KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has developed a framework to onboard the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) beneficiaries for receiving social welfare payments into their accounts to be opened in all banks and microfinance banks.

The SBP said the framework has been developed in consultation with the BISP and banks.

Under the framework, about 9.3 million BISP beneficiaries can open a “BISP Sahulat Account” in a single visit to the designated bank branch within their vicinity. The BISP has mapped its beneficiaries with a bank branch near them.

However, given the large number of beneficiaries, the framework will be implemented in phases. Initially, a pilot phase will be run in Karachi and Lahore to, onboarding about 300,000 BISP beneficiaries. After the pilot phase is successful, the framework coverage will be extended to other cities in consultation with BISP, said the SBP.

The SBP said, “The framework is expected to facilitate the efficient and transparent disbursement of social welfare payments to BISP beneficiaries, enhance women’s financial inclusion, and promote the digitisation of financial services.”

The BISP was widely criticised for gross misuse of funds, but the government finds it helpful for people who are unable to pay their day-to-day expenses. The latest move is apparently to plug the leakages and pilferages of the funds.

To enable the BISP’s beneficiaries to receive their financial assistance directly into their bank accounts, the SBP has asked banks and microfinance banks to open accounts for the beneficiaries as per the arrangement made for this purpose. The framework will initially be adopted as a pilot for onboarding BISP beneficiaries in Karachi and Lahore. After the successful implementation of the pilot phase, the scope of the framework, with adjustments if needed, will be extended to other cities. The BISP will disburse the funds into these accounts through RAAST/IBFT.

The banks will arrange employee training programmes to facilitate BISP beneficiaries during the account/ ATM PIN activation and subsequent disbursement process. The banks will recover all upfront and ongoing costs associated with account opening, issuance and maintenance of ATM cards from the BISP, and no such charges will be levied on the BISP beneficiaries.

However, the fee for issuance of a replacement or duplicate debit or ATM Card before its expiry will be recovered from the BISP beneficiary.

The banks will not issue chequebooks to the BISP account holder or activate internet/mobile banking facilities.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2024

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