ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday announced ‘the biggest and the boldest’ poverty alleviation programme of Pakistan titled ‘Ehsas’ while dedicating an additional amount of Rs80 billion to social protection spending in the forthcoming budget and establishing a new Ministry of Social Protection/Poverty Alleviation to address issues related to poverty alleviation.
The prime minister shared details of the ambitious plan at an event organised by the Poverty Alleviation Coordination Council (PACC) to launch the new initiative. He said that BISP, PBM, Zakat, PPAF, TVO and Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Poverty Council and planned Labour Commission will work under the new ministry, which will develop a one-window operation for social protection to facilitate citizens.
He also announced to table a new constitutional amendment to move Article 38(d) from the “Principles of Policy” section into the “Fundamental Rights” section. This change will make provision of food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief for citizens who cannot earn a livelihood due to infirmity, sickness or unemployment, a state responsibility.
Imran Khan said the additional Rs80 billion to social protection spending in the forthcoming budget will take the total spending in social protection to Rs120 billion in the next budget. “This will take the social protection spending to 1 percent of the GDP,” he said.
While terming the concept of Riast-e-Madina his inspiration, he said the real change is about making the whole system work to protect the weak and the poor and to give them equal opportunities and to lift them. “This is what Ehsas is about. It is for the extreme poor, orphans, widows, homeless, disabled, sick, undernourished, jobless, poor elderly persons, poor students, poor women and most importantly for making my government pro-poor,” he said while presenting the salient features of the programme.
Imran Khan said that the name of Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) will remain the same but a new programme ‘Kafalat’ will be initiated under the BISP. “Under Kafalat, 6 million BISP women beneficiaries would be given savings accounts under the ‘one woman one bank account plan’, the size of the cash transfer will increase from Rs5,000 to Rs5,500 and will also be linked to health and nutrition-related assistance and the 650 BISP and PBM offices will be transformed into digital hubs where the government’s IT, technology and innovation resources will be pooled. By December, we will have completed a new survey of poverty. We will do a triple validation of this survey to identify the real poor,” he said.
The premier also announced launching a precision safety net ‘Tahafuz’ to protect individuals from catastrophic risks.
“We also have plans to graduate BISP beneficiaries out of poverty for the most backward districts. A programme for asset transfers worth Rs5 billion in five districts has additionally been launched through Kafalat. In addition, a programme for asset transfer and training worth Rs14 billion in 23 poor districts has been launched through PPAF National Poverty Graduation Program,” said the primer.
He said that under Tahafuz, the government will provide assistance to poor widows. “To help the most marginalised, the government will partner with organisations that support street children, seasonal migrants, transgender, victims of child and bonded labour and daily-wage workers who don’t find daily work.”
To provide a secure future for the orphans, he said that Pakistan Baitul Mal will expand its network of Ehsas homes for children to provide decent living, food, education and health facilities to 10,000 children in four years. For health, he said the government has already committed to launching the Insaf insurance card in 38 districts for 3.3 million people over a four-year period and have committed Rs33 billion for the purpose.
Sharing his plans for nutrition, he said that in Kafalat programme, the government is designing a conditional cash transfer for health and education for 6 million women and families so that they can have access to nutrition assistance. “I have directed that deworming drugs, iron folic acid, micro nutrient supplements of quality should be made available at all government hospitals and BHUs and that information about breastfeeding and complimentary feeding should be made widely available in local languages,” he said.
He also announced to establish a high-level multi-sectoral nutrition coordinating body in his office. He said that 5+1 model of ‘desi’ chicken for poverty alleviation and nutrition, kitchen gardening initiative for provision of subsidised seeds and seedlings and asset transfer of goats are also part of the nutrition initiative as well as providing a source of income to the poor families. He also announced establishing a university hosted National Centre for Human Nutrition in Faisalabad and said that 7 million dollars have been committed for this through a partnership agreement.
For persons with disability, he said the government is launching a programme for universal access to assistive devices. “In addition, the government will partner with civil society and expert organizations to develop 20 centres for the physically challenged in under-privileged districts over a four-year period,” he said.
For overseas workers, the PM announced increasing the role and number of community welfare attaches and protector of emigration offices besides increasing the duration of briefing and training sessions prior to departure for intended migrant workers.
Besides that, the prime minister said the Ministry of OP and HRD has been instructed to negotiate with foreign governments to extend the duration of the first contract agreement from one year to at least three years. He also announced subsidy on air tickets for migrant unskilled workers, earning less than a given income and who have not visited home for more than seven years.
For homeless, he announced providing ‘Panah-gahs’ in several major cities of the country with the support of philanthropists. “The government’s housing scheme will centre on facilitating provision of homes to the poor (including landless farmers), through interest free loans. Rs4.5 billion has been allocated for this,” he said. The prime minister also announced increasing monthly labour pension through EOBI from Rs5,250 to 6,500. In addition, he said that 5 Ehsas homes (old people’s homes) will be established.
For poor students, the prime minister announced pre-paid vouchers for children in areas where public schools do not exist, but private schools exist. “In the next budget, we will be increasing the budget of the National Education Foundation for this purpose,” he said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also announced to introduce a countrywide education conditional cash transfer programme to address the problem of out-of-school children. “A second chance programme for girls will be designed drawing on the expertise of local and international experts,” he said. In addition, he said in the next five years, Rs15 billion will be made available for scholarships by the Higher Education Commission for PhDs, masters and Bachelor’s degrees.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also announced policies to benefit poor farmers. “The federal government will exercise national leadership to ensure that tenant farmers have formal contracts with landlords and labour laws will be applicable to such tenant farmers,” he said.
He also announced a number of overarching agriculture policies including a policy to help farmers with fragmented and small land holdings, crop diversification and value addition policy, incentivizing local manufacturing of farm equipment, drip irrigation materials and solar equipment and promote joint ventures with seed companies and promote models to sell locally-produced saplings, subsidised seed and equipment. He said that he is instructing to prepare a six-monthly agriculture terms of trade report and constituting a committee on fair agriculture pricing. He also announced reducing cost of agriculture inputs as a policy by minimising import duties and taxes and providing market stimulus for livestock and fisheries.
Imran Khan also shared a plan to set up a Labour Welfare Commission with representation from federal and provincial governments to develop a comprehensive plan for revolutionising labour social security and welfare systems. “The commission will submit its recommendations within next three months,” he said, also hoping to launch a pension scheme for the informal sector by the end of the term of this government.
Imran Khan said that the government has identified three areas where there is opportunity to create jobs including IT sector, TVET sector and sector of manpower export.
Speaking on this occasion, Chairperson Poverty Alleviation Coordination Council Sania Nishtar said that the poverty alleviation agenda of the government has been prepared after extensive consultation under the leadership of the prime minister. She presented the poverty statistics through maps showing development disparities in different parts of the country.
She said 25 percent people of the country, which means every fourth person, are living under poverty line and they are deprived of two-time meal. She said 40 percent people of the country lack basic facilities of life. She said 41 percent children could not grow up properly due to malnutrition.
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