NSER National Socio-Economic Registry
As the major social safety net program of the Government of Pakistan, BISP maintains the National Socioeconomic Registry-a database containing information on the socioeconomic status of over 27 million households (HH) across Pakistan except two agencies of FATA. The registry was created as a result of a Poverty Scorecard Survey (PSC), the first of its kind, undertaken in the years 2010-11. Survey covered almost 87% population of the entire country. The registry enables BISP to identify eligible households through the application of a Proxy Means Test (PMT), to scientifically calculate the poverty levels of the households, that determines welfare status of the household on a scale between 0-100.
BISP data/NSER is used for provision of BISP benefits, including but not limited to, cash transfers, conditional and unconditional, to eligible beneficiaries. Additionally, BISP data is used by many other social development programs/initiatives launched by various provincial governments, donors, INGOs, NGOs and research organizations. More than 40 (see table 14 for list of organizations) other programs/initiatives have benefitted from BISP’s data till date. Most recently, the Prime Minister’s National Health Insurance (PMNHI) & Prime Minister’s Interest Free Loan (PMIFL) schemes and Punjab Social Protection Authority used BISP’s data, for launching their respective initiatives. This registry also covers various demographic characteristics of household. A demographic directory has been prepared using this database.
NSER updation would be another milestone for BISP. BISP has geared up all its efforts for NSER update. Socio Economic Registries often have errors at three levels i.e. Design level, Implementation level and due to time factor. These errors directly affect the accuracy of database. Internationally, the social safety data repositories (socio economic registries) are updated periodically through various tools/procedures. It is also an internationally accepted phenomenon that household demographics change to a considerable degree in 5 years of time. Any error at design, implementation level or due to time, may lead to inclusion or exclusion errors causing wastage of public resources.
The recent changes in the country’s economic indicators of poverty and unemployment may have significantly altered the household composition and demographic information. Similarly, there is a possibility that a household having entered BISP programme at a certain level of welfare may no longer need assistance following a significant positive change in its welfare condition, or new families that meet the eligibility criteria now need to enter the programme.
Keeping in view the transient nature of population around the poverty line and the internationally accepted phenomenon of change in HHs demographic profile over time, it is important for this flagship social safety net to start working on update of its NSER. An update of NSER will help to overcome the above mentioned three levels of errors especially the one associated with the time factor. Since BISP has made progressive development over last few years, the lessons learned can also minimize the errors associated with design and implementation during update of the NSER.
Besides, current NSER is a static registry i.e. it is unable to cater to changing socio economic conditions of the population surveyed 5 years ago. It can neither address the issue of population missed out by the previous survey, nor can it exclude those who may no longer need assistance, since the information has not been updated after the survey. International best practices suggest updating information periodically, within a 3-5 years period to ensure the validity of data. It is therefore imperative that the data/NSER be updated.
Approval of Updating the NSER
Considering the above given rationale of: age of the data; three levels of errors; transient nature of poverty and international best practices, it was felt that the database should be updated to cater for the changes in socio-economic conditions of the country through a re-survey. In this regard a proposal was placed before BISP board in July 2015, which approved, in principle, the update of the NSER. The Board advised that the NSER may be updated in consultation with an Advisory committee comprising eminent researchers, policy analysts and development partners. The Board was informed that, in order to explore the possibility of having a dynamic database, BISP is planning to try two different targeting approaches i.e. universal targeting through door-to-door survey and self-targeting through pre-established registration desks. The Board directed that Value-for-Money (VfM) of each approach used to update the registry may be assessed in the first phase and the approach to be adopted for national roll-out (second phase) would be decided on the basis of the results of first phase.
Following the Board’s direction, an Advisory Committee and a Technical Committee, consisting of renowned national and international researchers, poverty experts, and provincial representatives were constituted and meetings were held to deliberate the methodology, approach and the PMT tool. In light of consultation with both the Advisory and Technical Committee, BISP Management has made following decisions:
- It has been decided that NSER update will be carried out in two phases; Phase-I and Phase-II (national rollout). In Phase-I, survey in 15 districts throughout the country (including all the 4 provinces, AJK and GB) and one agency from FATA will be conducted. First Phase Districts have been selected considering regional heterogeneities; key parameters include population density, urbanization, level of development and accessibility. Phase-I will provide essential information for both the VFM and revision of operational strategies, if needed, for Phase-II.
- To reduce data collection and data entry error, BISP will take the advantages of technology by collecting the data through Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI).
- Data will be collected using the Poverty Score Card based on the Proxy Means Test. The PMT formula and the PSC have been revised and finalized in consultation with the technical teams of the World Bank and the Technical Committee established by BISP.
Testing Dynamic Registry (Desk Approach)
In line with global best practices, and the directions of Board and the Advisory & Technical Committees the NSER update will also test self-registration as a data collection methodology, which will be the first step towards making the registry dynamic. The design for self-registration is evolving; however, BISP has hired the services of NADRA to set up self-registration desks at the UC/Tehsil levels in 4 districts. As mentioned above, BISP is using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) in data collection. To identify the feasible methodology (self-registration through desk vs. door-to-door census) and to estimate the VFM associated, a door-to-door survey will be conducted in selected districts (where self-registration has already been implemented) to compare the efficiency of both the approaches including inclusion and exclusion errors and financial costs. The operational strategy, i.e. use of Desk vs. Universal Targeting, will be revisited after the results of the first phase are available. The capacity of partners, locations of desks, potential costs and logistics have been worked out for this approach. The data collection has already started in Haripur and Bahawalpur districts through Desk Approach.
As discussed above, NSER Update is to be carried out in two phases, i.e. Pilot Phase and National Rollout. Pilot Phase in 16 districts, along with Value-for-Money paper, would be finalized by May 2017, after which BISP will initiate the preparations for National Rollout. Under the directions of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, it has been decided in principle that whole of the country will be covered equally in the upcoming survey and no area will be left out. The overall NSER Update will be completed by February 2018, before the next general elections.