A Message from Minister of State/ Chairperson BISP, MNA Marvi Memon
“The PML(N) Government strongly believes in serving the vulnerable of the country and has made commendable progress in this regard. Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is one such example which has been expanded significantly during PML (N) Government. BISP is the largest Social Safety Net System in the South Asian Region. It is a unique well functioning public sector program that has helped in the transformation of the social protection mechanism in the country. Established in 2008, one of BISP’s greatest accomplishments is the development of an objective targeting system using a Proxy Means Test based door-to-door census in 2010-11, which has built a credible National Socio Economic Registry (NSER) with a database of 27 million households (approx: 170 million people) for the first time ever in South Asia. The NSER has been acknowledged by all federating units as a national platform to improve pro-poor targeting of social expenditures with enhanced Federal and Provincial coordination.”
From initial budget of $0.4billion, it is now a $1.21billion programme which gives quarterly stipends of $48 per beneficiary to ensure that the most vulnerable, identified through an internationally acclaimed poverty scorecard, get the payments through electronic means, thus improving financial inclusiveness for the vulnerable women in Pakistan. Over a period of time, BISP has used various payment disbursement modes starting from Pakistan Post to Mobile Phone payments, payment through smart cards and Benazir Debit Card. With the advent and availability of new technologies and lessons learnt, a user friendly approach has now been conceived for payment through biometric verification system (BVS). BISP aims to complete conversion of all operations under different modes of payments to BVS in future. Considering that BVS gives ease of payment to illiterate beneficiaries, increases transparency and retains them in financial systems, it is an achievement that international community is eager to replicate.
As per third party evaluation in 2016, using the Food Energy Intake (FEI) poverty line, BISP reduced the poverty rate by 7 percentage points and while using the Cost of Basic Needs (CBN) poverty line as a reference BISP is associated with reduction in the poverty gap by 3 percentage points thus contributing to the SDG Goal 1 of No Poverty (deals with targeting the most vulnerable, increasing access to basic resources and services, and supporting communities affected by conflict and climate – related disasters). As per survey conducted in 2015-16, 76% of the surveyed BISP beneficiaries have stated that they have full control over how they spend their stipends. This in itself is a huge financial empowerment indicator for the poorest women of Pakistan. BISP is responsible for giving Computerized Identity Cards to over 4 million women, a mandatory requirement for getting stipends thus ensuring that the poorest women are politically empowered and are able to vote in elections. This democratic political empowerment has enabled them to have a say in their future and has also contributed to SDG Goal 5 relating to Gender Equality.
Over 1.67 million out of school children have been enrolled in schools under BISP’s Waseelae-Taleem programme. BISP beneficiary women receive Rs 250 ($2.5) per month per child enrolled. BISP WeT programme has contributed to SDG Goal 4 of Quality Education that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030. BISP’s stipend is mostly spent on food and as such contributes to reducing malnourishment rates of Pakistan. As per third party evaluation in 2016, BISP has continued to have an effect on increasing per adult equivalent monthly level of consumption expenditure of BISP beneficiary households with increase of Rs. 187 and an increase in per adult equivalent monthly food consumption of Rs 69 thus contributing to SDG Goal 2 of Zero Hunger (aims to end hunger, malnutrition, stunting) and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round. Making our poorest women healthy and free from disease is a goal of BISP. Working with provinces to reduce malnutrition/ stunting and improving the IQ levels of future generations is perhaps the most empowering task at BISP.
5.7 million women of BISP are organized in clusters of 25 women and are members of BISP Beneficiary committees. We currently have 62,559 such committees which meet monthly to discuss education, financial inclusion, nutrition, child health, family planning, adult literacy and other empowerment related issues. Through this intervention, BISP is contributing to SDG Goal 16 of Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (which deals with reduction of all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation, trafficking) by making the poorest women aware of their roles and rights. BISP is also contributing to SDG Goal 8 of Decent Work and Economic Growth (promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all) by its E-Commerce initiative for the financial
empowerment of its beneficiaries across the country. BISP is a social safety net that not only lends a hand in poverty management but also endeavors to harness entrepreneurial potential of its beneficiaries by marketing their products so that they may graduate out of poverty. BISP’s E-commerce is working to help the beneficiaries improve their economic condition by promoting their handicraft skills which in turn creates a softer image of the country. E-commerce will create greater linkages between home-based workers, local and international markets and buyers to ensure economic gains for poor women. This will minimize production costs, enhance efficiency and quality, and promote ethical practices. The proposed graduation model being fine-tuned by BISP management and partnered by leading development partners and key implementers will take BISP to a new and necessary era of poverty transformation to empowerment. The models on board are skill development, health insurance, asset creation and growth, micro financing, community funding and so on. These models have already been tested successfully in Pakistan.
National Socio Economic Registry (NSER) updation would be another milestone for BISP. NSER Updation is divided into two phases; pilot phase and the national roll out. The pilot phase of NSER Updation is near completion. After the completion of pilot phase and lessons learnt from it, national roll out of NSER Update would be launched. For NSER Updation, BISP has adopted Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) approach instead of Paper Assisted Personal Interviewing (PAPI). The registration application has inbuilt checks and controls capable of identifying errors. Blue tooth based synchronization of the enumerators and supervisors, is a quality control feature that will ensure error free registration. In order to ensure complete coverage of the population, computer based enlisting with the help of Google maps is also being utilized. The performance and coverage quality of survey teams is being monitored through a Visual Monitoring Coverage Assurance (VMCA) system. BISP’s updated NSER through new survey will prove to be a cornerstone for the future policy making of this country as it will ensure universal coverage of the widows, orphans, elderly and persons with special needs, making Pakistan a model welfare country in the world. The digital mapping of the data would be an asset for launching targeted subsidies on agriculture, electricity, education, health, nutrition and disaster targeted support to the poor. The addition of new questions in questionnaire related to rural/urban distribution, agro climatic zones, transgender, chronic diseases, mental disabilities, access to justice, vocational training will enhance the quality of data and will contribute to SDG Goal 11 of Sustainable Cities and Communities (aims to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons) and SDG Goal 12 of Responsible Consumption and Production (aims to achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources by substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse).
BISP has made itself the pride of Pakistan and a role model for international social safety nets, winning Pakistan recognition internationally thereby contributing to institution building and poverty management in Pakistan. We have learnt from the world and now we are in position to share our experiences and knowledge with others.