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Fund for loans to low income groups established

By Mobarik A Virk
May 27, 2017

Rs121 billion earmarked for BISP programme

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Friday established a fund for the low income segments of the society to provide them with loans and announced a little increase for the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) when the allocations were increased from Rs115 billion in 2016-17 budget to Rs121 billion for the year 2017-18.

The BISP is being dubbed as country’s only ‘poverty alleviation’ programme through which poor people are being paid minimal amounts ranging from Rs 1,000/- per month to Rs 1,500/- to the registered BISP card holders through a transparent money distribution system.  A number of other programmes/projects are also being financed under the BISP umbrella as well through which small loans are being offered to people meeting the laid down criteria.

Another programme aimed at helping the deserving poor people is ‘Baitul Maal’. The budgetary allocations for Baitul Maal have also been increased from Rs 4 billion in 2016-17 to Rs. 6 billion for the year 2017-18.

Renowned economist, Qaisar Bengali, while talking to ‘The News’ said that the BISP is not a poerty alleviation programme. Instead, he stressed, it is an ‘income support’ programme to provide a cushion to the low-income groups.

“The idea was to give the low income groups Rs 1,000/- per month which was in fact equal to help buy flour for 20 days for a family of six persons per month back in 2008 when the programme was conceived. Now the situation has changed a great deal over the last decade and the Rs 1,000/- per month, which was considered enough to buy flour for 20 days for a family of six may have become insufficient now,” Qsaiser Bengali said.  “It was actually a social security programme for the low income groups, sort of a protective shield against ever increasing inflation and not a poverty alleviation programme,” Mr Bengali persisted. However, the BISP is widely projected as a programme aimed at alleviating poverty in the country.

About the ‘Baitul Maal’ programme, Mr Bengali said that again the increase in allocation from Rs. 4 billion to Rs 6 billion for the next year could hardly be described as sufficient. He also was critical of the distribution system in Baitul Maal.

The Deputy Executive Director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Dr Waqar Ahmad, said that the government’s efforts aimed at alleviating poverty in the country under different programme carries a mix of measures reflecting positively and negatively.

“The increase in salaries and pensions in shape may provide some relief to the salaried class, which is a positive while the agriculture sector has failed to get the kind of attention that it deserves yet again and reflects negatively. Similarly, the increase in allocations for the BISP from Rs 115 billion to Rs 121 billion for the year 2017-18 reflects positively but still could not be considered as ‘enough’,” Dr Waqar Ahmed said while talking to ‘The News’.  Similarly, he said, the issue of fixing the minimum wages has again gone abegging.  The minimum wages have been increased from Rs1,400/- to Rs1,500/- per month, which are hardly be considered as sufficient amidst prevailing economic conditions and ever increasing actual inflation.