ISLAMABAD: Economic Affairs Division secretary Noor Ahmed and Asian Development Bank Country Director Xiaohong Yang exchange documents after signing a loan agreement between Pakistan and the ADB. Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar witnessed the ceremony.—APP
ISLAMABAD: Economic Affairs Division secretary Noor Ahmed and Asian Development Bank Country Director Xiaohong Yang exchange documents after signing a loan agreement between Pakistan and the ADB. Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar witnessed the ceremony.—APP

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Devel­o­pment Bank (ADB) signed on Friday a loan agreement with the government for providing $200 million additional financing to support institutional strengthening of Pakistan’s flagship social protection programme.

The ADB-financed social protection development project, approved in October 2013, has enabled the enrollment of over 855,000 women beneficiaries to the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). The additional financing will ensure continuation of the ADB support to this initiative as well as help BISP to implement institutional strengthening measures.

BISP — considered one of the largest social protection programmes in South Asia — is part of a larger government strategy called Ehsaas to reduce poverty and inequality. BISP, which is primarily funded by the government of Pakistan, supports Ehsaas through cash transfers, poverty graduation programs, and a targeted safety net.

Minister says the assistance will provide support to the poorest segment of population

ADB Country Director Xiaohong Yang and Economic Affairs Division Secretary Noor Ahmed signed the loan agreement for additional financing. BISP Secretary Ali Raza Bhutta signed the accompanying project agreement with ADB. Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar witnessed the signing ceremony.

On the occasion, Ms Xiaohong said that ADB was “committed to helping the government implement alternative modalities for social protection and poverty reduction that promote improved human capital and reduction in intergenerational poverty”.

Minister Hammad Azhar appreciated ADB’s commitment to supporting Pakistan and its people and said that the assistance from the Bank will help further strengthen the national social protection programme and provide support to the poorest segment of the population under the government’s Ehsaas strategy.

He emphasised that Ehsaas was a multi-pronged strategy encompassing many pro-poor initiatives which not only aimed for poverty alleviation but also included poverty graduation programmes.

BISP Secretary Bhutta added that the government valued the long-standing partnership of ADB and its support for the Ehsaas strategy. He said that “the policy research unit that will also be established under the project will help BISP in developing and refining the design of new initiatives for promoting primary education and to address the issue of stunting among the poor population through conditional cash transfers”.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2019

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