BISP To Be Made A Transparent, Efficient Entity

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ENVER BAIG

Waheed Hussain BISP was initiated in October 2008 with an initial allocation of Rs.34 billion (US $ 425 million approximately) for the financial year 2008-09. The Programme aimed at covering 3.5 million families in the financial year 2008-2009. The allocation for the financial year 2012-13 is Rs. 70 billion to provide cash assistance to 5.5 million families, which constitutes almost 18% of the entire population. Thus the Programme aims at covering almost 40% of the population below the poverty line. BISP is being implemented all across Pakistan including: all four provinces (Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, and Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK),Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Islamabad Capital Territory(ICT). To know more about BISP and its future plans Centreline and DNA conducted an exclusive interview of Chairman Enver Baig. Here are excerpts from his interview.

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What are your future plans for making BISP more vibrant and affective institution in new government?

BISP would ensure improvement in the efforts to alleviate poverty in light of the Prime Minister of Pakistan’s vision and will bring transparency in the functions of the Programme and live up to the commitme nt.

While Rs1,200 per month cash grant would continue to be extended to a large number of families, the major objective should be to graduate a sizable number of families out of poverty, make them stand on their own feet and then bring into the programme some more families. However, there was a strong need to revamp some of our components which will be done in due course of time. Therefore, the Programme will change its focus, emphasizing the graduation programs including skills development initiative, and the future plans would take into consideration the needs of national and international markets for providing relevant training to the youth.

Would you please give the priority list of steps you are going to take in the near future?

The most important priority is to run the programme in a transparent and efficient manner. Moreover, BISP management is discussing numerous proposals to reform different schemes of the BISP to make the programme more effective and poor-oriented.

Present government has launched youth business loan program by identifying 50 sectors for the investment and businesses, however, we lack trained human resource, how BISP could contribute training the youth under Waseela-i-Rozgar program?

The Prime Minister Small Business Loans Scheme aims to provide loans to the unemployed youth, especially educated, looking for establishing or extending business enterprises. Whereas, BISP’s initiatives of Waseela-e-Rozgar and Waseela-e-Haq are meant for its beneficiaries only, majority of whom are illiterate. So, BISP plans to involve local chambers of commerce for understanding the skills requirement of the markets and developing these skills through BISP’s Waseela-e-Rozgar initiative. These plans will be launched in pilot phase in KP province and will be implemented in three steps. The beneficiaries will be trained under the Waseela-e-Rozgar initiative and efforts will be made to place them in the local industry. Secondly, proposals of placement of skilled workers in international markets, as well as providing micro-finance facilities, through Waseela-e-Haq initiative, enabling to establish their own businesses are also under consideration.

All the existing programs would continue or would slash out some of them and include few new?

At present, no new scheme is under consideration. However, BISP is making efforts to improve the design of current initiatives. BISP’s board meeting is scheduled to be held on 26th December, 2013 where these proposals will be discussed in detail.

Recently ADB has signed agreement for providing 430 million US dollars loan, what is the details and breakup of the loan, particularly under what conditions the funds were committed to BISP?

ADB has provided a soft loan of $ 430 million to BISP for a period of 5 years (2013-2018) under Social Protection Development Project. The Government will also co-finance the project by providing $ 148.3 million. The soft loan has been borrowed at an interest rate of 2% and the Government would repay the loan in 25 years

The project design focuses on:

  1. the expansion of the coverage of the cash transfer program through the inclusion of pending eligible families;
  2. further development and roll out of the health insurance program  and
  3. Strengthening of the skills and development program

$ 347.6 million have been allocated for cash transfers to beneficiaries; $ 41.5 million have been earmarked for refinement and rollout of health insurance program; and $ 108.7 have been kept for strengthening of skills development program. ADB would also help BISP in strengthening financial management controls under the loan.

What are the financial resources of the BISP?

Government’s budgetary allocation is the main source of financing for BISP. The government had allocated an amount of Rs75 billion for the programme for the current year. Of this, Rs68bn would be provided by the government through budgetary allocations while the remaining Rs7 bn support is to be provided by international donors. International donor agencies and countries have also generously supported BISP because of its innovative technology based mechanisms. The World Bank has provided $ 210 million for cash transfers and co-responsibility cash transfers, The UK government through DFID has provided a grant of 300 million £ to BISP for the co-responsibility cash transfer (CCT) programme for primary education of the children of BISP beneficiaries. USAID provided a grant of $ 160 million which has been disbursed to beneficiaries under the cash transfer scheme. ADB earlier provided $ 150 million for use by BISP to make cash transfers to beneficiaries and now committed $ 430 million under Social Protection Development Project.

Have you found any irregularity in the utilization of funds by the previous government as it was considered the most corrupt regime?

Leakages are being checked in the coming month. We are having the third party audit by international organization from 2008-13 which will to unearth any wrong doings. Yes we do have some serious audit paras which will be dealt with under the law.

How the efficiency of the institution would be upgraded?

With the help of good governance and getting good people on board and placing right people for the right job.

Waheed Hussain is a TV anchor and Deputy Editor Centreline and Diplomatic News Agency (DNA)