ISLAMABAD, Mar 27 (APP):Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday launched a Rs 80 billion comprehensive poverty alleviation programme “Ehsas” aimed at helping the downtrodden and vulnerable segments of the society, including the poor, orphans, widows, homeless, disabled, undernourished, jobless etc.

Unveiling the salient features the poverty alleviation programme here, he said the government would allocate an additional amount of Rs 80 billion in the country’s social protection spending in backward areas from the current year, which would be raised to Rs 120 billion in 2021.

The Prime Minister also announced the establishment a new Ministry of Social Protection/Poverty Alleviation to address the current fragmentation. Various institutions likes the BISP, PBM, Zakat, PPAF etc would be working under that ministry, which would develop a one-window operation for social protection of the poor and to facilitate citizens, he added.

He said the government would introduce a new constitutional amendment to move Article 38(d) from the “Principles of Policy” section into the “Fundamental Rights” section.

The change would make provision of food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief for the citizens, who could not earn a livelihood due to infirmity, sickness or unemployment, a state responsibility, the Prime Minister said and described it first step towards the creation of a welfare state. Prime Minister Imran Khan while realizing that 25% to 40% of people in Pakistan were suffering from poverty, the government wanted targeted subsidies, adding, the government would have a new survey of poverty to be completed by December this year.

He said the government was also launching a new program “Kafalat” under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), adding, the new program would have fives pillars. 

The prime minister said under the new program which was aimed at economic empowerment of women, 5.7 million women would be given savings accounts under the “one woman one bank account plan”.
He said 500 BISP and Pakistan Bait ul Mal (PBM) offices would be transformed into digital hubs where the government’s IT, technology and innovation resources would be pooled.

The government’s digital resources, such as access to the labor information system, online curricula, and one window social protection interface would be accessible and create opportunities for BISP families to graduate out of poverty, he added.

The prime minister said the government would not just give money to the poor but link it with health, and nutrition-related assistance, which would help address stunting of children.

He said, under Kifalat, the government would raise the current cash transfer of Rs5,000 to Rs5,500.

He said the government was launching a precision safety net, called “Tahafaz” to protect individuals from catastrophic risks—a transparent and trackable digital system of cash transfers through which the government would give legal aid, education grants and health assistance to those without Insaf card entitlements. 

He said the government also had plans to graduate BISP beneficiaries out of poverty for the most backward districts, adding, a program for asset transfers worth Rs5 billion in five districts had additionally been launched through Kifalat.

The prime minister said the government would use the social mobilization skills of the rural support programs and their network of community organizations for this purpose. 

In Tahafaz, he said, the government would provide assistance to poor widows who had no source of income and no earning children.

To help the most marginalized segments of the society, he said, his government would partner with organizations that support street children, seasonal migrants, transgender, victims of child and bonded labor and daily wage workers who do not find daily work.

He said, in order to provide a secure future for the orphans, the PBM would expand its network of Ehsas homes for children to provide decent living, food, education and health facilities to 10,000 children in four years.

The prime minister said the government would also help upscale reputed private institutions for orphans, so that the government could fulfill its objectives of serving the poor.

He said the government had already committed to launching the Insaf Insurance Card in 38 districts for 3.3 million people over a four-year period and had committed Rs33 billion for this.  

In addition, he said, through “Tahafaz” the government would cater to additional needs of those requiring financial access to treatment.

The government would make sure every poor and deserving person approaching public hospitals had access to treatment and surgery, he added. Prime Minister Imran Khan said as the stunted growth was linked with malnutrition and poor sanitation, he had directed that de-worming drugs, iron folic acid and micro nutrient supplements of quality should be made available at all government hospitals and BHUs (Basic Health Units). Awareness about breast-feeding should also be created in rural areas, he added.

He referred to a survey and tests of unpacked milk conducted in a city and said it showed 75% adulteration. The government would launch a pilot programme to ensure the availability of pure milk initially in Islamabad and Lahore, he added.

The Prime Minister said with an aim to help poor village women to earn their livelihood, the government would provide them with buffaloes, cows, goats and hens. It was a worldwide tried and test method of poverty alleviation, he added.

He said asset transfer of goats could be both income-generating as well as nutrition boosting.

Similarly, he said a kitchen gardening initiative would also be introduced where subsidized certified seed and seedlings would be promoted both through the entrepreneurial model as well as CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). 

The Prime Minister besides urging the edible oil companies to give seed packets along with oil cans, also directed the Utility Stores to do likewise, as such small things used to make difference.

He regretted that during the last ten years of democracy the country’s debt swelled to Rs 30,000 billion from Rs 6,000 billion. Rs 6 billion was spent per day as interest of those loans, he added.The Prime Minister said the government was adopting a new policy of placing placards outside of each BHU and hospital mentioning the amount allocated and the staff meant to be present to increase transparency. 

He said in the Kifalat programme, the government was designing a conditional cash transfer for health and education for six million women and families so that they could have access to nutrition assistance. 

The Prime Minister said he was establishing a high level multi-sectoral nutrition coordinating body within his office. It would also include the private sector to ensure food fortification and supplementation, he added.

He said the government was launching a programme under which wheelchairs, tripod / quadripod sticks, and crutches would be provided to the Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). 

In addition, the government would partner with the civil society and expert organizations to develop 20 centers for the physically challenged in under-privileged districts, he added.

The Prime Minister said the government was also taking steps to look after the welfare of the workers abroad, who come from low income groups and go abroad to provide basic needs for their families.

He said the government was increasing the role and number of Community Welfare Attaches, and Protectors of Emigration Office (PoEs), besides enhanced duration of briefing and training sessions prior to departure for intended migrant workers arranged by the Protector of Emigrants / Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis.

The Prime Minister said he had instructed all PoEs to create one window for all types of requirements and make workers aware about their entitlements. 

He referred to a study which showed that unskilled workers hardly recover their cost of migration in three to four years and said the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis had been instructed to negotiate with foreign governments to extend the duration of the first contract agreement from one year to at least three years.

The Prime Minister said the government had decided that migrant unskilled workers, earning less than a given income and who had not visited home for more than seven years, would be provided subsidy on air tickets. 

He said the government would create panahgahs (shelter homes) in several major cities of the country.

The Prime Minister said the government’s housing scheme would center on facilitating provision of homes to the poor (including landless farmers), through interest free loans. The government had allocated Rs 4.5 billion for the purpose.
   
He also announced increase in the monthly labour pension through EOBI (Employees Old Age Benefit Institution) from Rs 5,250 to 6,500. The government had instructed that biometric payments should be used for all labour pensioners from next year to counter pilferage. 

The Prime Minister said the Pakistan Bait ul Mal would establish five great Ehsas homes (old people’s homes) this year, and the number would be raised by the passage of time. 

He said since education was a basic human right under Article 25A of the Constitution, an awareness drive would be aimed at Article 25-A so that the poor become aware of their right. 

The Prime Minister said with focus on federal areas and lagging districts of provinces, where only private schools existed, the government would provide either pre-paid education vouchers to children or had managed contracts with the private schools.

Being aware of the special problem of inability to reach children where there were dispersed populations, the government would make e-learning content freely available online and use chat bots in local languages for displaced populations, he added.

 He said the government would allocate Rs 3 billion per annum for scholarships in the higher education particularly in backward areas.

The Prime Minister also announced a policy of corporate farming to help farmers with fragmented and small land holdings, adding, the government would provide market stimulus for livestock and fisheries in arid zones to create livelihood opportunities for small farmers.
 
He said the microfinance sector had grown substantially over the past 20 years. There were now more than 40 microfinance institutions in Pakistan, which disburse more than Rs. 400 billion annually, and help the poor graduate out of poverty.

Given that this sector is now well regulated, his government will work on facilitating the expansion of microfinance services to reach remote and un-served areas, he added.

The Prime Minister said as technical education was important because youth with skills had a much better chance of getting a productive job and also for self-employment, the government would include skills training in school curricula; from the 8th class.

The age of enrollment in technical training was also being decreased from 18 to 15 so that after matriculation, skills training can be started immediately, he added.

 The Prime Minister said to facilitate remittances, the government was introducing a slab for remitters of upto US$ 100 with half of the existing fee.

He said as the entire agenda was heavily skewed towards the uplift of poor women, more than 50% of the education vouchers and scholarships would be for women.

The Prime Minister referred to the government’s five million housing programme and said the government would ensure that women have joint ownership of houses.

He said all the ministries would ensure that every PC-1 had impact on poverty and equality. 

The Prime Minister said the government would introduce the new local government system in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Referring to the poor living in Katchi Abadis, he announced that high-rise buildings would be constructed and the poor families living in those areas would be given flats with ownership rights.

Earlier, Chairperson Poverty Alleviation Coordination Council Dr Sania Nishtar , in her welcome remarks, highlighted the aims and objectives of the poverty alleviation programme ‘Ehsas’.