ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi visited the headquarters of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) on Wednesday, for a detailing briefing on the Ehsaas programme and its various components.

Praising the programme and its National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER), Tahafuz and Kafalat components, Mr Alvi said these initiatives have been holistically designed and align with the government’s agenda of change through poverty alleviation.

He was also informed of the various interventions being made to benefit BISP beneficiaries. He was told that the payment mechanism for BISP beneficiaries has transformed greatly over the years, and biometric verification system-based payments have been adopted in 90pc of areas in coordination with banks, telecommunications companies and the National Database and Registration Authority.

BISP Chairperson Dr Sania Nishtar, who is also the minister for social protection and poverty alleviation, briefed Mr Alvi on the Ehsaas programme, its policies and its strategy.

She said the programme has 115 policy pillars to be executed with a multidimensional approach. A total of 28 agencies are involved in its implementation, she said.

BISP Secretary Ali Raza Bhutta spoke about BISP’s activities, including the NSER, unconditional cash transfers and new payment system, and conditional cash transfers.

The methodology for the Poverty Score Card was also discussed. It includes a doorstep survey of every household, a questionnaire administered through a computer application (43 variables) and a household’s assets and consumption data (proxy means test), and the calculation of each household’s scores out of 100.

Third party validation of the survey and validation of identification by Nadra is also carried out.

Mr Alvi was also told that new initiatives, including a grievance redress and appeals process, validating and cross-validating results and establishing a national data exchange portal are being introduced.

A savings account-linked limited mandate account is also being introduced for beneficiaries so they can withdraw cash in full or keep some money in a savings account. The savings account would be linked to a verified SIM card in the beneficiary’s name.

He was told that an interactive voice recording facility in local languages will also soon be provided at BISP call centres. Beneficiary awareness and financial literary initiatives leading to financial and digital inclusion are also being implemented.

The Conditional Cash Transfer programme, functional in 50 districts across the country, was also mentioned. Mr Alvi was informed that each beneficiary household is provided Rs750 per quarter per child under the programme on the condition of 70pc attendance in the quarter.

He was told that 2.7 million children have been enrolled in school, 49pc of whom are girls, with a budget of Rs3.16 billion in 2018-19. He was told that the impact of the programme according to Oxford Policy Management is the increase in enrolment of children in schools, with 13pc for boys and 15pc for girls, and an attendance rate of 83pc for boys and 81pc for girls.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2019