LAHORE, Sept 14: The Punjab may provide 50 per cent of flour price increase in the last one year as targeted subsidy to the poor, using the Benazir Income Support Programme data that identifies 2.6 million families in the province.
According to authors of the plan, this would cost the province around Rs5 billion. The provincial government has saved around Rs10 billion wheat subsidy by raising the release price from earlier planned Rs1,275 per 40-kg to Rs1,330.
“Out of these Rs10 billion saving, the provincial government, to begin with, wants to pass on 50 per cent of the saving to the poor in targeted subsidy,” says an official of the Punjab government.
The food department has been asked to evolve the mechanism and the chief minister may approve the final version by next week when he returns from abroad.
According to broader contours of the plan, the flour prices have increased from Rs670 per 20 kilo bag to Rs785 – a difference of Rs115, or little less than Rs6 per kg – in the last one year. If internationally accepted consumption of 124-kg per person per year is taken as a benchmark, one requires around six bags of 20 kilo every year.
According to BISP and Pakistan Social and Living Standards (PSLM), the average household in Punjab consists of six persons; thereby needing around additional Rs4,000 for flour purchase. Out of it, Punjab plans to pick 50 per cent (Rs2,000 to each family) of the expenditure.
The BISP had identified 2.6 million such families in Punjab, out of which 1.2 million already have cards. Out of remaining 1.4 million, some 500,000 people already have identity cards and can be quickly included in the plan. The rest 900,000 would be brought in the net in the next few months for entitlement to the subsidy package.
“Though the BISP data can be used, Punjab is planning new cards to transfer the subsidy money instead of using BISP cards,” the official told Dawn. Once prepared, the cards would provide basic documentation for the entire subsidy regime like food, health and education. The money would probably be disbursed quarterly. The BISP cards were made in the name of women because they are the ones running homes. So, the new cards might also be in the name of women to facilitate them in household running. This is the first experiment that can be expanded later on for all kinds of subsidies, ending general subsidies and restricting the money to the poor only.”
“The Punjab has documentation of Bureau of Statistics, PSLM and Benazir Income Support Programme that covers around 87 per cent of population. All this data might also undergo third-party evaluation for further transparency. The banks are being involved for cards and money transfer to keep everything above board,” he said.