ISLAMABAD: The Asian Develop­ment Bank (ADB) on Monday approv­ed a $200 million loan as additional financing to help support the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), which supports more than five million eligible families across the country through over $3.6 billion in total cash transfers disbursed so far.

The $200m additional financing for the project will continue to support cash transfers as well as help the BISP implement institutional strengthening measures. The ADB-financed Social Protection Development Project, approved in October 2013, has enabled the enrolment of over 855,000 women beneficiaries to the BISP, or about 15 per cent of the eligible beneficiaries.

The ADB’s additional financing will support further institutional strengthening and improvements in financial management and controls in the BISP.

A policy research unit would also be established within the BISP to help monitor and improve the performance of ongoing programmes and design new cost-effective and evidence-based initiatives such as poverty graduation programmes and conditional cash transfers for health and nutrition in line with global best practices, said the ADB Country Director for Pakistan, Xiaohong Yang.

Official says a policy research unit will be set up to improve the performance of programmes

The BISP is part of a larger government strategy called ‘Ehsaas’ to reduce poverty and inequality. The BISP, which is primarily funded by the government of Pakistan, supports ‘Ehsaas’ through cash transfers, poverty graduation programmes and a targeted social safety net.

“Social protection programmes like the BISP are crucial to ensure that the poorest segments of the population do not go further into poverty, especially at a time when the country is facing difficult macroeconomic challenges,” said Tariq Niazi, Director of Public Management, Financial Sector, and Trade at ADB’s Central and West Asia Department.

Mr Niazi said: “We are also committed to helping the government implement alternative modalities for social protection and poverty reduction such as asset transfer programmes that promote improved human capital and reduce intergenerational poverty.”

The ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to $21.6 billion.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2019