ISLAMABAD, June 12: The government has renamed the Benazir Income Support Programme as the Income Support Programme and increased its allocation by 87.5 per cent to Rs75 billion (from Rs40bn) for the fiscal year 2013-14.

Over the past few weeks there have been reports that the PML-N government will reduce the size of the programme and also rename it.

Although the name of the programme has been changed, its size has been raised substantially.

“I am happy to announce that I was the architect of the Income Support Programme in 2008 and introduced it as finance minister when we were part of the government for a brief period,” Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said in his budget speech.

He said he had designed the programme to identify the poor and needy who genuinely deserved social protection.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed us that social protection through income support programme should continue,” he said, adding that the programme had been designed to support the poor on a non-political basis, but it had lost its original essence because of political interference.

Mr Dar said the government’s priority was to identify poor families and support them through the programme.

“We will try to rectify problems in the programme and will further enhance the scope of social protection through it so that we can reach out to the poorest of poor in society. We will redesign the programme and bring in change to meet its original targets,” Mr Dar said.

Largely dependent on donors’ money, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) was launched in October 2008 with an initial allocation of Rs34bn to provide social security cover to families living below the poverty line.

Its funding was increased to Rs70bn in 2011-12 to cover 5.5 million families across the country.

According to an international donor agency’s official, the World Bank provided a loan of $150 million to the BISP in September last year. The British Department for International Development also provided a grant of £279 million for different BISP projects in November last year.

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