Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has made commendable progress under the PMLN government during the last four years highlighting the commitment of the government to the poor and vulnerable of the country. The budget allocation for BISP that was Rs 70 billion in 2013 jumped to Rs 121 billion in 2017. The quarterly stipend increased from Rs 3000/quarter in 2013 to Rs 4834 in 2016. BISP has made itself the pride of Pakistan and a role model for international social safety nets winning Pakistan recognition internationally thereby contributing to institution building and poverty alleviation in Pakistan.
The number of beneficiaries that were paid stipend in 2013 was 3.78 million whereas in 2017, 5.46 million beneficiaries have been paid stipend. Total Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) to BISP beneficiaries in 2013 stood at Rs 161.6 billion whereas total payments of Rs 515 billion have been made till 2017. In 2012-13, disbursements worth Rs 43.30 billion were made whereas in 2016-2017, Rs 102.8 billion have been disbursed depicting an increase in spending on the welfare of poor by PMLN government. The service charges were reduced from 4% to 2.75% during PMLN tenure which ensured billions of rupees of savings for the exchequer.
In terms of the provincial data, the current BISP beneficiaries in AJK are 104,533, Balochistan 235,759, FATA 159,047, GB 46,883, KPK 976,219, Punjab 2,022,831, Sindh 1,905,436 and Islamabad 9,537. These numbers will automatically change when the new survey which is going to be completed in 2018 will be in place. We are expecting these numbers to be more representative of the poorest in each province going forward.
Financial Inclusion being a major domestic and international objective of a cash transfer program like BISP, the modes of payment have been improved in the PMLN tenure. Whilst BISP takes credit for having brought 5.4 million of the poorest women in the banking and voting systems of the country, its modes have graduated over time. The payments made through Post Office, Smart Cards and Benazir Debit Card are being converted to payments through BVS (Biometric Verification System) and 43 districts have been converted to BVS till date. Currently 37% of the beneficiaries are receiving payments through BVS, 60% through Benazir Debit Card (BDC) and 3% through Pakistan Post. During last quarterly payment, 1.9 million beneficiaries withdrew their stipend through BVS. Considering that BVS gives ease of payment to illiterate beneficiaries, increases transparency and retains them in the financial systems, it is an achievement rest of the international social safety nets are eager to replicate.
There has been significant improvement in ratings by development partners during the last four years. Department for International Development (DFID) has rated BISP as A and World Bank (WB) upgraded its ranking from satisfactory to highly satisfactory owing to its to effective service delivery and transparency. BISP has successfully achieved all Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs) under WB and DFID and met all targets set under IMF’s Extended Fund Facility. Moreover, donor commitments to the overall BISP budget are less than 10%. The details of current donor commitments are as follows:
- World Bank under the National Social Protection Programme has committed US$ 100 million by 2020.
- DFID under the National Cash Transfer Programme-Tranche 2 committed US$ 130 million by 2020.
- ADB committed US$ 94 million by Dec 2018 including 35 million allocated for BISP Graduation Programme.
Under the Waseela-e-Taleem (WeT) initiative, BISP has successfully increased enrolment from 23,000 children to 1.7 million children enrolled in schools across Pakistan and Rs 4.69 billion have been disbursed to the mothers of enrolled children on 70% attendance compliance. 52% of the enrolled children are boys and 48% are girls. It is a remarkable achievement as in 2013 only 23000 children were enrolled in schools and there was nil disbursement under Waseela-e-Taleem. In addition to above 55,000 public and private schools have had their supply capacity done as well. For social mobilization BISP has constituted 50,000 BBCs aimed at educating beneficiaries regarding BISP, WeT, immunization, nutrition, cash withdrawal and women empowerment. This is the silent women empowerment revolution which will be remembered in Pakistan’s history.
The National Socioeconomic Registry (NSER) which is Pakistan’s only demographic directory of households in public domain has been creating international standards in the field and is currently ranked number 5 in the world. The objective of PMLN update of NSER is to achieve world class number 1 position in this technical field. So far good progress has been made in achieving this milestone.
The pilot phase of survey for NSER update is underway that would be completed by August end. In ten districts door to door survey whereas in 4 districts desk registration approach was adopted. 90% survey has been completed in these 10 districts whereas door to door survey in desk based districts would be completed by October 2017. The survey coverage progress (Aug 15, 2017) is significantly better than the 2010 survey. So far 2,608,703 households have been covered. In Balochistan, where coverage had been lower in 2010 special efforts are underway and average of 120% coverage has already been achieved.
Nationwide rollout is expected to complete before mid 2018. The ongoing survey is technology enabled that is being done on tablets and there is intensive supervision in terms of evaluation by operation review firms, internal monitoring and citizens’ hotline. The unique feature of the survey through tablet is the enhanced MIS, dashboard software capability which has been developed in house by BISP and is the exportable part which is being flagged as world class and ensuring BISP NSER reaches number one position in the world.
In the past NSER has been used by BISP and many other organizations. Some of them are as follows: the PM National Health Insurance (PMNHI), PM Interest Free Loan (PMIFL), Punjab Khidmat Card, Punjab Local Government Department, KP Insaaf Card, Balochistan Food Department for Food, Sindh Finance Department and Sindh Education Foundation, Government of GB. The private sector has also used this data. Going forward we expect the Planning Department to use NSER data for better planning.
The impact evaluation studies carried out by Oxford Policy Management were made public during PMLN tenure. The impact evaluation has depicted a positive impact on poverty reduction and women empowerment. As per third impact evaluation report, there was an increase in per adult equivalent monthly consumption expenditure of BISP household by Rs 187. BISP has managed to reduce poverty in its beneficiaries by 7% points. An increase in per adult equivalent food consumption by Rs 69 resulted in reduction of malnutrition and stunting among girls. Enrollment of children of BISP beneficiaries in primary schools has increased by 10%.
BISP is working to mobilize beneficiaries to avail social/welfare services and create linkages with other government and non government initiatives. BISP has collaborated with other organizations as well in order to help its beneficiaries benefit from other welfare schemes. More than 354,847 BISP households have been enrolled in PMNHI. More than 181,088 BISP households got interest free loans from Akhuwat, PMIFYL, PPAF and other provincial schemes. More than 17,107 BISP beneficiaries obtained vocational training. E-commerce initiative was also launched to bring markets closer to BISP beneficiaries. BISP is also considering various graduation models so that its beneficiaries may become self sufficient and exit out of poverty.
BISP has transformed itself into the pride of Pakistan and is well positioned to be showcased as Pakistan’s efficient public sector organization whilst improving the lives of the most vulnerable in Pakistan. The achievements under PMLN have been widely recognized internationally. As we enter our fifth year of government we are committed to ensure that we over perform on targets as we have been doing consistently in last few years.
The writer is Chairperson BISP