NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM JAN 27 TO FEB 02, 2020
SENATE PANEL WANTS THOSE EXCLUDED FROM BISP HEARD OUT
Ikram Junaidi Updated January 29, 2020
ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Tuesday showed concern over exclusion of more than 800,000 beneficiaries from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and directed the relevant authorities to issue show-cause notices to them to ensure fair treatment.
The Senate Functional Committee on Problems of Less Developed Areas in a meeting, which was chaired by Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar, also directed the BISP to share names of government employees who had been directly or indirectly getting the stipends for the past many years.
At the meeting, which was held in Parliament House, Special Assistant to Prime Minister and BISP Chairperson Dr Sania Nishtar informed the committee that Ehsaas was the umbrella under which numerous welfare programmes such as the national socio-economic registry, unconditional cash transfer, conditional cash transfer, nutrition initiative and BISP graduation programme were run.
“Ehsaas Programme is the future of social protection in Pakistan. It was launched on 27th March, 2019 with four focus areas and 155 policy actions to reduce inequality, invest in people and uplift lagging districts. It has 134 elements and involves 34 federal agencies to implement this multi-sectoral multi-stakeholder initiative,” she said.
About the exclusion of 820,165 beneficiaries, the committee was told that the decision was taken after beneficiary profiling, as they were screened out for failing in the ascertained criteria. The committee was informed that the 820,165 beneficiaries included 2,548 government officers (BS-17 to 21). According to reports 127,826 recipients were spouses of government employees; over 160,000 recipients had travelled abroad at least once, while the spouses of more than 361,000 recipients had travelled abroad at least once, and almost 45,000 recipients had a car registered in their name or in the name of their spouse. Overall, the removal of 820,165 recipients will save the government Rs16 billion per year.
The committee was informed that a national survey would be conducted soon and poverty scorecard methodology would be applied for the identification of the poor. Discovering vacant positions at BISP offices across the country, the committee called for filling the 2,067 positions at the earliest.
The parliamentary body was of the opinion that BISP must head towards self-sustainability of beneficiaries and help them start up small businesses. The BISP was directed to focus on less developed areas and increase support for the beneficiaries from those areas instead of allocating funds pro rata. Considering scholarships, preference must be given to students of less developed areas. The committee called for taking up the issue of fake BISP calls and referring them and those involved to the Federal Investigation Agency for probe and criminal proceedings.
Later, Mr Kakar told Dawn that he was sure some mistakes or blunders had been made while enrolling the beneficiaries in the past. “However, no one should be excluded from the list without giving them a chance to explain their position.
“It was said that some persons have performed Haj, but I personally know people who helped a number of less privileged to perform Haj. Moreover, spouses can go abroad for Tabligh,” the senator said.
“The BISP informed the committee that it had issued show-cause notices to its employees who were getting stipends. I suggested to them to issue show-cause notice to all the persons who have been excluded,” Mr Kakar said.
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2020
LIST OF OVER 2,000 GOVT OFFICIALS RECEIVING BISP FUNDS ISSUED
By Syed Irfan Raza | 1/30/2020 12:00:00 AM
ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday issued a list of over 2,000 high-ranking government officials who or whose spouses were getting monthly stipend under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), meant for the poorest of the poor, and referred their cases to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Of the 2,037 officials, two hold grade-22, 47 grade-20 and 335 grade-18 in different government departments.
The list shared with the media by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability Shahzad Akbar in a joint press conference with SAMP on Information Dr Firdous Ashig Awan, also carries the names of four grade-17 officials of the BISP who have been dismissed from service. Most of the government bene-ficiaries are associated with education departments and are school principals or teachers.
There are cases in which two wives of a senior government official had benefited from the programme.
Two grade-22 of ficers are: Mian Arif Hussain working at the Azad Jammu and Kashmir High Court and Mohammad Imran, cabinet secretary of Gilgit Baltistan government. Imran was getting funds for his two wives.
During the press conference, Mr Akbar said the government had also written to the chief secretaries and the Establishment Division to take departmental action against, and recover funds from, the government officers who had benefited from BISP.
It had also been decided to ask the FIA to register criminal cases against the officers and others who assisted themin drawingof BISPfundsbecause the expenditure was carried out from the federal budget, the SAPM explained.
He said a government analysis had revealed that as many as 140,000 government employees or their spouseshad received BISP funds.
A major chunk of the 140,000 people were government employees of grade 1 to 16 while the rest (2,037) were of ficers of grade 17 to 22.
`This all was done either because of collaboration with BISP officials or due to negligence,` Mr Akbar said.
He also gave a breakdown of the casesidendhedacrossthecountryand said the number of government employees whose spouses f raudulently benefited from the BISP was nine in Azad Kashmir and 40 in GilgitBaltistan. As many as 554 officers or their spouses benefited from the programme in Balochistan, 342 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 101 in Punjab and 938 in Sindh. `Sindh again stood on the victory stand,` said Dr Awan.
A total of 39 employees of grade 1 to 16 and four ofhcers of grade 17 and above who worked for the BISP itself have benefited from the programme.
Among employees of the federal government, this number is 48.
Last month, SAPM on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar had said the governmenthad conducted a forensic data analysis and identified 820,165 undeserving people who were availing the BISP assistance.
Launched in July 2008, the federal government-funded BISP is Pakistan`s largest social safety net, catering for women and benefiting around 5.4 million people, according to data released in 2016.
According to a decision of the federal cabinet last month, an approval was given to remove 820,165 beneficiaries f rom BISP database, describing them as `undeserving`.
The changes in the BISP database were made in the wake of reservations expressed by some cabinet members in the previous meetings that the supporters of opposition parties, especially those backing the Pakistan Peoples Party, were benefiting from the programme while those belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf were being ignored.
Dr Nishtar had apprised the cabinet that in view of some complaints and the need to update BISP data, the survey was being reviewed with the helpof the National Database and Registration Authority.
She said during the review, some aspects were being looked into. For example, she added, it was being ascertained whether the family of a beneficiary had any motorcycle or car or whether a spouse was a government employee.
The cabinet was further told that those who had over 12 acres of land also did not fall in the category of `deserving` people. After the exclusion of 820,165 people, really deserving people would be included in the programme, Dr Nishtar said.
The BISP record said of total 820,165 beneficiaries removed from its database, 14,730 were government employees or employees of railways, post office and the BISP despite the fact that the facility was not meant for government servants. As many as 127,826 beneficiaries are those whose spouses are government employees.
It said 153,302 beneficiaries were those who had travelled abroad once and 195,364 were those whose spouses have travelled abroad once. The num-ber of beneficiaries who have travelled abroad more than once is said to be 10,476. Similarly, 166,319 spouses have travelled abroad more than once.
The BISP removed 692 people from its database because they own one or more than one vehicle and 43,746 were deprived of the facility because their spouses have one or more than one car.
A person who can pay Rs1,000 monthly bill for a telephone is not eligible to get monthly stipend from the programme and therefore 24,546 people were removed for f alling into this category. Similarly, 155,767 were thrown out of the database as their spouses paid Rs1,000 or more than that telephone [PTCL, mobile] bill.
For applying passport via executive centres, 666 beneficiaries were excluded and 580 were removed as their spouses have applied for their passports from executive centres.
A total of 36,970 people were dropped from the list of beneficiaries because three or more than three members of their family had applied for computerised national identity card while paying executive fee.
POVERTY, UNEMPLOYMENT, SOME OTHER GRIM REALITIES
By SHAHID SATTAR AND EMAN AHMED on January 30, 2020
With the advent of Naya Pakistan came a promise to create 10 million new jobs within a 5-year term. This was not an unreasonable target. According to a 2018 Human Development Report for Pakistan by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), 1.5 million new jobs per year were described as “minimal.” But for these targets to translate into actual results, the strategy to create more jobs must be tailored to accommodate certain factors unique to the context of Pakistan.
In terms of market dynamics, a tailored policy entails targeting products to the appropriate buyers, whether local or international. In terms of the labor force, this implies utilizing the demographic momentum of the country’s youth bulge, facilitating the underprivileged in finding suitable employment options, and retaining skilled graduates. The country has consecutively lost its top graduates to foreign jobs year after year, and this has had a tangible impact on the skills of the remaining labour force. These factors can be catered to simultaneously, given the wide array of outputs produced in the textile industry chain. There is a demand for a different skill set at each stage, be it cotton picking, ginning, stitching, designing or innovating.
While it creates a number of jobs, the demand for the diverse range of products of the textile sector is rather skewed in Pakistan, and this is also an outcome of the substantial proportion of underprivileged citizens. Figures reveal that 24% of Pakistan’s population lives below the national poverty line; which includes 31% in rural areas and 13% in urban areas. This translates into limitations for the domestic market in terms of demand for goods. These individuals have limited access to basic necessities, such as food, water and sanitation. Further out of reach are crucial factors such as access to education and healthcare. Almost half of the population lives at a wage below $2/day, rendering the purchase of finished garments and apparel infrequent. It can be concluded that around two-three articles of finished apparel would be purchased by these individuals throughout the course of a year.
Adapting to the needs of the market entails shifting the focus towards the export of these products to places where demand for them is high. This is perhaps the only way to sustainably support the economy and increase the pace of industrialization. A tailored approach thus presents a long-term solution to the poverty crisis via a simple formula: employing a larger segment of the population towards the task of textile sector productivity and using it to bolster exports. As a mutually beneficial mechanism, this will allow employment and exports to increase side by side.
Unemployment is dangerous for a country’s economic wellbeing, but it does not evoke empathy in the same way that its counterpart, poverty does. Efforts to assist the poor in getting in their feet should have been institutionalized by now but instead, these efforts are directed towards pressurizing them with unjust taxation. The shift in focus towards indirect taxes allows money from the poor to end up in the pockets of the rich. Pakistan’s case is riddled with the high pressure on indirect taxes, which have consistently been higher than direct taxes. This tends to skew the economy to the disadvantage of the less privileged class and make the country tax-uncompetitive in the global market. A large proportion of well-to-do businessmen operate without having to pay their due share of taxes, owing to power and political clout. Meanwhile the small shop owner, the young widow struggling to make ends meet and the honest, hardworking laborer continue to pay high levels of tax via bureaucratic procedures, after being presented with complicated forms that the layman cannot fill without hired help. The state has failed to widen the tax net, targeting salaried and lower-income groups relentlessly.
In addition to an imbalanced tax distribution burdening the poor, there has been the abhorrent revelation that government officers have been looting the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) for personal gain, shamelessly infiltrating a mechanism designed to aid the poor. According to details, 2,543 senior officers were removed from the BISP list and officials from Baluchistan and Sindh had received the highest amounts through the program, while poverty continues to plague the country.
Programs such as BISP are thus unsustainable, not only in their vulnerability to exploitation, but also in terms of their failure to address the poverty factor at its root. Without education and training, individuals find themselves and their families trapped in a cycle of poverty. They are unable to acquire the capabilities needed to pull them out of their misery, generation after generation. To address this conundrum, training and capacity building must be adapted to the context of the required task, whereby it can produce a high level of returns even at the lowest tiers of production. For instance, cotton crop has great potential in terms of poverty eradication, as it requires minimal skills. The task of cotton picking employs the poorest factions of society, particularly women who are overlooked in other areas of industrial workforce development in Pakistan. Worker earnings correspond to the volume of cotton picked, so it can be seen as a rewarding occupation where even the slightest amount of training can go a long way in ensuring a good crop. It is as simple as ensuring that the picked cotton is clean.
A substantial level of opportunities is present for workers at each skill level, provided that the skills in question are effectively developed. However, the textile sector must step forward, in collaboration with the government, to set up viable trainings for skill and capacity development. Each training can have an exponential impact on productivity and sustainability, while a more employable workforce ensures higher wages and a better standard of living.
A World Bank study on apparel and exports, titled “Employment, Wages and Poverty following the End of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement” makes pertinent points that are relevant for Pakistan’s case. It also reveals a number of caveats to the formula of export growth corresponding with job creation.
The first caveat relates to an oft-emphasized goal of upgradation in textile sector products to increase exports. The report shows that in Sri Lanka, apparel sector upgradation coincided with an employment decline, particularly for women. When contextualized for Pakistan, it can be predicted that upgradation would render a major chunk of workers obsolete. To address this, evolution in the textile and apparel sector must go hand in hand with workforce development.
The report emphasizes facilitating the movement of the industry into higher-value economic areas in the face of rising global competition. Here market demand comes into play, and these products are not met with sufficient demand locally. Therefore, movement into higher value production is only viable for Pakistan if export growth is simultaneously achieved.
Even so, a growth in exports alone does not guarantee economic assistance for the poor. A cross-analysis shows that rising apparel exports may have corresponded to rising wages and employment in the large Asian countries, but have resulted in falling employment in the case of Sri Lanka. Furthermore, global apparel trends also have a noticeable bearing on a textile worker’s earnings. Wages have predictably risen in countries that adapted to market changes, and fallen in those that failed to adapt. Thus, efforts must first be aligned with developing the skills of workers in line with the ever-changing product value, as well as with technical upgradation, before the overarching two-pronged objective of more jobs accompanying higher exports can be sustainable.
While extensive literature exists on poverty alleviation, and there have been numerous recommendations on how to achieve it, the factor of sustained economic growth remains an essential condition underlying all analyses. What is often lacking is an assessment of the composition of growth. As emphasized above, labor intensive sectors such as the initial stages of the textile value chain not only provide employment, but also hire workers from the lower end of the wage distribution. When employment or wages increase for the people at the lowest tier, poverty is tackled head-on, and cotton picking is a key practice that allows this to happen
The impending recession implies that more job losses are underway for Pakistan. This reveals a singular lack of economic progress. Whether it is poverty, unemployment or economic stagnation, each of these troubling factors come with a set of preconditions that surface level solutions cannot cater to. So before it can ensure new jobs, roll out premature income support or enhance its global competitiveness, Pakistan needs to address these preconditions via sustainable policies. A few of the highlighted requirements are thus skill development programs, efficient worker allocation, catering to Pakistan’s unique market demands and adapting to the ever-changing global dynamics. These will not only tackle the aforementioned problems at the grassroots level, but will address the country’s unique context in order to develop a viable business environment that attracts investments.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
PAC BODY CASTS DOUBT ON REMOVAL OF 800,000 FROM BISP LIST
Malik Asad Updated January 31, 2020
ISLAMABAD: A sub-committee of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has cast doubt on the process that led to the eventual removal of over 800,000 people from the list of beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
On a query by Sherry Rehman, the committee’s convener, the BISP’s secretary conceded that out of the 820,165 beneficiaries excluded from the list, 42 per cent were removed because they were found to have travelled abroad.
The secretary informed the committee that Rs8 billion has been allocated for payment to three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and a private company entrusted with upgrading the capacity of his organisation to carry out surveys.
The three NGOs are: the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, the Rural Support Programme Network and the Aurat Foundation. The private organisation is known as Innovative Development Strategies (IDS).
Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed pointed out that according to his information, the three NGOs were known for executing community-based projects while the IDS was an unknown entity to him.
The BISP official apparently failed to convince the Public Accounts Committee that the hiring of NGOs and an unknown company for carrying out surveys was the right decision. The members felt that the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) could have done the job.
But the BISP secretary argued the PBS did not have the required capacity. He, however, went on to inform the sub-committee that since the NGOs were unable to secure a no objection certificate (NOC) for conducting surveys in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and in Narowal and Sialkot districts, the PBS had been asked to carry out a survey in these areas.
Ms Rehman made an observation that had Rs8 billion been provided to the PBS, it could have upgraded all its facilities and conducted the survey for preparation of poverty score card.
Dwelling on the scrutiny of the BISP beneficiaries list, the secretary told the committee that the decision to examine the list was taken on Dec 12 and the entire exercise was completed in a couple of weeks.
Sherry Rehman said it was probable that some of the beneficiaries had travelled to Saudi Arabia for sponsored Haj or Umrah. The BISP secretary retorted that if someone can pay Rs400,000 to an individual for Haj, the same sponsor can part with a smaller amount of Rs1,650 for financial support of that person.
Likewise, he added, if someone can pay Rs5,000 on applying for a passport through executive counters, that person does not need such a meager sum as financial support.
Out of over 800,000 beneficiaries removed from the list, 140,000 were government employees, including over 2,500 officers in BS-17 and above. Ms Rehman asked him to provide details about such officers.
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2020
BISP FRAUD AND GOVT ACTION
By Editorial Published: January 31, 2020
The exclusion of 820,165 fraudulent recipients from the Benazir Income Support Programme i.e. the BISP will save the government Rs16 billion annually. Let’s have a look at what this amount means to our cash-strapped government. The amount is 3.5 times more than the Rs4.5 billion that the government had saved by abolishing Hajj subsidy last year. The amount is nearly twice as much as the total allocation (Rs7.57 billion) for the new and ongoing schemes of the Climate Change Division under the ongoing public-sector development programme. These climate schemes also include Prime Minister Imran Khan’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami. The amount saved from the removal of undeserving BISP recipients is exactly equal to what has been earmarked for the new and ongoing schemes of Pakistan Railways that caters to roughly 70 million passengers a year.
It’s mindboggling that 820,165 fraudulent beneficiaries of the social welfare programme, which is meant for the poorest of the poor in the country, included 2,548 government officers in grade 17 to 21 before they were removed though a screening process carried out under the supervision of Dr Sania Nishtar, the BISP Chairperson and PM’s Special Assistant. Moving forward, the government has referred more than 2,000 of these fraudsters to FIA for registration of criminal cases against them. It has also written to the chief secretaries in all provinces as well as the Establishment Division for taking departmental action against the government officers who benefited from the BISP and recovering funds from them. It’s a straightforward case of fraud, as remarked by PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, and deserves to be probed thoroughly.
It is hoped that the government action will serve to keep the social welfare programme safe from any fraud and misuse, and help the authorities maintain transparency in the criteria for doling out sums under what is described as the largest social safety programme catering to about 5.1 million poor and needy people.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2020.
PM LAUNCHES PROGRAMME GIVING STIPEND OF RS2,000 EACH TO 7M WOMEN
APP February 01, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday launched Ehsaas Kifalat Programme to give stipend of Rs2,000 each to seven million poverty-stricken women, through a foolproof and biometric-enabled cash disbursal mechanism across the country.
“The foundation of Pakistan as a welfare state is being laid here. We have now started moving towards a welfare state. Soon, it will turn into the Pakistan of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal,” the prime minister said while speaking at the launching ceremony of the scheme.
The ceremony marked the distribution of the Kifalat cards among the poorest women who sat beside the prime minister at the venue.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar, SAPM on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, other cabinet members, parliamentarians, diplomats and people from a cross section of society attended the event.
Under the programme, each beneficiary woman would get a bank account and smartphone as part of the initiative to empower women through their formal interaction with the economy and digital inclusion.
The smartphones would help educate the children of the poor women from their childhood. This will bring about a new revolution, the prime minister said.
He said seven million women would benefit from the scheme while another six million families had already been give health insurance card.
He said within a fortnight, the government would launch another programme under Ehsaas umbrella, to transfer assets to the poor women like cows, hens or others to help them earn their livelihood.
The prime minister congratulated Dr Sania Nishtar for successfully launching the scheme, amid immense pressure from the government which desired to use Rs200 billion allocated for its anti-poverty initiative without delay.
He lauded her for developing a system based on data analytics to ensure that the government’s assistance reached only to the deserving people, not the rich ones, as the government had recently detected and delisted above 800,000 ineligible people who had been receiving the cash assistance despite having government jobs, cars and having gone on foreign visits.
The prime minister said no anti-poverty initiative could meet success unless it was transparent.
He said that beneficiaries of Kifalat programme would also be able to benefit from the government’s upcoming ration scheme and other initiatives.
He said that initiatives including the student scholarship, youth skill training and start-ups loan programmes were solely aimed at uplifting the poor people.
In her speech, Dr Sania Nishtar drew a comparison between Kifalat and Benazir Income Support Programme, saying the latter featured a 10-year-old database, multiple quarterly payment systems, paper-based surveys, sole source contracted banks and being a standalone programme.
Contrarily, the Kifalat programme would provide monthly assistance through a fully biometric system on point of sales agents with secure gadgets, biometric ATMs and designated bank branches. The beneficiaries, she said, had been identified through a door-to-door digital survey plus data analytics, desk and web surveys.
Contrary to BISP, the Kifalat beneficiaries would be able to avail all the Ehsaas graduation opportunities.
She said for the first time, the poor people would be able to get government assistance on demand as they would not have to wait for 10 years to enlist themselves in the poverty survey, rather they could get themselves registered any time at the Nadra Desk Registration Centres to be established in each tehsil.
She said that enrolment of one million families in 70 districts had started which would start receiving stipend from February to March this year. Other districts would be added by end of the year while more beneficiaries would be included through desk registration over the course of the year.
Dr Nishtar said under the Ehsaas Governance and Integrity Policy, all measures were being taken to ensure transparency in the programme through true implementation of the whistleblower law, audit and data usage.
She said contrary to the previous governments, the prime minister had taken a bold decision of replacing his photo from Kifalat Card with that of Quaid-i-Azam and resolved to eliminate corruption and political interventions from social protection initiatives.
Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2020
‘DESERVING BENEFICIARIES TO STAY ON BISP LIST’
OUR CORRESPONDENT February 01, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Amid fear that action against ineligible BISP beneficiaries may result in exclusion of eligible ones, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan on Friday assured the National Assembly that no deserving beneficiary would be excluded from the programme.
Responding to queries during the question hour, the state minister said, “I assure the house that no deserving beneficiary would be excluded from the list of BISP beneficiaries.”
On a point raised by a Pakistan Peoples Party legislator that the deserving people who had been sent on Umrah and Hajj by philanthropists had been excluded from the BISP beneficiaries’ list, the state minister said the issue had been discussed with the BISP chairperson and these people would not be excluded from the list.
He clarified that BISP was not being renamed.
Names of some govt officials who benefitted from BISP unearthed
He said the government had started a comprehensive Ehsaas Kafaalat Programme and enhanced its allocations to Rs190 billion from Rs100 billion. “Under this initiative, several programmes are being launched for the poor segments of the society.”
The Federal Investigation Agency on Friday initiated action against 2,037 government officers who got themselves or their spouse illegally enrolled as BISP beneficiaries.
The agency sent the list of names of government officers from grades 17 to 22 to its zonal offices in Sindh, Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan as well as Gilgit-Baltistan with directives to initiate swift action.
According to sources, investigation against the ineligible BISP beneficiaries would be conducted in two phases.
In the first phase, action would be taken against those officers who are benefiting directly from the BISP, while in the second, the BISP officials providing benefit to the officers would face the music.
Further, the sources said apart from 2,037 government officers, the FIA has decided to take action against 140,000 more civil servants.
For the purpose, the FIA has asked the National Database and Registration Authority to provide data regarding family tree, biometric and profession details of the civil servants.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM JAN 20 TO JAN 26, 2020
GOVT PLANS TO FACILITATE CORPORATE SECTOR TO DONATE TO EHSAAS PROGRAMME: DR NISHTAR
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter January 23, 2020
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar speaks at the 12th CSR Summit on Wednesday. — APP
ISLAMABAD: The federal government has planned to launch a special system to facilitate the corporate and private sectors to donate to ‘Ehsaas programme’ and help the poor.
This was stated by Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar on Wednesday while speaking as chief guest here at the inauguration of 12thannual corporate social responsibility (CSR) Summit-2020 organised by National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH).
This institutional arrangement will be completed in the next three months, she said, adding complete transparency and efficiency will be ensured, she said.
Dr Nishtar advised the philanthropists to wait for another three months to let this special purpose vehicle be launched allowing the government to receive these donations from the private sector and spend them with utmost integrity and honesty on the poor.
She said that a web portal would be launched to ensure transparency in the system and enable the private sector check that the philanthropic donations were spent for the welfare of individuals.
A policy was also being formalised to offer incentives to the corporate sector of the country to encourage philanthropy.
She said 134 different initiatives had been launched under the Ehsaas programme for the welfare of different sections of the needy and disadvantaged sections of the society including orphans and women.
Dr Nishtar said the government was aware of the importance of the private and corporate sector especially in issues like poverty alleviation and social protection of deprived people in the country.
Dr Shafqat Muneer, Research Fellow of Sustainable Development Policy Institute, said the philanthropic contributions being provided by Pakistanis as a nation had always been outstanding as Rs500 billion was being spent annually in the country as charitable donations.
He said these charitable donations would increase manifold if proper policy was introduced in the country binding the corporate sector to contribute donations.
He noted that at present only companies associated with the petroleum industry were bound to spend one per cent of their annual profit to do CSR activities while there was no similar lawful condition for any other industry in the country.
Earlier in his welcome address, NFEH President Naeem Qureshi said the CSR Summit was aimed to thoroughly discuss and appreciate efforts being put in by the corporate sector of the country in the field of welfare and uplift of the disadvantaged people in the country.
Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2020
SANIA INAUGURATES BIOMETRIC ATM FOR BENEFICIARIES OF EKP
By RECORDER REPORT on January 26, 2020
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar inaugurated the new biometric ATM in Melody Market Islamabad for the beneficiaries of Ehsaas Kifalat Programme.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will be launching the Ehsaas Kifalat programme on January 31, 2020. Preparations are underway to give final touches to the launch. The Ehsaas digital payment system is an important competent of that. Procurement of the system was completed in a transparent manner last year. Two banks Habib Bank Limited (HBL) and Bank Alfalah (BA) were selected after a 10-month procurement process. The Ehsaas digital payment system is a significant progress from the earlier BISP payment system in many respects.
The new system has done away with the money orders and debit cards and relies solely on the biometric verification for identification of the beneficiaries. The system is not simply a payment system; it includes features of saving as well. The most important thing is that beneficiaries will now have the choice of going to a biometric retail shop or to a biometrically enabled ATM or any biometrically enable branch HBL and BA.
“Opening biometric ATMs and bank branches (of partner banks HBL and BA) the beneficiaries of Kifalat is a major feature of the new Ehsaas digital payment system”, said Dr Sania Nishtar. “Previously women had no choice. They used to go to retail shops and there were very few of them in each city. The retail agents usually made deductions from their tranches and often fraudulently deducted money. Under the new system, women will be able to go to biometric ATMs and branches. Opening of bank branches for these poor women is a major empowering feature for them and is in line with the government’s vision of giving them respect and lifting them out of a disadvantaged position” she further added.-PR
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM JAN 13 TO JAN 19, 2020
FOOD INFLATION RISES TO 22PC!
By DR HAFIZ A PASHA on January 14, 2020
The Sensitive Price Index (SPI) for the first full week of 2020 ending on the 9th of January has been released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). Credit must be given to the PBS for, more or less, immediate release on a weekly basis of information on prevailing prices of basic items in different cities.
The SPI has been updated and the base year now is of 2015-1. 51 items are included in the index and are generally basic consumer items, especially of food, which figure regularly in purchases by households. 33 items are food consumption items including cereals, vegetables, livestock products, pulses, sugar, vegetable ghee, etc. Therefore, the SPI comprehensively covers food prices. Almost two-thirds of the weights in SPI are of food items. The coverage of food items is, more or less, the same as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Wholesale Price Index (WPI).
The SPI on a year-to-year basis has risen during the first week of January 2020 by 20 percent. Disaggregation of the SPI into the food and non-food components reveals that food prices collectively have gone up by over 22 percent and non- food prices by 16 percent. As compared to this the CPI of food, beverages and tobacco went up by 18 percent in the month of December 2019 and the WPI by 11 percent of these items.
Two conclusions can be drawn from this comparison. First, the rate of inflation in food prices is understated by the CPI. Second, the WPI has risen at a much slower rate in the case of food prices than either the SPI or the CPI. This implies that the inflation in consumer prices of food items is due generally more to price escalation by retailers rather than by wholesalers and middlemen in the food supply chain.
There has recently also been an upsurge in the SPI. From the last week of November to the third week of December 2019, the index fell on a week-to-week basis. Thereafter, over the last fortnight it has been increasing weekly at the rate of0.6 percent. This may, of course, be partly due to disturbance in the movement of goods caused by the transporter’s strikes.
The biggest contribution to food inflation has been by the explosion in vegetable prices. The prices of tomatoes, onions and potatoes have gone up by 234 percent, 123 percent and 100 percent respectively. Consequently, almost 43 percent of the rise overall in food prices is due to vegetables. This is in sharp contrast to their weight in the food price sub-index of SPI of 8 percent.
The rate of inflation in prices of cereals ranges from 8 percent in the case of Basmati rice to almost 20 percent in wheat flour. Livestock products, especially milk, have the combined weight of over 44 percent in the food price index. However, they have witnessed less inflation and their overall contribution to rise in food prices is 21 percent. Other food items which have shown high rates of inflation are sugar at 27 percent, vegetable ghee at 23 percent and cigarettes at 36 percent.
The current 22 percent increase in the price index of basic food items is the highest since 2008-09, when it reached 23 percent. However, the pattern of inflation in 2008-09 was very different. Almost 60 percent of the contribution to the rate of inflation was by cereals, livestock products and sugar combined. Interestingly, the price of tomatoes went by only 4 percent in 2008-09 as compared to 234 percent currently.
There is need to understand the impact of rapidly rising food prices on the household budget of a relatively low-income family in the country. According to the PBS, the rate of inflation in the overall SPI rises to a peak of above 22 percent in the case of a typical middle-income family with income per month ranging from Rs 22,889 to 29,517. At the two ends of the distribution, the rate of increase in the SPI is 19 percent. Therefore, there is not much difference in the rate of inflation in basic consumer items among the various income groups.
According to the latest Household Integrated Economic Survey (HIES) of 2015-16 by the PBS, the share of food expenditure in the monthly income of the lowest quintiles of the country is almost half. Therefore, if food consumption is to remain unchanged, in quantity terms, then the share of food expenditure in income will rise to 60 percent. Given the absence of savings in the case of such households this implies one of two possible outcomes. Either the level of food consumption of basic items has to be reduced by 20 percent or the expenditure on other goods and services will have to be cut by 25 percent. These options are both painful for a low-income family. In the event food intake is reduced then the incidence of poverty rises in the country as a larger proportion of the population becomes malnourished, thereby falling below the Cost of Basic Needs (CBN) poverty line.
The fundamental question is what factors explain the spiral in food prices especially after May 2019? It is interesting that the peak rate of food inflation earlier in 2008-09 can be attributed partly to the policy of the PPP Government to drastically raise administered prices. The procurement price of wheat was jacked up by an unprecedented 52 percent and that of sugarcane by 42 percent. But this is not the case in 2019-20. Both prices have remained unchanged at previous year’s levels.
Therefore, the explanations for food price inflation have to be found elsewhere. The first possibility is of supply shortages. In fact, many food prices are subject to the ‘cob-web’ cyclical effect. This is especially the case with vegetables and fruits. In the latter part of 2018, the prices of vegetables fell sharply, by 60 percent in the case of tomatoes, by 51 percent of onions and by 34 percent of potatoes. Therefore, there has been big shift away from production of vegetables this year, leading thereby to a big jump in prices. Hopefully, if the ‘cob-web’ continues, the supply response will be large and prices of vegetables could fall sharply in the latter half of 2020.
Other supply factors include the negative impact of the big increase in fertilizer prices and in prices of other inputs. This has exerted a cost-push effect on food prices. The price of urea has gone up by 13 percent and of other fertilizer products by up to 10 percent. Similarly, the agricultural power tariff has gone up. In addition, there has been a ban on imports, including vegetables from India. Also, more recently, there have been some supply interruptions due to transport strikes.
The next question is the impact of the big rupee devaluation since June 2018 on prices of imported food items. The analysis of the relationship between imported and domestic food prices leads to a somewhat unexpected conclusion. The major imported food items are palm oil, pulses and tea. These items have witnessed a rise in the rupee price of import of only 6 percent, 7 percent and 6 percent respectively. The domestic price of vegetable ghee has gone up much more by 22 percent, pulses by 52 percent and tea by 10 percent. Therefore, the factors contributing to inflation in food prices are more domestic in nature, like additional taxation on some consumer items in the Budget of 2019-20.
The fact that inflation has been faster in retail prices than in wholesale prices has been highlighted earlier. There appears to have been a collective response by retailers to protect their real incomes in the face of rising cost of living by increasing artificially the prices of products marketed by them. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘real income struggle’. It is absolutely necessary in such situations that local price controls at the market level are effectively put in place. Unfortunately, this has not happened up to now and represents a big failure of governance. Further, the formation of cartels and resort to restrictive trade practices has been left largely unregulated by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP).
The recent decision to provide bigger discounts on basic food products by the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) is a welcome step. However, it will have to be greatly upscaled by establishing many more outlets, especially in lower income neighborhoods, and substantially expanding supplies. Unfortunately, there is only a small provision for a subsidy to the USC in the current Federal Budget of Rs 5.5 billion. A special provision will have to be made now of up to Rs 30 billion, out of the budgetary allocation currently for Social Protection. Effective local price control mechanisms must be immediately put in place and CCP function in a much more aggressive manner.
The people of Pakistan are paying a high price for galloping inflation and rising unemployment. The highest standard of economic management and governance is necessary if any form of disruption is to be avoided.
(The writer is Professor Emeritus at BNU and former Federal Minister)
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
IMRAN WANTS BISP TO NAME AND SHAME UNDESERVING OFFICIALS
Bakhtawar Mian Updated January 15, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed officials of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to make public names of all those government officials who had managed to get themselves registered among beneficiaries of the social safety net, which is aimed at providing financial support to the deserving poor and destitute.
“We cannot forgive the people who deprived the poor of their rights. The names of the looters should be made public,” PM Khan said after the BISP officials submitted a list of the ‘undeserving government officials’ to him on Tuesday.
The prime minister showed anger over such irregularities and ordered that the names of these “corrupt officials” be disclosed.
“Their punishment is that their identities should be revealed to the public,” Mr Khan said.
He said that the government would not show leniency towards the officials who had usurped the rights of the poor.
BISP chairperson Dr Sania Nishtar disclosed in a tweet last week that 2,543 officers of Grade 17 and above had got themselves or their spouses registered amongst the beneficiaries of the social safety net. “True: 2543 exited from @bisp_pakistan are government officers/their spouses Grade 17 and above. We have written to Chief Secretaries and Ministries officially. At @bisp-pakistan disciplinary action is underway,” Dr Nishtar tweeted.
Of the 2,543 beneficiaries removed from the BISP, around 1,122 officers were from Sindh, 741 from Balochistan, 403 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 137 from Punjab, 62 officers of the federal government ministries, 22 from Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 49 officers from Gilgit-Baltistan. Besides, six BISP officers, too, were listed as ‘undeserving recipients’ of the financial support.
Earlier on Dec 24, the federal government had given approval to the removal of 820,165 beneficiaries from the BISP database, describing them as “undeserving”.
Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2020
KP ASSEMBLY ADOPTS VAGRANCY RESTRAINT BILL 2020
By RECORDER REPORT on January 15, 2020
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Tuesday unanimously passed the KP Vagrancy Restraint Bill 2020 to form a steering committee and establishment of Darul Kafala to mobilize and motivate the general public for all kinds of contributions for the well being of vagrants (beggars) in order to restrain vagrancy in the society.
The bill was moved by Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Sultan Muhammad Khan in the KP Assembly which met here with Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani in the chair.
The proposed seven member steering committee would be headed by Secretary Social Welfare and comprises Deputy Secretary Social Welfare as Vice Chairman while members are Director Human Rights Parliamentary Affairs Department, District Officers Social Welfare, Reps of concerned Deputy Commissioner, reps of Provincial Police and Director Social Welfare.
The committee would lay down the police guidelines and issues directions for the efficient and effective performance of the Darul Kafala. The committee would examine and approve the procedure for care, detention, training and maintenance of vagrants. It would also suggest to the government the measures to control vagrancy in the province. The bill also suggested establishment of a Darul Kafala which will provide shelters to the beggars and provide healthcare, education and skill development facilities to the alms seekers.
The bill also allowed the beggars to have the facility of voluntary admissions in Darul Kafala, provided special magistrate is satisfied that the beggar has no source of livelihood. The bill allowed the police officers to confiscate anything from a beggar if he found anything that amounted to be used for soliciting alms.
The bill proposed punishment for employing or causing for vagrancy with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year or with fine up to Rs500000 and not less than Rs300000 or both.
The assembly passed the KP protection against harassment of women at work place amendment bill 2020 by majority votes. The bill was moved by Minister for Social Welfare Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan. The government would appoint provincial ombudsman to deal with cases involving harassment of women at work places.
Meanwhile, Speaker Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Mushtaq Ghani once again warned the departments of strict action for not replying to the questions of the lawmakers during question hour and ruled that the questions of the ministers absent from the session would be straightaway referred to the concerned committee.
He took the notice over the question of PPP lawmaker Nighat Orakzai which she had submitted in the assembly secretariat almost one year ago.
Nighat Orakzai told that she had submitted here question about the local government department one year ago but the department had not yet replied to it. She suggested that one month time should be given to the newly appointed ministers to update themselves about their department.
Parliamentary Leader of ANP Sardar Hussain Babak while supporting Nighat Orakzai said that it would be better to give one month time to all the newly appointed ministers, Advisors and Special Assistants to CM to prepare themselves for the assembly questions.
He said that questions about the departments given to the new ministers should made part of the assembly agenda after a month time.
The speaker on the occasion referred the questions of Communication and Works Department to committee concern due to the absence of the minister. Later, the Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani adjourned the proceeding of the house till 2:00 P.M of January 27, 2020.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
EFFORTS AFOOT TO DEAL WITH CHALLENGE OF INFLATION: HAFEEZ
By RECORDER REPORT on January 15, 2020
Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has said the government after stabilization of economy is taking steps now to deal with the challenge of inflation and enhance domestic productivity through greater spending on social safety net.
He further said the government was improving cash transfer programme, ensuring ease of doing business and providing subsidized loans, said a press release issued here.
The advisor said the government had been able to bring the economy out of the difficult situation and now the stage was set for greater stabilization and enhanced domestic productivity. That, he said, would help overcome inflation, boost businesses and create more employment opportunities. The advisor was talking to Ambassador of France Dr Marc Barety who called on him at Finance Division on Tuesday.
Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said the government was focusing on revitalizing the agriculture sector and several mega projects had been approved for improving irrigation management, watercourses and construction of water storage facilities at the farm level. These projects are also aimed at productivity enhancement of various crops, oilseeds enhancement, cage culture development, shrimp farming cluster development and water conservation in arid areas.
He said the government had doubled the social safety budget from Rs 100 billion to Rs 190 billion while it had also recently revamped its cash transfer programme by replacing nearly 800,000 people with more deserving people.
The government has also recently launched a special food package at a cost of Rs 7 billion to provide essential food items at reduced rates through utility stores to the poor segment of population adversely affected by the food inflation.
On the macro front, he said the government had brought down the current account deficit from $20 billion to $13 billion and it would be further reduced to $8 billion this year. Similarly, exports have begun to show growth after remaining stagnant for almost five years.
He said the revenue collection had jumped by 16 percent and foreign direct investment had gone up by 280 percent in the current financial year. Similarly, Pakistan’s exchange rate has begun to stabilize due to enhanced external flows while Pakistan Stock Exchange has been declared by Bloomberg as the best performing market in the world.
France Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Marc Barety said he was impressed with the work done by the government in Pakistan to introduce institutional reforms and achieve stability and growth.
He said both France and Pakistan enjoyed good relationship and he hoped the relationship would further deepen in coming days through greater economic collaborations and business partnerships.-PR
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
PBIF CHIEF UNDERSCORES NEED FOR DIRECT TAXATION TO REDUCE POVERTY
By RECORDER REPORT on January 15, 2020
President Pakistan Businessmen and Intellectuals Forum (PBIF), Mian Zahid Hussain, has said that the policy of burdening poor to enhance revenue collection is damaging for the country and society and we need a progressive tax system focusing on direct taxation to resolve the pressing issues faced by the country.
The focus on direct taxation can reduce poverty while trading and farming communities should be brought into the tax net to give a break to the poor who are overburdened by taxes and reeling under high inflation.
He said the business community is worried over a continued shortfall in tax collections.
The revised tax target could not be achieved during the first six months of the current fiscal resulting in a shortfall of Rs287 billion due to slowdown in economic activities and unnecessary import compression, he said.
Mian Zahid Hussain said that imports have been reduced by six billion dollars which has inflicted a loss of 330 billion rupees in revenue, while the agriculture wholesale and retail sectors having a combined share of 36 percent in the GDP remain out of the tax net which is dragging the country down.
He said that full-year shortfall is expected to be Rs1000 billion which can be compensated by increasing tax rates, energy tariff or a mini-budget which has unnerved the business community.
He noted the FBR has collected additional Rs209 billion during the first five months in which energy tariff and indirect taxes have played a major role in sparing rich and hitting the marginalized sections of society.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
INCREASE IN FLOUR PRICE MULTIPLIES THARIS’ MISERIES
A Correspondent January 16, 2020
MITHI: Rise in the prices of wheat flour has multiplied miseries of already inflation-hit people in all parts of the desert district as according to details gathered by this reporter on Wednesday, people are forced to buy flour at Rs60 to Rs65 per kilo, more than Rs18 to Rs25 higher as compared to price fixed by the government.
People in Mithi, Islamkot, Nagarparkar, Diplo, Kaloi and other towns and areas deplored that steep rise in prices of the staple food item had created crisis for them. They demanded the high-ups of the Sindh government to take strong notice.
On the other hand, flour millers claimed that they were not being provided with the required quality of wheat as per the quota, adding that they held the officials of the food department responsible for the alarming situation in one of the most vulnerable districts facing food insecurity.
The 33rd death anniversary of peasant leader Mohammad Fazil Rahu would be observed in Rahuki on Jan 17, said Sindh Minister for Agriculture Mohammad Ismail Rahu on Wednesday.
He said at workers’ meetings in different areas of the district that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman and other leaders would attend the event to pay tribute to his father, who was killed in 1987 in Golarchi town.
The minister said that not only the party leaders, but poets and writers from various parts of the country had also been invited to attend the literary session to highlight the struggle of his late father for the downtrodden people.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020
‘BISP BENEFICIARIES INCLUDED 0.14M GOVT OFFICERS’
By Our Correspondent Published: January 16, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar on Wednesday said around 140,000 government employees were among the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) beneficiaries.
Addressing a news conference, she said the government had initiated disciplinary action against grade-17 and above officers who were benefitting from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
According to the PM’s aide, 2,543 government officers of grade 17 and above had received assistance meant for the poor.
“The BISP officers who were among the list of beneficiaries have been issued notices while the names of federal and provincial government officers who were benefitting from the programme have been shared with the authorities concerned,” Dr Nishtar, who is also the BISP chairperson, told the media.
“The detailed list of government officers who were registered as BISP beneficiaries is being prepared and will be submitted to the prime minister soon,” she added.
“The names of these officers will then be made public.”
The PM’s aide elaborated that personal assets including cars and properties of BISP beneficiaries were being analysed.
“A thorough investigation is under way to remove undeserving beneficiaries.”
Dr Nishtar said the names of provincial government officers who were among the BISP beneficiaries had been shared with the chief ministers. “We have requested the chief ministers to take action against them.”
In December 2019, Dr Nishtar had announced that the government had conducted forensic data analysis and identified 820,165 undeserving people who were availing BISP assistance.
According to official data, the highest number of government officials receiving BISP assistance was from Sindh. As many as 1,122 officers of grade 17 and above from the province were BISP beneficiaries.
The second-highest number came from Balochistan where 741 government officials had signed up for the poverty alleviation scheme. From Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 403 government officials availed the BISP funds, while 137 were from Punjab.
From the federal government, 62 officers received the programme funds. Additionally, one officer of the Pakistan Railways, 22 of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and 49 of Gilgit Baltistan were also marked as undeserving recipients of the BISP assistance.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed concerned authorities to make public the names of the government officials who were beneficiaries of the BISP.
“We cannot forgive people who deprived the poor of their rights,” said PM Imran. “The names of the looters should be made public.”
RECORD 45M PEOPLE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA FACE HUNGER: UN
By Reuters January 16, 2020 | 2:43pm
JOHANNESBURG — The United Nations World Food Programme said on Thursday that a record 45 million people in the 16-nation Southern African Development Community faced growing hunger following repeated drought, widespread flooding and economic disarray.
Southern Africa is in the grips of a severe drought, as climate change wreaks havoc in impoverished countries already struggling to cope with extreme natural disasters, such as Cyclone Idai which devastated Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in 2019.
“This hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve not seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to get worse,’ the WFP’s Regional Director for Southern Africe, Lola Castro, said in a statement.
83% PAKISTANIS WORRIED ABOUT JOB SECURITY
By Shahbaz Rana Published: January 17, 2020
ISLAMABAD: About 83% of Pakistanis are concerned about their job security while 31% of respondents have themselves or people known to them have lost their jobs due to prevailing economic conditions, reveals a new opinion survey.
Ipsos – a global market research and consulting firm – on Thursday officially announced the findings of its second Global Consumer Confidence Index (GCCI) survey, generally known as the National Index, which was conducted last month.
Increasing inflation, unemployment and increasing poverty turned out to be the most worrying issues for the respondents as all depicted poor economic management of the country that has now left millions in the lurch.
The results showed that people’s trust in the economy had further weakened; they were less comfortable about making investments and only 21% were of the opinion that the country was heading in the right direction.
People were questioned about their confidence in the economy, their opinion about the current situation compared to a year earlier, investment decisions and job prospects.
The results are based on a score ranging from 0-100 and the index inching towards 100 means better sentiment. The survey was conducted in December.
Survey results showed that people’s confidence in the economy was on the decline as the country’s score on the National Index stood at only 32.8 – one point lower than the August 2019 findings. India’s score stood at 61.1, which also dropped from 62.9.
Owing to the government’s economic stabilisation policies, the country is passing through a phase of low economic growth and higher inflation. Ipsos survey findings were in line with the prevailing sentiment about Pakistan’s economy where the lowest income groups were affected the most and political and economic uncertainties had shattered their confidence.
Results of Ipsos research are based on the primary data collected from the nationally representative sample of 2,900 people aged between 18 and 65 years in December 2019.
About 91% of Pakistanis were less comfortable about buying a car or a home as compared to a year ago, according to the survey. Similarly, 90% of Pakistani respondents said they were not comfortable about making household purchases.
On the question of job security, only 17% Pakistanis said their jobs were secure while 31% of respondents said they or people known to them had lost their jobs as a result of economic conditions.
The GCCI index is composed of four sub-indices – Current Conditions Index, Expectations Index, Investment Index and Jobs Index. The National Confidence Index was the lowest in Pakistan among the 28 nations surveyed.
Pakistan’s score on the Current Index, which showed comparison between the current economic situation and the condition a year ago, slipped further to a new low of 19.2, down from the August level of 19.5.
On the Expectations Index, the score dipped slightly to 43.6, suggesting weakening hopes for any improvement in the situation over the next six months.
People are not willing to make personal investment decisions in the next six months due to an overall low trust in the economy, according to the poll.
On the Investment Index, the score dropped further to 19.1, suggesting that the respondents would not invest in the near future.
The hopes for jobs are fast fading away with the score slipping to 49.7, from the August level of 52.2.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised to create 10 million jobs in five years and build five million homes. However, last week, the prime minister acknowledged that the government could not give jobs to the people, although he claimed that 2020 would be the year of economic revival.
Although the International Monetary Fund and the government believe that the stabilisation phase would end in two years, there is still not a clear economic road map about how the government will ensure economic recovery after two years.
PM Imran, this week, told a businessmen delegation that his government was not yet in a position to ease tight monetary and fiscal policies.
For 30% of respondents, unemployment was the most worrying issue while another 29% said increase in inflation was the most worrying issue for them. Burden of additional taxes was the third most worrying issue, followed by increase in poverty, lack of health facilities and increase in terrorism.
Only 3% of respondents said they were very satisfied with the present economic situation and another 18% said they were fairly satisfied. The remaining 79% were either fairly dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the economic situation in Pakistan.
Only 21% of Pakistani respondents said the country was heading in the right direction while the remaining 79% said it was going in the wrong direction. The perception remained unchanged as compared to the August 2019 survey.
People did not have hope of any improvement in their personal finances in the next six months. Only 9% agreed that their overall quality of life would improve in the next five years, showing diminishing hopes among the people.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2020.
ANOTHER LANGAR AT PIMS TO SERVE 1,000 PEOPLE EVERY DAY
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated January 18, 2020
Dr Sania Nishtar gives food to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza at the Langar inaugurated at Pims on Friday. — White Star
ISLAMABAD, Jan 17: Ehsaas opened second Langar (soup kitchen) at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) on Friday.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza performed the groundbreaking of the Langar.
Pims Executive Director Dr Anser Maxood, Adviser to Chairman of Saylani Welfare International Trust Mohammad Afzal Chamdia and the trust’s chief operating officer, Mohammad Ghazzal, were also present on the occasion.
This Langar will serve two meals a day to at least 1,000 people, including patients and their attendants at Pims, as per the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
In the first phase, Ehsaas Saylani Langars will be opened in Peshawar, Swat, Multan, Lahore and Umerkot in the next two months.
Overall, in the public-private partnership with Saylani Welfare International Trust, Ehsaas will set up 112 Langars nationwide over a two-year period.
The first prototype Langar was inaugurated by the prime minister on Oct 7, 2019 at Peshawar Mor in Islamabad.
Langars are part of the prime minister’s ‘Mazdoor ka Ehsaas’ initiative and are primarily meant to serve meals to the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the society, especially daily wage labourers.
“The prime minister is personally committed to ensuring that no one goes to bed hungry in Pakistan and Ehsaas is working hard to realise that vision,” stated Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and BISP chairperson Dr Sania Nishtar.
Elaborating further, she said: “Under the Ehsaas framework, the government is mainly extending logistic support to Langars through a strategic approach with zero cost implications.
The second way in which the government is playing its role is by setting safety and quality standards, and the third is by disseminating information widely.”
Addressing on the occasion Special Assistant on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said: “We are glad to give free space for the Langar at the Pims. Families of poor patients will be served here.”
The Pims executive director lauded the support of the federal government and the trust in opening the Langar in Pims vicinity and pledged full cooperation in this noble cause.
Mr Chamdia thanked the federal government for extending on-the-ground facilitation and support and reassured it that the trust will continue bringing all its kitchen and food distribution resources to feed the marginalised throughout the country.
Other speakers said there was a lot of criticism on Langars but it should be understood that they lessen despair among the homeless.
They restore dignity and self-reliance to those who otherwise go hungry, and they contribute to grassroots activism and social cohesion with food security and nutrition aims.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2020
INCREASE FONT SIZE DECREASE FONT SIZE RESET FONT SIZE
By Our Staff Reporter | 1/18/2020 12:00:00 AM
KARACHI: Expressing concern over the increasing number of suicide cases in Tharparkar, speakers at a seminar held on Friday at a local hotel underscored the need for immediate government intervention in the district which, they said, desperately needed experts to cater to mental health issues.
Titled `Increasing incidence of sui-cides in Thar`, the programme was organised by Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC).
It also marked the launch of the commission`s fifth annual report by SHRC chairman retired Justice Majida Rizvi alongside provincial Minister for Women Development Syeda Shehla Raza.
The report highlights the commission`s activities, its collective achievements and challenges.
Starting off the discussion, Justice Rizvi said that members of the commission visited Thar, the district considered to be the most vulnerable with respect to cases of suicide, in November last year to better understand the situation and met local people, including civil society activists, members of media and government officials of the district.
`The locals described poverty, cus-toms, marginalisation, social and class discrimination as major f actors contributing to increasing number of suicide cases in Thar. Some of them also believed that psychological issues are also the reason behind this phenomenon,` she said.
On the commission`s report, she said its responsibilities were increasing as awareness about human rights was growing among the masses day by day.
`Last year, the commission had held several public hearings in various districts of the province. It intervened in cases of labour and minority rights` violation, water and environment and issues related to education and sanitary workers,` she told the audience.
The commission also noted the impact of jirga system on human rights in Sindh and took action on 337 cases of human rights violations, she added.
Recalling her visit to Thar, MinisterShehla Raza said that she found out that it wasn`t only women who committed suicide, but some men also committed the act. `Poverty, child marriages and domestic violence in the district are pushing people to take this extreme step.
It was also pointe d out during the discussion that except the civil hospital, no psychiatrist was available at any other health f acility in the district.
Zulfiqar Shah, an SHRC member and joint director at Pakistan Institute of Labour, Education and Research (Piler), was of the opinion that growing cases of suicide in the society was a multilayered subject, which needed a thorough investigation.
`People in Sindh, especially in Tharparkar district, have suffered immensely due to poor governance and increasing poverty. It is time for the state to take immediate practical stepsto ensure that their grievances are heard and their issues are resolved before the situation gets out of control, he said.
Karamat Ali, Piler executive director, underscored the need for bringing an improvement in the policing system which, he believed, was directly linked to people`s well-being.
`The commission for public safety and policing has a role to play in containing cases of suicide in the province and we are ready to lend support in this regard.
Anis Haroon, former member of the National Commission for Human Rights, spoke about the lack of proper health f acilities in Sindh and said every other person nowadays was suffering from psychological issues.
`We can see that there is an increase in both poverty and cases of suicide in society,` she remarked, regretting thatgrowing cases of suicide in Thar were alarming and they required immediate intervention at the government level.
Retired Justice Shahnawaz Tariq, the ombudsman of the Commission against Harassment at the Workplace, appreciated the increasing awareness on human rights and said the subject of workplace harassment was never earlier discussed in the country, but now this was happening and it had led to enactment of relevant laws in the country.
`Harassment often leads to cases of suicide, which need to be dealt in a proper manner. The culprit is always a man and the victim mostly belongs to the lower strata of society.
Dr Haroon Ahmed, representing the Pakistan Association of Mental Health, and Dr Azhar Mirza of Pakistan Medical Association also participated in the discussion.
FOUR BISP OFFICERS DISMISSED ON CORRUPTION CHARGES, SAYS DR NISHTAR
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated January 19, 2020
KARACHI: Four officers have been dismissed from service on charges of corruption as they got their wives enrolled as Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) beneficiaries fraudulently, said BISP chairperson Dr Sania Nishtar at an open kutchery organised in Malir on Saturday.
A large number of BISP beneficiaries were in attendance at the event.
Speaking at the gathering, Dr Nishtar, also Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, said four Grade-17 BISP officers had been dismissed from service on charge of corruption and misconduct as they got their wives enrolled as BISP beneficiaries fraudulently, using their position in BISP. Inquiries were under way against two others.
The government, she said, had recovered Rs440,196 as part of Ehsaas integrity and anti-corruption drive.
“The government is not taking out the needy from the BISP list of beneficiaries but taking steps to ensure transparency in the programme. It plans to increase its monthly stipend from Rs5,000 to Rs6,000 which would be given in instalments. Every beneficiary would now have a bank account and can withdraw the amount through an ATM card as well,” she told the audience.
Monthly stipend to be raised to Rs6,000
The government, she said, was committed to uplift of the poor.
“You are important for the government, that’s why I am here to listen to your problems so that we can devise an effective strategy to alleviate your sufferings,” she said, adding that the prime minister was serious about poverty alleviation and wanted to take steps in that direction.
About those excluded from the BISP list of beneficiaries recently, she said she personally involved herself to get first-hand information about the social status of BISP beneficiaries.
“Often, I wear burqa and go out in and around Islamabad to look into the lives of beneficiaries,” she said, adding that the government had launched a crackdown on corrupt elements.
Highlighting how the funds were being misused and the steps the government had taken so far to ensure transparency in the programme, she said 140,000 government employees of various grades were among the BISP beneficiaries including the staff of Pakistan Post Office.
“The government has started taking disciplinary action against these officials. In cases where such officials are working under provincial governments, their lists have been sent to the chief secretaries of respective governments.”
Dr Nishtar urged women to come forward, support the government and avail the opportunities being offered under the Ehsaas Programme, one component of which was Kafalat Programme that could benefit women a lot.
“The government is making procedures easier and improving the BISP to benefit the poor. Earlier, the beneficiary couldn’t know that she had received the stipend but now they can get this information. In addition, they could now open a bank account with a thumb impression and [make] savings,” she said.
Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2020
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM JAN 06 TO JAN 12,2020
SBP FEARS RISE IN FOOD INFLATION
By RIZWAN BHATTI on January 7, 2020
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said on Monday that the policy mix appears adequate to address the macroeconomic imbalances and push the economy towards stability as Pakistan’s economy moved progressively along the adjustment path during the first quarter (July-Sep) of this fiscal year (FY20).
The State Bank has also predicted that Pakistan is likely to miss the real GDP growth target of 4 percent for this fiscal year (FY20) mainly due to subdued performance of agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
According to SBP report “The State of Pakistan’s Economy” for first quarter (July-Sep) of FY20, following the modest GDP growth of 3.3 percent last year, the government set a 4.0 percent growth target for FY20. This recovery was premised on a better performance by the agriculture and industrial sectors. However, based on the sluggish start during the first quarter, it appears that achieving the annual targets for agriculture and industry may prove to be challenging.
The SBP said that export growth and foreign exchange reserves, documentation of economy for required revenue and higher food inflation are still major challenges to the country’s economy. “Keeping these challenges in view, it is vital that the government continues to address the underlying structural vulnerabilities and put the economy on a balanced and sustainable growth trajectory,” the report said.
Furthermore, there is a need to build on gains on the ease of doing business front, which requires not just the capacity development in key public institutions, but also a continuous dialogue with relevant stakeholders to ensure smooth implementation, it added,
According to report, in terms of policies, a number of developments were important. The macroeconomic stabilization process picked up momentum with the initiation of the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program and the SBP continued to keep the monetary policy consistent with the medium-term inflation target, whereas, consolidation efforts were visible on the fiscal front.
Furthermore, a market-based exchange rate system was implemented, to which the interbank foreign exchange market adjusted relatively well. Notably, the government avoided deficit monetization, including rollover of SBP debt and actively pursued documentation efforts.
While the success of documentation measures hinges upon the policy consistency and would manifest in revenue mobilization over the medium term, the payoff from ongoing stabilization efforts has become visible in the form of declining twin deficits. The current account deficit in Q1-FY20 fell to less than half of last year’s level, primarily on the back of significant import compression.
Owing to low unit prices, exports growth remained low. However, in volumetric terms exports witnessed a noticeable growth. On the fiscal front, the overall deficit remained lower as compared to the same period of last year, and the primary balance recorded a surplus for the first time in 7 quarters. This improvement was made possible through both revenue enhancing and expenditure control measures. Importantly, development expenditures witnessed a sharp growth of 30.5 percent during the quarter, the report mentioned.
“However, despite these stability gains, the overall confidence among businesses and consumers remained weak, as they struggled to preserve their purchasing powers and dealt with operational constraints stemming from the adjustment process,” the SBP said and added that while large businesses especially export-oriented and import-competing industries remained bullish on fundamentals and they refrained from taking a long-term view.
In case of GDP, the report noted that the revised estimates for the kharif season suggest that the production of important crops is likely to fall short of target for FY20. The large-scale manufacturing sector witnessed a decline of 5.9 percent in Q1-FY20 on YoY basis. This contraction was broad-based, as construction-allied industries, petroleum and automobile industries continued on downward path.
In contrast, previous corrections in the exchange rate helped the export-oriented industries, as reflected in the relatively better performance of textiles and leather. On balance, however, achieving the real GDP growth target of 4 percent appears unlikely, the SBP said.
The report further highlighted that the average headline CPI inflation reached 11.5 percent in Q1-FY20, extending the steep upward trend persistent since the beginning of FY19. Not only this level was double the inflation observed in the same quarter last year, it was also the highest level of quarterly inflation since Q4-FY12. This outcome was attributed to the lagged pass-through of the exchange rate depreciation towards the end of FY19; rationalization of energy tariffs; and revenue-led fiscal measures taken in the budget 2019-20, which included the imposition of federal excise duty on a number of consumer items, and the ending of the zero-rating regime for export-oriented sectors and of the reduced GST regime on sugar.
On the external front, the balance of payments continued to improve during Q1-FY20. Beside significant improvement in trade deficit, and with the receipt of the first EFF tranche from the IMF and increase in foreign portfolio investment, the current account gap was plugged by the available financial flows. These inflows also helped the SBP to increase its foreign exchange reserves by US$ 656.2 million and reduce its net forward liabilities by US$ 1.3 billion during the quarter.
From the policy perspective, it is important to continue with the adjustment process despite weakening economic activity, as well as the visible stability gains in terms of the falling twin deficits, the report said and added “the policy continuation is warranted given the lingering vulnerabilities in the economy and the chronic nature of the structural weaknesses”.
Three aspects are important. First, most of the improvement in the current account has come from a reduction in the country’s import bill; exports have yet to contribute significantly, as healthy quantum gains are not supported by price trends.
Furthermore, while the drawdown in foreign exchange reserves has been reversed, the overall reserves position remains below the comfort level (in terms of import coverage).
Second, the announced documentation-related measures must be implemented in order to bring the needed diversification in the revenue base. This is important to rebalance the country’s fiscal revenue structure, which is currently over-reliant on very few sectors.
Third, managing food prices has lately become challenging. Supply-management issues, such as weak governance in commodity procurement agencies, hoarding practices and regional trade bottlenecks, may potentially perpetuate food inflation going forward.
Within the budgetary borrowings, a clear shift was observed, with the government borrowing heavily from commercial banks to retire its SBP debt. This was unlike last year, when the government had borrowed heavily from the SBP to retire its commercial bank debt.
With regards to private sector credit, a general slowdown in the manufacturing and commercial activities resulted in significantly lower credit appetite of businesses. This, coupled with higher interest rates, led firms in a number of sectors to deleverage, whereas fresh applications for working capital finance also decreased notably. In cumulative terms, private businesses retired Rs 85.4 billion loans, compared to an offtake of Rs 99.0 billion during Q1-FY19.
The pace of external debt accumulation in Q1-FY20 was relatively slower compared to Q1-FY19 in the wake of revaluation gains due to depreciation of other currencies against the US dollar and higher debt repayments.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
PM APPROVES RS7BN UTILITY STORES RELIEF PACKAGE
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated January 08, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Tuesday Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved a Rs7 billion package for providing relief to the poor through the Utility Stores Corporation (USC).
Speaking at a press conference here along with USC Chairman Zulqarnain Ali Khan and Managing Director Umar Lodhi, the special assistant said that the relief package was in line with the prime minister’s vision of a welfare state modelled on that of Madina. The package includes lowering the prices of essential edible items, including flour, cooking oil, rice and pulses.
Dr Awan said that the USC would ensure delivery of basic items at affordable prices to the poorest section of society because this was one of the government’s top priorities.
She said modern technology would be used to ensure that benefits of the subsidy reached the common man in a transparent manner.
USC chief says deserving families will soon get ration cards to avail subsidy
The special assistant said Zulqarnain Ali Khan, who had volunteered his services free of cost as the USC chief, was an old companion of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Khan said that after taking the charge as the chairman of USC around a year ago, many problems encountered by the Utility Stores had been streamlined and resolved.
He said that ration cards would soon be provided to the deserving families so that they could buy essential edible items at subsidised rates.
He said the corporation had cleared pending bills of Rs14bn of contractors and suppliers and reduced its overheads too, but none of its employee had been fired.
Mr Khan said two million tonnes of wheat had been obtained at a cheaper price from the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation.
He said that the USC would increase the number of its stores across the country from 4,000 to 10,000.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2020
BISP TAKES ACTION AGAINST OFFICERS WHO GOT GOVT HELP MEANT FOR POOR
Bakhtawar Mian Updated January 09, 202
ISLAMABAD: Chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Dr Sania Nishtar said on Wednesday that disciplinary action would be taken against government officers of grade 17 and above who had received BISP assistance meant for the poor.
In a post on Twitter, Dr Nishtar said 2,543 government officers of grade-17 and above had got themselves registered among the beneficiaries from the social safety net and received the assistance meant for the poorest of the poor. They have been excluded from the programme.
“True: 2,543 exited from BISP_Pakistan are government officers/their spouses of Grade 17 and above and their names have been exited,” she wrote on her Twitter account, adding that the social safety net had initiated disciplinary action against these officers.
The BISP has also written to the provincial chief secretaries and federal ministries whose officers had illegally enrolled themselves as BISP beneficiaries. They have been informed that action is under way against these people.
To avoid such irregularities in future, appropriate measures had been taken under the government’s Ehsaas programmer reforms, the BISP chairperson said.
According to official data, the highest number of government officials receiving the BISP assistance was from Sindh. As many as 1,122 officers of Grade-17 and above from the province had been BISP beneficiaries.
The second highest number came from Balochistan where 741 government officials were signed up for the poverty alleviation scheme. From Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 403 government officials availed the BISP funds, while 137 did so from Punjab.
From the federal government, 62 officers received the programme funds. Additionally, one officer of the Pakistan Railways, 22 of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and 49 of Gilgit-Baltistan were also marked as undeserving recipients of the BISP.
From within the BISP itself, six officers were listed among the beneficiaries.
Last month, Dr Nishtar had announced that the government had conducted forensic data analysis and identified 820,165 undeserving people who were availing the BISP assistance. She had said the government was ‘exiting’ these people from the programme, adding that this exercise would be conducted annually to weed out any beneficiary who had achieved financial stability so that the funds could be disbursed to more deserving people.
Launched in July 2008, the federally-funded BISP is Pakistan’s largest social safety net, catering to women and benefiting around 5.4 million people, according to data released in 2016.
Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2020
AFTER RS7BN RELIEF PACKAGE, PM VOWS MORE SUBSIDIES FOR UTILITY STORES
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter January 09, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday vowed to give more subsidies to a huge network of Utility Store outlets in the country so that inflation-hit people could get some relief in getting essential items.
The PM announced this during his visit to a Utility Store outlet at G-9 Markez where he inspected essential items to ascertain their prices and quality. He expressed satisfaction over the sale of a 20kg bag of flour at Rs800 at the outlet, though its market price is ranging between Rs810 and Rs820. “A 20kg bag of Atta is available at Rs800 in the Utility Store and we will try to further reduce its price,” the prime minister said during his visit to the store.
He said the government’s relief package of Rs7 billion was aimed at providing basic food items and commodities to salaried and low and middle income groups at subsidised rates through 4,000 outlets of the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) across the country.
“The government would soon announce a ration card scheme as well for the poor people, who would be able to get Rs3,000 worth of basic commodities every month from Utility Stores,” he said.
Move to help inflation-hit people buy basic food items at cheaper rates
The prime minister said the relief package was not only aimed at ensuring the provision of basic commodities, including wheat flour, sugar, ghee, rice and pulses, to the low and middle income classes at cheaper rates, but also checking inflationary trends in the open market.
High prices of edible oil in the country were due to its higher rates in the international market, he said, adding that the government was, however, striving to enhance its local produce by encouraging the sunflower and canola growers.
“The government is also striving to boost the cultivation of pulses in the country to check $1.5 billion annual imports of pulses,” PM Khan added.
One of the main reasons behind inflation and high prices, he said, was the role of middlemen who were making profits at the cost of consumers and growers. The sale of basic commodities at USC outlets at cheaper rates would also help regulate prices in the open market.
Responding to a question by media persons, the prime minister said the government had provided Rs7bn for the relief package and, if required, more funds would be allocated to subsidise the basic commodities.
Again giving hope of better tomorrow to the people, he said: “After achieving economic stability in the year 2019, the government would now focus on job creation, industrialisation and economic growth in 2020.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Khan, accompanied by his Special Assistant on Information Dr Firdoua Ashiq Awan, took a round of the USC outlet and was briefed by USC chairman Zulqarnain Ali Khan and managing director Umar Lodhi on the relief package, stock position of essential commodities and their availability at USC outlets throughout the country, as well as the use of technology to ensure that the subsidy provided by the government reached the target population.
Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2020
`LIVELIHOOD PROJECT TO BENEFIT PEOPLE LIVING IN EXTREME POVERTY`
By Kalbe Ali | 1/9/2020 12:00:00 AM
ISLAMABAD: United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency and the Pakistan Poveny Alleviation Fund (PPAF) on Wednesday launched a livelihood project aimed at providing sustainable livelihood oppohunities for both Afghan refugees and Pakistani communities.
The livelihood project is estimated to be worth Rs320 million and, in addition to the 3,000 Pakistani households benefitting from PPAF`s regular livelihood programme, it will help another 3,000 households.
The programme will be mainly implemented in Mansehra and Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Chaghi in Balochistan.
Under the project, the most vulnerable households will be provided with intensive coaching in the area of agriculture and entrepreneurship, various packages, including livestock, to suppon such initiatives as well as access to financial services.
The UNHCR project is complementing government`s flagship `Ehsaas` programme and benefiting the people targeted by the government for povehy alleviation and their economic development.
UNHCR representative in Pakistan Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, said that such projects will have a significant impact in the lives of vulnerable people living in extreme poveny.
She added that this initiative will help lift the Afghan refugee population and members of the host community out of poverty and provide them with sustainable livelihood.
`Once refugees have acquired a set of skills, they can work to build their self-reliance and be empowered. They will not only give back here but also play an important role in the economy when they return to Afghanistan,` she said.
PPAF Chief Executive Officer Qazi Azmat Isa said: `In order to graduate vulnerable households out of extreme poverty, sustainable livelihoods are essential. This will improve their overall capacity and enable them to become financially independent.
The poverty graduation approach targets families living on less than $1.25 a day and with no access to basic services. It brings innovative and market-based methods together to help people become self-reliant by providing them with livelihood opportunities.
Last year, UNHCR and PPAF launched a pilot project worth $1.2 million in Swabi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pishin in Balochistan.
The project benefitted 2,000 households, of which 70pc were Afghan refugees and 30pc were Pakistani host communities.
PPAF`s poverty graduation approach merges elements of social mobilisation, livelihood development and financial inclusion, combining suppon for immediate needs with longer term suppon for the development of human capital and assets.
GHANI ACCUSES SANIA OF HARMING 800,000 PEOPLE LINKED TO BISP
By RECORDER REPORT on January 9, 2020
Sindh Minister for Information and Labour Saeed Ghani has said that Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar planned to inflict harm on 800,000 deserving people linked to Benazir Income Support. Saeed Ghani said that if the government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had reservation over 1500 people, it did not mean that it should make suffer thousands of people. He said this while talking to the journalists on Wednesday.
Saeed Ghani said that the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) was created to help the poor. Thousands of people should not suffer owing to few hundred wrongly included people, he added.
Provincial Information Minister said that they would not allow PTI to achieve political motives under the guise of damaging BISP.
He said that PTI wanted to include its own people in BISP illegally and added PTI would not be allowed to inflict harm on BISP in any way.
The provincial minister said that PTI government was a Tik Tok government and it would collapse only by Tik Tok. He said that Shahriar Afridi had said that there was a difference between video and footage. Now only could tell what was the difference between Hareem and Tarmeem, he added.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
INQUIRY ORDERED AGAINST OFFICERS TAINTED BY BISP SCAM
By Mohammad Zafar Published: January 11, 2020
QUETTA: Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal ordered inquiry into reports of involvement of a large number of provincial officers receiving money from Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) in the name of spouses.
According to reports, 741 officers of grade 17 to 21 were involved in the scam.
“The CM ordered authorities concerned to submit list of officers who have utilised BISP funds by registering their wives and depriving the needy women of Balochistan of their right,” said an official source.
He added that the names of officials would be disclosed after the completion of inquiry.
Earlier, BISP Chirperson Dr Sania Nishtar tweeted on a micro-blogging website saying 2,543 government officers of grade 17 and above had received assistance meant for the poor. She added that the officers had got themselves registered among beneficiaries from the social safety net and received the assistance meant for the poorest of the poor. They have been excluded from the programme.
Nishtar confirmed that a disciplinary action has been initiated against the officers. She added that the BISP has also written to the provincial chief secretaries and federal ministries whose officers had illegally enrolled themselves as BISP beneficiaries. They have been informed that action is under way against these people.
To avoid such irregularities in future, appropriate measures had been taken under the government’s Ehsaas programmer reforms, the BISP chairperson said.
According to official data, the highest number of government officials receiving the BISP assistance was from Sindh. As many as 1,122 officers of grade 17 and above from the province had been BISP beneficiaries.
The second highest number came from Balochistan where 741 government officials were signed up for the poverty alleviation scheme. From Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 403 government officials availed the BISP funds, while 137 were from Punjab.
From the federal government, 62 officers received the programme funds. Additionally, one officer of the Pakistan Railways, 22 of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and 49 of Gilgit Baltistan were also marked as undeserving recipients of the BISP.
From within the BISP itself, six officers were listed among the beneficiaries.
In December 2019, Dr Nishtar had announced that the government had conducted forensic data analysis and identified 820,165 undeserving people who were availing the BISP assistance. She had said the government was ‘exiting’ these people from the programme, adding that this exercise would be conducted annually to weed out any beneficiary who had achieved financial stability so that the funds could be disbursed to more deserving people.
Launched in July 2008, the federally-funded BISP is Pakistan’s largest social safety net, catering to women and benefiting around 5.4 million people, according to data released in 2016.
Nishtar earlier announced to throw out almost 8 million and 20 thousand illegal beneficiaries of Benazir Income Support paradigm.
High officials from all over country have been illegally utilizing the reserved funds for poor and needy women of the society. Almost 2543 officers from grade 17 to grade 21 from all over Pakistan has been listed out from the circle of Benazir Income Support Program beneficiaries.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2020.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM DEC 30 TO JAN 05,2020
PM ASKS CMS OF PUNJAB, KP TO PROVIDE SHELTER, FOOD TO HOMELESS PEOPLE
By RECORDER REPORT on December 30, 2019
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday directed chief ministers of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to provide shelter and food to homeless people suffering from cold weather conditions.
“Given the extremely cold weather conditions I have asked CMs of Punjab & KP to ensure that no person is left out without shelter; & their administrations must take immediate action to provide temporary shelters plus food for those who cannot be accommodated in existing Panagahs [Shelter Homes],” tweeted the PM, with the cold spell has hit almost all parts of the country.
Later in the evening, PTI Senator Faisal Javed along with deputy commissioner Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat visited different shelter homes in federal capital and take stock of the situation.
Soon after coming into power last year, the premier announced to establish shelter homes across the country for the homeless and travelers. In November last year, the Punjab government in line with directives of the prime minister set up temporary shelters for passengers and homeless people. Subsequently, the following month, PM Imran had inaugurated a shelter for the homeless in Peshawar. The shelter had been equipped to provide accommodation for 200 people.
In another tweet, the prime minister said that the country is a land of unimaginable beauty, hidden natural wonders and untapped tourism potential. He shared British travel magazine “Wanderlust’s” report titled “9 of Pakistan’s most breathtaking natural wonders.” Among the natural wonders of Pakistan, the magazine enlisted Baltoro Glacier, Neelum Valley, Hingol National Park, Trango Towers, Deosai Plains, Thar Desert, Saiful Muluk, Hunza Valley and Attabad Lake.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2019
‘RISING GLOBAL INCOME INEQUALITY STIRS MIGRATION AT ALARMING RATE’
By RECORDER REPORT on December 30, 2019
Rising global income inequality has stirred migration at alarming rate from poor to rich countries and this continuing practice may become a potential threat to the world peace, said Engineer Ahmad Hassan chairman FCCI standing committee on Research & Development.
Addressing a Traders meeting, he emphasized that global income and wealth inequality has seen a significant rise over the past century, which has led to increasing gaps between the rich and the poor. “The rich are getting richer at faster rate while those in the lower income classes are being unable to achieve a considerable positive transformation in their financial position”, he added.
Referring to a recent report issued by the globally renowned Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI), Engineer Ahmed Hassan pointed out the astonishing fact that, ranking the global population of over 7 billion in terms of wealth, the bottom half accounted for less than 1% of global wealth, whereas the richest I0% held 82% of global wealth and the richest 1% alone had control over 45% of global wealth.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2019
DESERVING WOMEN CONTACTING BISP OFFICE FOR AID RESTORATION IN VAIN
Malik Tahseen Raza December 31, 2019
MUZAFFARGARH: About 200,000 women have been on the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) beneficiary list in Muzaffargarh since 2008, and of them several hundreds have lodged complaints with the district BISP office that their cards have been blocked.
They say this time they could not receive cash through their cards, which showed their name had been removed from the database.
Mehr Mohammad Asif, BISP assistant director, said to this correspondent that 145,000 cards had been blocked in Punjab but no district office had been provided with data on the names removed from data. He said he was waiting for the list. He said the women who complained about the blockage of their cards, in his views, were deserving and below poverty level. He said those who did not deserve to on BISP list may not contact the office for face-saving.
Recently, the BISP removed 800,000 or so people from the social safety net programme for being not deserving after coming under scrutiny carried out by the National Database and Registration Authority.
Manzoor Mai, of the Muzaffargarh city, said that she had been a BISP beneficiary for the last eight years. Initially, she was getting the monthly dish-out from the BISP office and later on the department issued her an ATM card. Now, her card had been blocked and despite her several visit to the office, she could not get the amount. Manzoor Mai is a widow, living in a katchi abadi.
The BISP factor has been impacting Muzaffargarh district returned three PPP MNAs in the last election, which is believed to be due to BISP voters. Even before the launch of the BISP, the district elected five MNAs in 2008. Later on, in 2013, one PPP candidate became MNA.
This correspondent spoke to over one dozen BISP beneficiaries in Kot Addu and Muzaffargarh tehsils. They said they always voted for PPP candidates because of their attachment with the party. PPP MNA Mehr Irshad sial said that it was honour for him when he contested election from the PPP ticket, all BISP cardholders supported him in drove despite the fact his rival Jamshed Dasti had distributed cards in 2010 when he was in the PPP.
Some PTI MPAs said that during electioneering, several women refused to support them because of the BISP factor. They said though the social safety programmes had helped poor women, but its political implication could not be denied. They said the PTI’s Ehsaas programme would be able to defuse the BISP impact.
Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2019
INTEREST-FREE LOANS WORTH RS500M ROLLED OUT UNDER EHSAAS PROGRAMME: SINDH GOVERNOR
RECORDER REPORT December 31, 2019
KARACHI: Interest free loans worth Rs 500 million were rolled out for people of Sindh under Ehsaas Programme, which is a part of the National Poverty Graduation Initiative.
A cheque distribution ceremony was held at Governor House on Monday and Governor Sindh Imran Ismail distributed the cheques amongst the beneficiaries.
Speaking at the event, Governor Sindh said that millions of households in Pakistan suffered from extreme poverty and even they were unable to access basic necessities of life.
“We believed that Ehsaas Programme’s interest free loan programme can help them forge a better future for themselves. It is our government’s priority to serve the underprivileged sector of Pakistan and through the Ehsaas program we envision to drive millions out of the circle of poverty,” he added.
“This initiative will not only allow us create employment opportunities but will also be crucial towards economic prosperity,” Governor Sindh said.
Talking about this programme, Chief Executive Officer Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) Qazi Azmat Isa expressed hope that such initiatives would help bring major transformation in the lives of the poor. “Societies can only thrive if people work in collaboration to uplift each other. Ehsaas programme is one such example of a fruitful partnership which shall immensely benefit the people of Pakistan,” he added.
Addressing the ceremony, Head of Programmes at PPAF Simi Kamal highlighted the role of Ehsaas programme and the impact it aimed to create. She said the National Poverty Graduation Initiative aimed at steering the poorest of households out of poverty by providing them interest free loans, helping them to establish small scale businesses to improve their economic conditions. “It is PPAF’s vision and mission to facilitate the underprivileged sector and work for their prosperous future,” she added.
Under the Ehsaas programme, loans worth Rs 13.8 billion have been disbursed so far among 413,390 borrowers, out of which some 46 percent are women. In Sindh alone, interest free loans of around Rs 500 million have been rolled out to more than 15,000 borrowers of which 70 percent are women. The initiative draws funds from the Government of Pakistan, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
In total Rs 42.65 billion have been set aside for 100 districts across the country under the Ehsaas Programme. The amount will impact 16.28 million people with 50 percent women including youth, persons with disabilities, transgender, minorities and marginalized communities.
During the next four years, as many as 3.8 million interest free loans will be provided to 2.28 million households. In total, 14.7 million people will benefit from this component. The programme is being executed through PPAF and Akhuwat Foundation.
National Poverty Graduation Initiative has three major components and will provide relief to the masses through asset transfers, vocational & skills trainings and interest-free loans. 80,000 interest free loans are being disbursed every month while the maximum loan size is Rs 75,000. Another component of this initiative is asset transfers, 225,000 assets will be provided to the poorest of the poor to start their businesses. The average cost of the asset which will be given as a grant is about Rs 50,000.
A transparent process has been followed to enable the poor to seek asset of their choice. The asset recipients will also be provided business trainings to draw maximum benefit from the asset provided to them. Under this component over 9,000 assets will be distributed every month over the next two years.
It may be ment