BISP widening scope to ameliorate lot of poor segment

By Shumaila Noreen

ISLAMABAD, Aug 14 (APP):Besides economic stability and strengthening democracy, ameliorating the lot of poor people most often remains the center point of the policies of the governments in third world countries.

Such initiatives are either executed through indigenous resources or with the help of international donor agencies to mitigate the sufferings of the poorest of the poor and meeting the global poverty alleviation targets.

The present coalition government in Pakistan, has also set various targets to strengthen the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) and its allied schemes by allocating increased budget and adding new initiatives.

Upholding the mission of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto of providing relief to the downtrodden segments of society, the government has approved a relief package worth Rs. 28 billion to benefit a total of 14 million people under the Sasta Petrol/Diesel Scheme of BISP.

Announcing such scheme a time when the government had to take difficult decision of increasing petrol/diesel price due to price hike in international market, is a reflection of its commitment to help out those living below poverty line and worst hit by recession due to ineffective policies of the previous government.

The Sasta Petrol/Diesel scheme has been introduced for the first time in country’s history by any government to provide Rs 2000 to the 14 million families (over all 90 million people approximately) in wake of increased fuel prices to improve the country’s economic indicators.

BISP widening scope to ameliorate lot of poor segment

Hailed as a timely measure to provide the much-needed respite, the payment process under the Sasta Petrol/Sasta Diesel scheme was executed in a transparent manner to provide relief to masses.

Nazeeran Mai, a beneficiary of the scheme said that the amount of Rs. 2000 means a lot for the poor like us and hoped the government would increase it further keeping in view the prevailing price hike.

“This is sigh of relief for the poor people like us. We can use this money to meet some of our needs. It would a favor if this amount is enhanced in days to come,” she said.

Benazir Kifalat is currently the largest cash transfer program in Pakistan’s history focusing different segments of society and disbursing cash assistance to eight million beneficiaries (21% of the total population).

The program has so far disbursed approximately Rs. 1.2 trillion (USD 6 billion) among its beneficiaries and set a target to increase its enrollment up to nine million beneficiaries (24% of the total population) by end of fiscal 2022-23 through increased allocation.

BISP widening scope to ameliorate lot of poor segment

Benazir Taleemi Wazaif which is a Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, initiated in 2012 has so far enrolled around eight million children and disbursed approximately Rs. 40 billion (USD 200 million) among them while the next target is to enroll three million additional children during financial year 2022-23 through the allocation of Rs. 35 billion (USD 175 million).

Benazir Nashonuma Program is another CCT intervention for BISP Kifalat beneficiary families to increase the uptake of health and nutrition services by focusing on stunting prevention and promoting dietary diversity during the first 1000 days.

The program has so far enrolled 0.2 million children and disbursed around Rs. eight billion (USD 40 million) assistance with its future targets set to expand this initiative in all districts of the country and enrolment of 1.5 million families by the end of year 2023 through the allocations of Rs. 21 billion (USD 105 million) for the current financial year.

Benazir Undergraduate Scholarship project provides merit cum needs-based scholarships for 4-5 years of undergraduate education to cover tuition fee and living expenses of the deserving students from low-income families.

The program has disbursed approximately Rs. 13.295 billion (USD 66.475 million) in last two years to 92,003 unique awardees while the future targets include continuity of the scholarship to the existing awardees and 10,000 new slots are to be funded under Batch-III through the allocation of Rs. 9.5 billion (USD 47.5 million) for the financial year 2022-23.

Chairperson BISP, Shazia Marri expressed the commitment that the BISP initiatives including Waseela-i-Haq and Waseela-i-Rozgar that were closed by the previous government would be revived, aiming to make the poor people self-reliant.

“The budgetary allocations for the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) has been increased up to Rs. 364 billion from Rs. 250 billion for the year 2022-23 which shows the government’ commitment towards welfare of poor segments,” she said.

“Our initiatives are reflective of our commitment. Alleviating poverty and providing relief to needy people is center point of agenda,” she said and mentioned that due to current price hike globally, it has become more urgent to devise poor centric policies. Through Benazir Shock Responsive Emergency Cash Transfer initiatives, BISP provides response to national emergencies.

An amount of over Rs. 179.27 billion (USD 896.35 million) has been disbursed to 14.83 million beneficiaries (including regular Kifalat beneficiaries) in Phase-1 while approximately Rs. 29.74 billion (USD 148.7 million) were disbursed to around 2.48 million beneficiary families under Phase-Two.