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March 25, 2021

Ehsaas emergency cash programme averted economic catastrophe

Islamabad

March 25, 2021

Islamabad: A new report released by the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) says that Pakistan’s emergency cash programme helped avert an economic catastrophe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Released by IPC-IG, the report, ‘What's Next for Social Protection in Light of COVID-19: Country Responses’ focuses on experiences from countries in Asia, including Pakistan, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Latin America and the Caribbean. The deep dive into social protection responses to the COVID-19 crisis highlights Pakistan’s effort to tackle poverty amidst the biggest global crisis in more than a century and provides overall lessons for the future including shock-responsive and universal social protection.

The report analyses how the COVID-19 pandemic was a watershed period for Pakistan in terms of government functioning: making it more agile, data-driven, experimental, and ambitious.

“I welcome the analysis of this report on Pakistan quickly reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic and focused on saving lives and livelihoods,” said Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant of Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Ministry, Government of Pakistan. “I hope lessons learned from Pakistan’s experience can help other countries protect people during an emergency”, she further added.

Recounting Pakistan’s social protection response to the COVID-19 crisis, the report says, “The Ehsaas Emergency Cash (EEC) programme demonstrated how cash transfer programmes can be deployed to counter the socio-economic fallout due to external shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown in Pakistan—the fifth most populous country in the world affected the livelihoods of 24.9 million.”

The study reveals that social protection had been an integral component of Pakistan’s response to the crisis. In response to the economic impact of the pandemic, the government of Pakistan launched the emergency cash transfer scheme and delivered approximately USD 1.1 billion to 14.8 million families at risk of extreme poverty. Each low-income household received a one-time payment of USD75, enough to buy staple food items for the four months.”

Further, the report highlights that the EEC programme augmented the digital infrastructure already in place and followed a hybrid targeting approach to identify beneficiaries. The programme accelerated the adoption of cost-effective, digital initiatives that enabled new ways of coordinating across multiple stakeholders and deploying a whole-of-government approach.

The current Policy in Focus presents the key discussions of the global e-conference: “Turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity: What’s next for social protection?” held in the first week of Oct 2020.