ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the Financial Inclusion Strategy initiative on Tuesday under his government’s flagship poverty alleviation programme Ehsaas with Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, in attendance, who is visiting Pakistan chiefly to discuss the programme.
“We are pursuing policies that will help the poor section of society under various programmes, hence we launched Ehsaas, which has compassion as its core ingredient,” said the premier at the inauguration ceremony.
In his speech, he criticised a worldwide system in which rich nations were getting richer and poor countries poorer. “This is the biggest curse of this universe.”
He backed his statement by citing a UN report which states that 26 richest billionaires own assets equivalent to 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population.
Addressing the ceremony, Queen Maxima said that financial inclusion is key to providing sustenance to the poor, job opportunities and education to children which will eventually afford economic stability to the country overall. She said women, especially from rural areas in Pakistan, must become familiar with financial technology as their inclusion is negligible as compared to men.
The queen has been United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance since 2009. In this capacity, she works actively worldwide to promote access to financial services of low-income groups and small and medium enterprises, with the aim of improving their economic and social development opportunities. One of her priorities is ensuring that women can access financial services.
Detailed overviews of the Ehsaas programme were given to the queen and other attendees by Special Assistant to the PM on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar and Adviser on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh who were present at the ceremony.
Dr Nishtar said financial inclusion under Ehsaas includes Ehsaas-Kifalat: One Woman One Bank Account Policy. Under this policy, steps were taken to reform the Benazir Income Support Programme cash-transfer scheme, enabling digital and financial inclusion.
Dr Shaikh gave Queen Maxima a detailed overview of the economic situation in Pakistan with a focus on various policy steps and initiatives undertaken by the government to restore macroeconomic stability and the progress achieved in recent months.
Queen Maxima last visited Pakistan in 2016. She is the latest royal to visit the country following the October visit of Britain’s Prince William and Princess Kate Middleton.
Amin Ahmed also contributed to the report
Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2019