ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to revamp flagship Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and merge some of its major initiatives to plug leakages and loopholes.
“We are revisiting the entire BISP and trying to revamp its different components so that leakages are plugged and beneficiaries are pulled out of poverty,” BISP chairman Enver Baig told Dawn on Friday after a meeting with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
Mr Dar and Baig had detailed “discussions on various aspects of the programme with particular emphasis on ensuring transparency,” said an official statement, adding “the cash transfers must reach the deserving and the poorest of the poor.”
Mr Baig said that while cash grant scheme would continue as usual, there was a strong need to revamp some components, like Waseela-i-Haq, Waseela-i-Rozgar and Waseela-i-Seht because there were a lot of leakages going on that need to be plugged on immediate basis.
For example, the previous government had started Waseela-i-Rozgar scheme but it had no traces on ground, said Mr Baig who was a PPP Senator before joining the Pakistan Muslim League-N in April 2012.
“It is said that 50,000 people, both men and women, were trained in different skills under this programme but nobody knows where those people have gone,” he said.
Mr Baig said he was working on different aspects, including merger of Waseela-i-Haq and Waseela-i-Rozgar to block financial leakages.
Under the existing Waseela-i-Haq programme, the government extends a total financial support of Rs300,000 per head for fresh business.
An amount of Rs150,000 is paid as first instalment followed by a 10-day training and then second instalment of Rs150,000, but “what kind of business training could be provided to a villager in 10 days and hence the results are not encouraging. You cannot waste taxpayers’ money like this,” Mr Baiq said.
He said that while Rs1,200 per month cash grant would continue to be extended to a large number of families, the major objective should be to graduate a sizable number of families out of poverty, make them stand on their own feet and then bring into the programme some more families.
He said a total of about 7.2 million families had been identified for BISP assistance but only 5.1 million were currently benefiting the programme.
The remaining 2.1 million people were still outside the programme because they did not have national identity cards.
He said by the time identity cards were issued to them, some of the existing beneficiaries should be empowered enough to be able to voluntarily thank the government and move out because there was always a limit to government’s financial support.
The BISP chief said the government had allocated an amount of Rs75 billion for the programme for the current year. Of this, Rs68bn would be provided by the government through budgetary allocations while the remaining Rs7bn support is to be provided by international donors.
Responding to a question, Mr Baig said monitoring of the BISP has been very poor in the past and “we are studying a number of options to improve this aspect, otherwise public money would continue going down the drain without any impact on poverty reduction.”