The Government of Pakistan launched the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) – the National Cash Transfer Programme (NCTP) – in July 2008, as the premier safety net institution in Pakistan. BISP originally came into being in the face of rapid food price inflation, which saw food, grain and fuel prices reaching a 30-year highest in 2008 and the global economic downturn in 2009 which further decreased the welfare of already vulnerable households. The Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), a targeted unconditional cash transfer program in Pakistan was implemented by focusing on poor women with an immediate objective of consumption smoothing and cushioning the negative effects of slow economic growth.
According to World Bank (2015) social safety net programs help reduce the poverty gap by 15% around the world. In this backdrop, the programme was designed with the core objective of consumption smoothening for the poor families and providing them cushion against negative economic shocks which include global financial crisis, and rising food prices. Its long term objectives include meeting the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate extreme and chronic poverty and empowerment of women.
The Programme established through an Act of Parliament, BISP works under the executive patronage of Prime Minister while the President of Pakistan being its Chief Patron.
Goals and objective of Programme are as follows :
- Enhance financial capacity of poor people and their dependent family members.
- Formulate and implement comprehensive policies and targeted programmes for the uplift of underprivileged and vulnerable people.
- Reduce poverty and promote equitable distribution of wealth especially for the low income groups.
To achieve the supplementary objective of women empowerment, BISP provides support exclusively through women. The beneficiaries belong to the most under-privileged, excluded, marginalized and vulnerable sections of society, living abject poverty. Economic deprivation, regardless of political affinity, racial identity, geographical location and religious beliefs, is the sole criterion for selection BISP beneficiaries.
BISP has a nationwide presence with headquarters in Federal Capital Islamabad and 6 regional offices at provincial capitals, AJK and GB. There are 33 divisional offices and 385 Tehsil offices all across the country.
BISP has the largest database of poorest of poor families in Pakistan which is the output of the largest and first ever door to door poverty survey. This data is used for the planning of pro-poor development policies and programmes and has been shared through protocols with various international and national organizations for research purposes.