Pakistan Pursuing Ambitious Program to Build Social Safety Net

Pakistan's PTI government has built South Asia’s first digital National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER) as a part of its ambitious effort to build a basic social safety net. The Ehsaas (also known as BISP- Benazir Income Support)) program's socio-economic registry includes household information by  geography, age, income, education, health, disability, employment, energy consumption, land and livestock holdings etc. Ehsaas Programs include both Unconditional Cash Transfers (UCT) and Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT). Unconditional Cash Transfers are made only to people living in extreme poverty or distress. Conditional Cash Transfers like Waseela-e-Taleem and Nashonuma  are given for education and nutrition respectively. 

Development of Ehsaas Social Registry. Source: Maintains

The National Socio-economic Registry will be regularly updated to keep it current and deliver services to the Pakistanis most in need. The effort started in earnest in 2020 to hand out Rs. 12,000 per family to 3 million most affected by the COVID19 lockdown. Here's how a Pakistani government website describes the digital registry architecture:

"The Cognitive API architecture for Ehsaas’ National Socio-Economic Registry 2021 is one of the six main pillars of ‘One Window Ehsaas’. With the survey, which is building the registry currently 90.5% complete nationwide, Ehsaas is firming up its plans to open data sharing and data access services for all executing agencies under Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division (PASSD). Data sharing will be done through the Cognitive API Architecture approach. The deployment of Ehsaas API architecture for data sharing will allow executing agencies to access data from the unified registry in real-time to validate beneficiary information. This will empower them to ascertain eligibility of potential beneficiaries". 

Universal Healthcare Map. Source: World Population Review

More recently, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) governments in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab provinces have rolled out Sehat Cards to provide free health coverage to cover tens of millions of people. This is essentially a government-funded health insurance program run by insurance companies to cover up to one million rupees worth of care each year at government certified public and private clinics and hospitals. It represents a major expansion of this program which was first introduced in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. It is now available to residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, and Tharparkar district in Sindh under the Sehat Sahulat Program.    

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Riaz Haq said…
Global Hunger Index 2021 reflects India’s reality where hunger accentuated post Covid-19: Oxfam India
India slipped to 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 116 countries, from its 2020 position of 94th, and is behind its neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/global-hunger-index-2021-india-reality-hunger-accentuated-covid-19-oxfam-india-7580110/

India’s Global Hunger Index 2021 ranking at 101st position “unfortunately” reflects the reality of the country where hunger has accentuated since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, Oxfam India said.

India slipped to 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 116 countries, from its 2020 position of 94th, and is behind its neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Reacting sharply to the report, the Ministry of Women and Child Development had said it was “shocking” to find that the Global Hunger Report 2021 has lowered the rank of India on the basis of FAO estimate on proportion of undernourished population, which is found to be “devoid of ground reality and facts and suffers from serious methodological issues”.

Oxfam India said the GHI data which states that India dropped to the hunger-level ranks by seven spots to the 101st spot “unfortunately reflects the reality of the country where hunger accentuated since the Covid-19 pandemic.

This trend of undernutrition in India is unfortunately not new, and is actually based on the government’s own National Family Health Survey (NHFS) data.

The data shows that between 2015 and 2019, a large number of Indian states actually ended up reversing the gains made on child nutrition parameters.

This loss of nutrition should be of concern because it has intergenerational effects, to put it simply – the latest data shows that in several parts of India, children born between 2015 and 2019 are more malnourished than the previous generation, said Amitabh Behar, CEO, Oxfam India.

The Union budget this year discussed India’s POSHAN (Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment) scheme with increased allocations to POSHAN 2.0.

However, the POSHAN Abhiyaan launched in 2017 to improve nutrition among children, pregnant women and lactating mothers, has languished due to poor funding resulting from clever clubbing with other schemes within the health-budget and even worse implementation.

Only 0.57 per cent of the current budget has been allocated towards funding the actual POSHAN scheme and the amount for child nutrition dropped by a whopping 18.5 per cent compared to 2020-21, Oxfam India said in a statement.

“There are massive negative consequences to not arresting high levels of malnutrition. In India, both our adult population and children are at risk. For instance, the BMI of a quarter of our (teenage and middle aged) women is below the standard global norm, more than half of our women suffer from anaemia.

A quarter of our (teenage and middle-aged) men also show signs of iron and calcium deficiencies as per the latest round of NHFS data, said Varna Sri Raman, Lead, Research and Knowledge Building at Oxfam India.

The GHI report, prepared jointly by Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide and German organisation Welt Hunger Hilfe, termed the level of hunger in India “alarming”.

Riaz Haq said…
Spirit of Riyasat-i-Madina: Transforming Pakistan

By PM Imran Khan

https://dailytimes.com.pk/869730/spirit-of-riyasat-i-madina-transforming-pakistan/


Over the last 75 years, our country has suffered from elite capture, where powerful and crooked politicians, cartels, and mafias have become accustomed to being above the law.

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The fourth founding principle was of inclusive development through the creation of a welfare state where society takes care of its poor and vulnerable and everyone is a stakeholder in the development of society and state. State of the medina was the first recorded welfare state of mankind where the state took responsibility for its weak. Since we must emulate the example of our blessed Prophet (SAW), our citizens should learn to be strict with themselves and generous with others.

Keep in mind, however, that in recent times the idea of the welfare state has been coloured by the Western European experience. Indeed, the West created impressive welfare systems from the 1950s to 2010s, of which the most impressive were the Scandinavian ones. However, most of the Western welfare states were not sustainable environmentally because these were very high consumption societies that produced enormous waste. If the whole of non-West were to copy these welfare states, then our pattern of production, consumption, and waste would resemble theirs, and by some estimates, it would require us six more planet earth to act as sinks that would absorb our waste. Such a welfare state is neither possible nor desirable. Since Islam is the middle path, only moderate prosperity and consumption would be ideal, just enough to fulfil our basic needs with dignity and honour, with universal health care and education.

And finally, a knowledge-based society that doesn’t confound literacy with knowledge. Literacy may lead to illuminative knowledge that may guide us to good behaviour, but some of the highest crime zones of the world also have very high literacy rates. One must not lose sight of an important historical fact that nearly all scholars of early and medieval Islam had deep roots in spirituality.

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Lastly, in the light of our ideals, we have embarked on the road to the welfare state with some great initiatives. Despite tight financial means, we allocated an unprecedented amount of money to our initiatives such as the Ehsaas Program which was launched back in 2019. Ehsaas Program is a social safety and poverty alleviation program necessary for vulnerable groups in society. This was one of our key initiatives towards building a state that cares about the welfare of our citizens. By far, one of the greatest programs in the history of Pakistan is the Sehat Sahulat Program, which offers our citizens universal health coverage. This is not just to protect vulnerable households from sinking into poverty who often borrow money for medical treatment, but it also leads to a network of private sector hospitals all over the country, thus benefitting both the public as well as the private sectors in the field of health. Just Punjab government alone has allocated Rs. 400 billion rupees for this. The Sehat Sahulat Program is an important milestone towards our social welfare reforms. It makes sure that certain low-income groups in Pakistan may have access to their entitled medical health care quickly and honourably without accruing many financial obligations. In the wake of global economic hardship brought about in the post-COVID era, we have not neglected the fast transforming educational arena. Our Ehsaas scholarship program would ensure that talented students within the underprivileged and poor strata of society would get a chance to pursue decent education that would augment their chances of getting better livelihoods. This program combined with all our other scholarships amounts to six million scholarships worth Rs 47 billion. This, too, is unprecedented in the educational history of Pakistan.

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