NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM MARCH 16TO MARCH 22ND, 2020
NEW BISP BENEFICIARIES
Editorial March 16, 2020
JUST one cycle of unseasonal weather, the death of a sole breadwinner, or the vagaries of fate in some other form, can drive the poorest of the poor to the edge of survival for an extended period. For those in the lowest income strata, a monthly stipend of Rs5,000 per month under the Benazir Income Support Programme can help keep the home fires burning and provide a cushion against financial shocks. It is therefore heartening to see the PTI government give due importance to this premier social security scheme, especially at a time when double-digit inflation is pushing the poor even deeper into poverty. On Friday, the National Assembly was informed that over 4.4m new names are being added to the list of beneficiaries and that 70,000 had already been included in 15 districts.
The unconditional cash transfers made under BISP since the programme was introduced in 2008 with a monthly stipend of Rs1,000 have had a multifaceted socioeconomic impact. Not only have they increased the purchasing power of millions of households, they have also sustained innumerable small businesses across the country. Moreover, BISP has empowered women who constitute, by design, most of the recipients — as is seemly considering whom the programme is named after. However, some spring-cleaning of this massive countrywide scheme was clearly needed. In December, the government announced that 800,125 names had been removed from the beneficiaries’ list after BISP data revealed they were “undeserving” of inclusion. Further forensic analysis brought more shocking revelations to the fore: over 140,000 of such beneficiaries were government servants. It is difficult to comprehend the callousness that can motivate some to misappropriate funds meant to ameliorate the desperate poverty of fellow Pakistanis. Investigations so far have resulted in the recovery of Rs600,000 of the embezzled funds in what one hopes is a sustained process. A programme such as BISP needs to be regularly, and transparently, updated. Without transparency it can easily be tainted by accusations that it is being used to serve political ends.
Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2020
SEMINAR CALLS FOR USING LOCAL CROPS FOR NUTRITION
By Our Correspondent Published: March 17, 2020
SIBI: A seminar on Monday called for using indigenous crops – vegetable, fruits and grains – for fighting malnutrition among mothers and children in Kacchi District of Balochistan.
Balochistan’s provincial nutrition programme organized the one-day seminar on malnutrition in mothers and babies at district Dhadar’s Boys Middle High School with the support of UNICEF.
A stall on nutritional awareness was also set up at the seminar where vegetables and grains found in Kacchi were displayed. The participants were told about benefits of the crops – fruits, grains and vegetables – grown in Kacchi but not used in enough quantity by the locals.
“If appropriately consumed, these fruits and vegetables could bring an end to the problem of malnutrition but due to lack of awareness among the residents, these products are not properly utilized,” said one of the speakers.
The speakers said anemic women face extreme difficulties when they get married including complications in conceiving and childbirth. Due to extreme anemic conditions in women, the maternal and infant mortality rates in Balochistan have reached an alarming height.
The speakers said 52 per cent of the children in Balochistan face malnutrition. Such children cannot meet the challenges of life and compete with their well-fed counterparts.
With so many children on facing malnutrition, we are bound to see a society where we would not have any of our future generation to be productively engaged in medicine, science and other productive faculties, they said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2020.
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM MARCH 09 TO MARCH 15, 2020
50 SHELTER HOMES SET UP ACROSS COUNTRY
APP March 09, 2020
ISLAMABAD. PM’s Focal Person for Shelter Homes Naxeem Ur Rehman has said that some 50 shelter homes had been set up across the country to provide appropriate accommodation and food to homeless and needy people.
He said: “40 ‘Panah-Gahs’ (shelter-homes) are fully functional in six major cities of the country while 10 are near completion and will soon start facilitating poor.” The shelter homes were operating in multiple cities-including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Peshawar, Faisalabad and Sialkot, he added.
Talking to APP, Rehman said the shelter homes were fully serving more than 3,200 poor people in te federal capital daily, by providing breakfast to 669 person, lunch to 1,036 and dinner to 1,501.
Apart from that some 434 homeless people were staying daily at such points, he added.
PROGRESS, PROSPERITY LINKED WITH UPLIFT OF POOR: PM
APP Updated March 11, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said the government was committed to alleviating poverty as progress and prosperity of Pakistan was linked with uplift of poor and downtrodden segments of society.
“It is my belief that a country where there is an ocean of poor people and a few rich cannot make progress,” he said while speaking at the launch of Ehsaas District Development Portal Data4Pakistan here on Tuesday.
The prime minister said a civilised society cared for its poor, it was identified by not how the rich spend their lives but how the poor were living.
He said this portal would help the government in spending development funds with justice and according to needs of the people.
He said unfortunately the powerful people in the government spent all the development funds in their constituencies thus widening the gap between the rich and poor.
Ehsaas District Development Portal Data4Pakistan launched
Lamenting the policies and practice of the previous governments, the prime minister said ground realities were not considered in the budget allocations at that time and more than half of Punjab’s budget was being spent on uplift of Lahore alone resultantly the metropolis became developed but other cities of that province were ignored.
Mr Khan also referred to Isakhel tehsil of Mianwali district and Dera Ghazi Khan district of Punjab, which were backward in health, education and infrastructure, but were ignored by the past governments. He said his government would focus on equal development of all the areas.
He said this portal would help identify the areas which were in most need of funds, besides finding other vital statistics about issues being faced by the local people.
The prime minister said this was the first step in finding necessary ways and means to fight poverty. He said Data4Pakistan would also help in policy making at the higher level as well as allocation of budget.
He said the earmarking of the budget would be on the basis of need and merit without any political or other influences.
Earlier, Special Assistant to the PM on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar said Data4Pakistan, the first initiative of its kind in the country, provided open and public access to a spatial interactive portal that had poverty estimates for every district in Pakistan, along with over 120 development and policy indicators. She said the portal currently had six rounds of district poverty and development data, covering the period 2004-2018.
This portal would be a very valuable resource for federal, provincial and district level policymakers, for decision making, she said. She said as part of Ehsaas strategy, the Data4Pakistan Portal had been developed in collaboration with the World Bank.
Dr Nishtar said interactive maps allowed the user to visualise and compare districts on poverty and two additional indicators.
She said the innovative portal used data produced by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, as part of its Social and Living Standards Measurement Surveys as well as the multiple indicators cluster surveys produced by the provincial bureaus of statistics.
Dr Nishtar said the indicators currently available in the portal, included a range of demographic, health, education and employment statistics as well as access to key services like water, sanitation, electricity and gas. It also provides a number of gender parity indices at the district level.
Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2020
57% CHILDREN’S GROWTH STUNTED IN SINDH
March 12, 2020
NEWS DESK: Around 57 per cent of the children in Sindh under the age of five experience stunted growth, while Pakistan ranks third among the countries with the highest stunting in children.
However, the Programme for Improved Nutrition in Sindh (PINS), funded by the European Union in collaboration with the Sindh government, aims to tackle the problem of stunting by addressing malnutrition.
Speaking at the first annual review meeting of the PINS Nutrition Specific Component, led by Action Against Hunger, Accelerated Action Plan (AAP) taskforce deputy coordinator Muhammad Yousuf Shaikh discussed nutrition-specific activities in the province, emphasizing the role of health workers. Mearwhile, AAP health programme coordinator Dr Sahibjan said that malnutrition is a complex issue, adding that it is the main cause of deaths and diseases among children in developing countries.
4.4M NAMES BEING INCLUDED IN BISP LIST, NA TOLD
Syed Irfan Raza Updated March 14, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly was informed on Friday that after removal of the names of over 800,000 “ineligible” beneficiaries from the list of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) over 4.4 million fresh names were being included in it.
According to the answer to a written question, the minister in charge of the poverty alleviation and social safety division informed the house that 4.4 million beneficiaries would be included under Kifalat programme and 70,000 new beneficiaries had already been included in 15 districts of the country.
The house was also given details of 820,165 ineligible recipients removed from the BISP data two months ago, including 153,302 for travelling abroad (self-once), 195,364 who travelled abroad (spouse-once), 10,476 who travelled abroad (self) more than once, 166,319 who travelled abroad (spouse) more than one, 692 for having one or more vehicles (self), 43,746 for having one or more vehicles (spouse), 24,546 for having monthly PTCL bill of Rs1,000 (self), 115,767 for receiving PTCL bill of Rs1,000 (spouse), 666 who applied for passports via executive centres (self), 580 for applying passports via such centres (spouse), 36,970 who have three or more family members applied for CNIC with executive fee, 14,730 were government employees (self) and 127,826 wives of government employees.
Two MNAs claim over 6,000 Pakistanis fled Taftan without screening for coronavirus after their return from Iran
The lower house of the parliament was apprised that over 6,000 Pakistanis who were kept in quarantine in Taftan after their return from Iran had fled the facility without completing the screening process and that they could cause the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Amid the fear of coronavirus, the NA session was abruptly cut short and prorogued sine die. During the session the opposition demanded that a National Action Plan be devised to fight coronavirus. It accused the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government of not taking emergency steps to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country.
The house was apprised by two members — Agha Hassan Baloch and Dr Shahnaz — that over 6,000 people who had returned from Iran fled the border town of Taftan without screening for coronavirus.
Mr Baloch of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal said that the Balochistan government would be responsible for the spread of coronavirus in the country.
He criticised the Balochistan government for “not taking adequate steps” to check people coming from Iran.
“What if the virus travels with us when we come here to attend the [National Assembly] session.
When the session began on March 9, the House Business Advisory Committee had decided that the assembly was to remain in session till March 20, but it was prorogued suddenly on Friday.
The session was prorogued after Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said that many members from both sides of the aisle had asked for the session to be cut short. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had also been consulted on the matter.
Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri then read out the order for prorogation of the session.
The assembly had been discussing the coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan, with opposition members blaming the federal and provincial governments for not taking enough steps to contain the virus.
Speaking on the occasion, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the issue of coronavirus was of national importance and not about political point scoring. “Sindh has done some work, Balochistan has taken some measures as well but nothing else is being done in the entire country. We are happy that the prime minister has taken notice and called a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) today.”
He said while the whole country needs to focus on fighting the virus, the government chose to arrest Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, editor-in-chief of Jang Media Group.
Mr Abbasi said that the government “should focus on coronavirus for next few weeks instead of political victimisation”.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s Raja Pervez Ashraf said that the country did not act in time, saying that the issue came into limelight [in Pakistan] when the opposition began speaking about Pakistani students who were stranded in Chinese city of Wuhan.
The government, he said, should give the House the real data of the number of passengers screened at airports and how many of them actually tested positive for coronavirus.
Responding to the opposition’s criticism, Minister for Higher Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood said: “When this issue came to surface, we were in a fix regarding the students stuck in Wuhan,” he said.
He said the Chinese government advised Pakistan not to allow these students to leave Wuhan and assured that they would be taken care of them. “Today the number of coronavirus cases is decreasing in China and the situation is improving there,” he added.
“The Sindh government has shut schools down and announced an emergency in the province. They should have waited for the NSC meeting,” he added.
A day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared coronavirus a pandemic, the Sindh government on Thursday decided that all PSL matches in the National Stadium, Karachi, would be played without spectators and all educational institutions in the province — which were to reopen on March 16 — would remain closed until May 30.
Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2020
SMALL-SCALE TRADE ACTIVITIES CAN HELP END POVERTY: MINISTER
The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent March 15, 2020
HYDERABAD: Sindh Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Abdul Bari Pitafi has said that promotion of small-scale trade activities can help end poverty, particularly in rural areas, because many social issues are directly linked with joblessness and state of economy.
He was speaking at a one-day workshop on ‘Success: experience sharing and learning’ organised by Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP), a non-governmental organisation, at a local hotel here on Saturday.
He emphasised the need for ensuring safety for investors and said that it was government’s responsibility to provide them an enabling environment but NGOs too could play an important role in this regard.
He said that government was taking all possible measures to ensure training of farmers in the least developed areas. Livestock expo organised by Sindh livestock department in Hyderabad had greatly promoted it as a livestock centre in the country, he said.
He said that Sindh was blessed with more breeds of cattle than there were in any other part of the country. Farmers’ capacity building needed to be enhanced so that they could become self sufficient in this sector, he said, adding that an elaborate vaccination programme had been planned.
The minister underscored the need for empowerment of women and said that women outdid men in rural areas as far as their contribution to livestock and farm sector was concerned.
He said that Sindh government extended community-driven development approach of TRDP to all districts of Sindh and reaffirmed government’s commitment to ‘Success’.
He said 60 per cent of households were dependent on livestock and agriculture and the government would increase livestock vaccination from 7pc to 80pc within two years.
He said that livestock department would share its schedule later. There was great potential for livestock growth in the province and so investment should be encouraged in the sector, he said.
A member of Balochistan Assembly Ahmed Nawaz said that activism of rural women working for development of their area was incredible and they would try to replicate the best practices.
Another Balochistan MPA Ms Mahjabeen said that women should not have fear as they were aware of their rights; Benazir Bhutto was a big example. Women needed basic facilities and skill development programmes initiated by TRDP which were key to increasing income at household level, she said. “We have learned best practices here and we as parliamentarians will replicate them in Balochistan,” she said.
Sindh Assembly member Fayaz Butt said that rural areas should have all the facilities that were available in urban areas. Involving local and district governments in development projects was key to welfare of the poor, he said.
TRDP head Allah Nawaz Samoo said that his organisation was contributing to service delivery of government departments and working for rural development in arid zones where other organisations avoided working.
Women community leaders from Tharparkar, Dadu, Matiari and Jamshoro shared their experiences with audience and said that with little support and guidance women could help their families and communities graduate out of poverty trap. The workshop was aimed at sharing learning and enhancing synergies among stakeholders working for poverty reduction including government.
Programme managers from Jamshoro, Dadu, Tando Mohammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Matiari, Sujawal, Larkana and Shikarpur said that women in organised communities felt empowered and had started undertaking self-help initiatives with a focus on increasing school enrolment, promotion of hygiene, personal care and planning for removal of obstacles to the path of progress.
The programme funded by European Union was being implemented in eight districts of Sindh by TRDP, National Rural Support Programme, Sindh Rural Support Organisation and Rural Support Programmes Network.
Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2020
KIFALAT PROGRAMME: 70,000 NEW BENEFICIARIES INCLUDED IN 15 DISTRICTS
By RECORDER REPORT on March 15, 2020
The government has informed the National Assembly that after the removal of the names of over 800,000 fake beneficiaries from the list of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), some 4.4 million new names will be added to the social safety net.
In a written reply to a question, the minister in-charge of poverty alleviation and social safety division said that the 4.4 million more beneficiaries would be included under Kifalat programme and 70,000 new beneficiaries had already been included in 15 districts of the country.
The House was also given details of 820,165 ineligible recipients removed from the BISP data two months ago, including 153,302 for traveling abroad (self – once), 195,364 who traveled abroad (spouse – once), 10,476 who traveled abroad (self – more than once), 166,319 who travelled abroad (spouse) more than one, 692 for having one or more vehicles (self), 43,746 for having one or more vehicles (spouse), 24,546 for having monthly PTCL bill of Rs 1,000 (self), 115,767 for receiving PTCL bill of Rs 1,000 (spouse), 666 who applied for passports via executive centres (self), 580 for applying passports via such centres (spouse), 36,970 who have three or more family members applied for CNIC with executive fee, 14,730 who were government employees (self), and 127,826 wives of government employees.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
‘POVERTY ELIMINATION MUST FOR PROMOTING SMALL BUSINESSES’
By RECORDER REPORT on March 15, 2020
Provincial Minister of Livestock and Fisheries Abdul Bari Pitafi has said that poverty elimination was dire need to promote small business activities as most of the problems are related to unemployment and loss of economic resources.
He said that the need for providing a conducive environment for the protection of the investors and the role of the non-governmental organizations in this regard is very important.
He said this while addressing a workshop organized by the Thardeep (SUCCESS) at a local hotel, here on Saturday. The provincial minister said that all possible steps are being taken to provide the facilities to the farmers of the region.
He said that holding livestock expo at Hyderabad would also promote potential livestock across the country. He said that the capacity of farmers should be enhanced, so that they can become efficient. The minister said that an effective vaccination programme has been set up in rural as well as in urban areas.
On the occasion MPA Fayyaz Ahmed Butt, MPAs Balochistan Assembly Shaheena Kaka, Maha Jabin, Ahmed Nawaz, Qadir Nahil, Secretary Local Government Balochistan Saleh Muhammad, Additional Secretary Social Welfare Balochistan Abdul Rauf, Additional Deputy Commissioner Jamshoro Shaukat Hussain and others were also present.
He said that Thardeep’s role was exemplary in eliminating poverty in the urban and rural areas of Sindh province and raising awareness amongst the public. He added that all the social organizations should work together to fight the virus.
Chief Executive Allah Nawaz Samoo gave detailed briefing on Thardeep mission. He said that the people have to build their self-sufficiency by enhancing their capabilities, which is not possible without the cooperation of the Sindh government.
The workshop was also addressed by Jayaprakash, Abdul Ghafar Bighio, Ghulam Rasool Samiju, and others. Talking to the media, Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Abdul Bari Khan Pitafi said that the purpose of organizing the Livestock Expo in Hyderabad was to inform the farmers across the country and highlight the importance of live stock in the domestic economy and Sindh through the expo.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
NEWS COVERAGE PERIOD FROM MARCH 02 TO MACH 08, 2020
INFLATION EASES TO 12.4 PC IN FEBRUARY
Mubarak Zeb Khan Updated March 03, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The inflation rate fell to 12.4 per cent in February from 14.6pc the previous month because of various measures taken by the government to contain inflation, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) stated on Monday.
For the first time since July 2019, inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has seen downward trend owing to a combination of measures, including improvement in supply of essential kitchen items and State Bank’s tight monetary policy.
Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to appreciate cabinet’s decisions that led to reduction in inflation, including subsidy on products through utility stores. “We will continue pursuing measures to bring down inflation and reduce burden on citizens,” he said.
It has been observed that the prices of essential food items, especially vegetables and fruits, are higher in rural areas than in urban areas. In rural areas, the price of LPG cylinders used for cooking purpose has witnessed the highest-ever increase since 2013.
PM tweets ‘we will continue pursuing measures to bring down inflation and reduce burden on citizens’
Food inflation in urban areas rose by 15.5pc in February on a yearly basis and dipped by 1.4pc on a monthly basis, whereas it increased by 19.7pc and declined by 1.6pc, respectively, in rural areas.
It clearly shows that food inflation is very high in rural areas where most of the population lives, which is an unprecedented phenomenon. One of the reasons for it is imposition of regulatory duties on vegetables and fruits to discourage its imports from Afghanistan and Iran. And locally produced fruits and vegetables are being sold in urban markets because of higher prices.
In urban areas, the food items which saw an increase in their prices include: vegetable ghee (13.15pc), cooking oil (10.27pc), sugar (8.45pc), mustard oil (4.25pc), fresh fruits (4.16pc), beans (3.89pc), chicken (2.35pc), pulse moong (2.27pc) and pulse mash (1.14pc). The items whose prices declined in urban areas include: tomatoes (60.27pc), eggs (26.36pc), potatoes (12.91pc), fresh vegetables (11.48pc), onions (8.79pc), wheat flour (5.29pc), wheat (3.52pc), pulse gram (2.34pc) and besan (2.33pc).
In rural areas, the food items which saw an increase in their prices include: sugar (8pc), vegetable ghee (6.23pc), condiments and spices (5.99pc), chicken (5.76pc), pulse mash (5.13pc), pulse masoor (4.27pc), pulse moong (3.94pc), fresh fruits (3.56pc), beans (2.99pc), cooking oil (2.54pc) and mustard oil (1.63pc).
With the arrival of crops, especially vegetables, in Punjab in March, it is predicted that food prices will come down further. The prices of tomato, onion, potato and other vegetables will come down in March.
Similarly, non-food inflation in urban centres was recorded at 9.1pc year-on-year, while it dropped by 0.9pc on a monthly basis. Non-food inflation in rural areas was 9.8pc year-on-year and dropped by 0.4pc on a monthly basis.
The slight decline in non-food inflation is mainly driven by a drop in oil prices over the past few months. The reduction in oil prices in March will lead to further drop in non-food inflation.
The average inflation between July 2019 and Feb 2020 stood at 11.7pc as against 6pc over the corresponding months last year.
The International Monetary Fund has estimated that the country’s inflation may rise as high as 13pc; however, the government estimates that it will remain within the range of 11-13pc for the current fiscal year. The Asian Development Bank in its outlook projected annual inflation in Pakistan at 12pc.
The urban CPI covers 35 cities and 356 consumer items, while the rural CPI tracks 27 rural centres and 244 items. The former dipped by 11.2pc year-on-year in February, whereas the latter jumped by 14.2pc.
The core inflation rate in urban areas was 8pc in February as against 7.9pc the previous month, according to the new methodology. The core inflation rate in rural areas was 9.4pc in February, while it was 9pc in the previous month.
The central bank determines the key policy rate — currently at 13.25pc — on the basis of the core inflation rate.
Average inflation measured by the Sensitive Price Index crawled up to 15.25pc during the July-February period from 2.74pc during the same period last year, while the Wholesale Price Index dipped to 13.49pc from 15.95pc.
In a series of tweets, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has said Prime Minister Khan is determined to check inflation and provide relief to the masses. She said the fruits of practical steps towards that end have started reaching the masses.
Alluding to the declining trend witnessed in the prices of essential commodities during the month of February, she said that apart from food items, the prices of other essential items had also reduced to single digit. She said the people were directly benefitting from this fall in prices of essential items, adding that the prices were expected to come down further during the current month.
Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2020
PM REITERATES RESOLVE TO BRING DOWN INFLATION
By RECORDER REPORT on March 3, 2020
Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday reiterated his government’s resolve to continue pursuing measures to bring down inflation and reduce burden on the common citizens.
In a tweet, he expressed his optimism that the federal cabinet’s decision to reduce inflation and provide subsidy on products through Utility Stores had started bearing fruit. He said that inflation rate for the last month showed decline by more than two percent as compared to January this year.
“Good to see Cabinet decisions to reduce inflation, including subsidy on products through Utility Stores, starting to bear fruit. Inflation rate for February shows decline by more than 2% versus January We will continue pursuing measures to bring down inflation & reduce burden on citizens,” he tweeted.
In a meeting, the prime minister underscored the need to restructure and transform Pakistan Railways into a vibrant and profitable organization.
A statement issued by the PM Office, said that chairing a review meeting on restructuring of Pakistan Railways and related matters, the prime minister directed the authorities concerned to constitute a comprehensive plan for the organization’s restructuring in consultation with the advisor on reforms.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020