Ehsaas emergency cash among top four such initiatives globally: World Bank

Published May 16, 2021
The World Bank has recently released the report on global social protection responses to Covid-19. — Dawn/File
The World Bank has recently released the report on global social protection responses to Covid-19. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank in a report released on Saturday recognised Ehsaas Emergency Cash among top four social protection interventions globally in terms of number of people covered.

The World Bank has recently released the report on global social protection responses to Covid-19.

The report is a partnership effort involving 18 co-authors. It presents a 650-page volume and accompanying database documenting how countries and territories are planning, implementing or completing social protection measures in the context of the pandemic.

The report states that there has been an exponential growth in social protection measures between March 20 last year and May 14 this year and that 3,333 social protection measures have been planned or implemented in 222 countries or territories.

Pakistan ranks fourth in terms of the number of people covered and third in terms of percentage of population globally covered amongst those that covered over 100 million people.

Says Rs12,000 stipend given to 15m households last year, which meant helping over 100m people

The World Bank has stated that only select countries have attained impressive six-digit levels in this regard. Pakistan’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash is one of them.

The lead author of the paper is Ugo Gentilini, head of Social Protection at the World Bank. The report is accompanied by a spreadsheet as well to make available the larger volume of data.

According to the report, Pakistan’s Ehsaas also ranked high amongst the programmes that did well in terms of planned versus actual coverage rates.

Most of social protection measures are provided as social assistance. These represent 55 per cent of global programmes and are the predominant form of support in most regions.

Among social assistance measures, cash transfers remain the premier inst­rument. A total of 734 cash-based measures have been planned or implemen­ted in 186 countries. Highest level of spending in lower middle-income countries category is observed in Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Bolivia and Pakistan.

One of the special features of the report is on delivery matters.

According to the report, globally, there were essentially four ways to find and enroll new beneficiaries, the first of which was to simply add households to the list from an existing social registry.

Pakistan adopted an innovative hybrid targeting approach to enroll new beneficiaries combining emergency assistance for the known vulnerable people with demand-based support for the new poor.

Requests were sought through an 8171 SMS short code service and web-portal. Data analytics enabled eligibility ascertainment, using unique nati­onal identification numbers and drawing on the National Socio-economic Registry and wealth proxies (travel, taxes, billing, assets ownership data and government employment status).

The system was end-to-end data-driven, fully automated, rule-based, transparent and politically neutral. Payments were biometrically verified.

Ehsaas Emergency Cash delivered stipends of Rs12,000 to 15m households last year, which meant helping over 100m people or half the country’s population, representing the largest and most extensive social protection intervention ever in the history of Pakistan.

Digital capabilities established over the past year as part of Ehsaas, Pakis­tan’s new poverty alleviation framework, were adapted to deliver Ehsaas Emergency Cash, in particular, a new biometric payment system, a demand side SMS-based request seeking platform and a new wealth-profiling big data analytics mechanism.

Ehsaas Emergency Cash will be an important component of the redesign of social protection, post-Covid-19 and will help in the great global reimagination of social welfare envisaged in Ehsaas. The programme also demonstrated how cash transfer programmes can be deployed to counter socio-economic fallouts due to external shocks such as Covid-19.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2021

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