agrees to support beneficiary communication and outreach and to use DFID funding to update the National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER), which helps verify that all BISP beneficiaries are among the poorest in the country. The NSER will also help other provincial and federal programmes in identifying and reaching eligible groups more effectively through other programmes.
DFID has supported BISP since its inception, committing £300 million (Rs47.52 billion) to the programme from 2012 to 2020.
DFID support is primarily towards the national cash transfer programme, providing women from the poorest households a monthly stipend of Rs1,500.
DFID is also supporting BISP’s Waseela-e-Taleem education conditional cash transfer programme, which encourages the poorest families to send their children to school. “DFID will continue to support the Government of Pakistan in expanding and strengthening the country’s largest national social safety net. This support is vital to empowering nearly five million women from some of Pakistan’s poorest families through monthly stipends,” Swayne said in a statement. He added that these stipends allow beneficiaries to buy essential items such as food and medicine, and to protect them from shocks such as illness or unemployment, which can push families deeper into debt and poverty.
“Alongside the main unconditional cash transfers, BISP’s use of supplementary conditional cash transfers is an impressive example of how to use small incentives to encourage the poorest families to educate their children,” Swayne added. He further said that education boosts the economy, broadens outlooks, and offers a brighter future for young people by giving them skills to improve their lives and employment opportunities. Memon said BISP is a vital tool in helping the poorest and most vulnerable in order to build a more inclusive Pakistan, where everyone has the opportunity to fulfill their potential and contribute to the economy. “We intend to make BISP the pride of Pakistan by offering seamless services, targeted products, and a medium of lifted empowerment to our most vulnerable,” she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2015.