Pakistan Pursuing Ambitious Program to Build Social Safety Net

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

Development of Ehsaas Social Registry. Source: Maintains

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

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

Universal Healthcare Map. Source: World Population Review

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

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Comment by Akhtar Hussain on January 14, 2022 at 11:43am
Riaz Sahib, this is the first sign of a developed country. If we had Universal education as well, then we would have arrived. Learning, Urdu, English, Arabic and Chinese must be a priority.
Comment by Riaz Haq on January 14, 2022 at 4:36pm

Akhtar sahib,

Imran Khan appears to be sincere about his pledge to build an Islamic welfare state (Riyasat-e-Madina). 

Riaz 

 

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 14, 2022 at 6:56pm

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

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/global-hunger-index-2021-in...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 18, 2022 at 7:02am

Spirit of Riyasat-i-Madina: Transforming Pakistan

By PM Imran Khan

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


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

--------

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

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

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

-----

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

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 26, 2022 at 8:23pm

Only two countries, #US & #Israel, voting against making #food a basic #humanright
https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/gashc4336.doc.htm
https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1486552024070062086?s=20

In other action, the Committee approved a draft on the right to food by a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, expressing alarm that in 2020, the number of people lacking access to adequate food rose by 320 million ‑ to 2.4 billion ‑ amounting to nearly a third of the world’s population, and that between 720 million and 811 million people faced hunger.

“Hunger is a violation of human dignity”, Cuba’s delegate asserted. Presenting the draft, he voiced concern that the United States has blocked consensus on the text for four years. The United States representative — highlighting conditions in the Lake Chad Basin, Yemen and Somalia ‑ said the draft contains unbalanced and inaccurate positions that her delegation simply cannot support. The concept of food sovereignty could justify food protectionism, negatively impacting food security, she explained, adding that the United States does not recognize the right to food, as it lacks a definition in international law.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 13, 2022 at 10:12am

Senator Dr Sania Nishtar
@SaniaNishtar
Anonymized data from the #Ehsaas Registry is being made public. This is a gold mine for researchers and globally, a stellar example of #DataDemocratisation. 3/3
https://bit.ly/3LZEnuZ

https://twitter.com/SaniaNishtar/status/1514183448109498370?s=20&am...

Ehsaas, the Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf government-run social safety net, achieved a historical landmark of completing the Ehsaas Survey for 34 million households in Pakistan.

This is South Asia’s first digital door-to-door ‘census-like’ survey, with multiple digital safeguards to hedge against abuse, said Dr Sania Nishtar, former special assistant to PM and Chairperson Benazir Income Support Program (BISP).

Senator Dr Sania Nishtar today shared an informational video on the Ehsaas National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER) as she stepped down, highlighting an important component of Ehsaas that was completed but not yet publicly released.


On Twitter, she wrote, “Our Government achieved the historical landmark of completing the Ehsaas Survey for 34 Mn households. This is South Asia’s first digital door-to-door ‘census-like’ survey, with multiple digital safeguards to hedge against abuse”.


She further added “Ehsaas’ Registry enabled the govt to target Ehsaas’ social benefits effectively, target subsidies, and respond to shocks. Here are some insights from the survey across multiple dimensions and unique attributes of the registry. Anonymized Data from the Ehsaas Registry is being made public. This is a gold mine for researchers and globally a stellar example of #DataDemocratisation”.

Ehsaas achieved a historical landmark earlier this year to conclude the nationwide door-to-door NSER survey for more than 34 million households. The NSER survey is an all-encompassing survey designed to assess the socioeconomic status of the household and ascertain their poverty score through Proxy Means Testing (0 – 100). The survey has 43 unique variables and covers demographic, socio-economic, education, health, and asset profiles of the household.


The Ehsaas Registry is unique and important for its own reasons. It was not just Pakistan’s but also South Asia’s first digital and census-like door-to-door survey. Multiple digital safeguards, logical checks, and 3rd party validation and profiling were conducted to hedge against the risk and ensure data credibility. And through its credible and reliable database, it became a key enabler in decision making for all Ehsaas programs and facilitated making evidence-based and impartial decisions on the basis of need and merit.

To promote transparency and encourage data sharing, Ehsaas has made selective data from the NSER registry public. The video shares key insights across four key dimensions including Household coverage, Socio-economic analysis, Education analysis, and Health and Disability analysis. A dynamic PowerBI-based dashboard has also been developed and can be accessed here:

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 20, 2022 at 4:37pm

P A K I S T A N
DEVELOPMENT UPDATE
April 2022

https://thedocs.worldbank.org/en/doc/410d0506bba8afc6fd9d9541148bfe...


Supported by higher growth and the recovery in the manufacturing and services sectors,
the poverty headcount, measured at the lower-middle-income class line of US$3.20 PPP
2011 per day, is estimated to have declined from 37.0 percent in FY20 to 34.0 percent in
FY21.

Rising inflation has disproportionally affected poor and vulnerable households that spend
a relatively larger share of their budget on food and energy. More specifically, the poor
spend around 50 percent of their total consumption on food items, whereas this share is
only 43 percent among the non-poor. In response, the Government inaugurated a
targeted commodity subsidy program, Ehsaas Rashan Riayat, in February 2022 to
compensate eligible households for higher prices.22

The Government undertook timely policy measures to mitigate the adverse
socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP)
lowered the policy rate and announced supportive measures for the financial sector to
help businesses and the Government expanded the national cash transfer program on an
emergency basis.2 These measures contributed to economic growth rebounding to 5.6
percent in FY21.3 However, long-standing structural weaknesses of the economy,
particularly consumption-led growth, low private investment rates, and weak exports have
constrained productivity growth and pose risks to a sustained recovery. Aggregate
demand pressures have built up, in part due to previously accommodative fiscal and
monetary policies, contributing to double-digit inflation and a sharp rise in the import bill
with record-high trade deficits in H1 FY22 (Jul–Dec 2021). These have diminished the
real purchasing power of households and weighed on the exchange rate and the country’s
limited external buffers.
b. Real Sector
Growth
Economic
momentum
continued, but
business confidence
has declined
During H1 FY22, y-o-y growth in car production and sales, petroleum sales, and foreign
remittance inflows indicate continued momentum in economic activity and private
consumption. Similarly, investment is also expected to have increased with a strong
growth in machinery imports and government development expenditure. Government
consumption is also expected to have expanded given the 16.0 percent increase in
consolidated current expenditure in H1 FY22. Activity in the external sector was also
vibrant, with import and export values growing by 54.4 percent and 27.3 percent,
respectively. While the flow of bank loans to private businesses grew in this period, it was
led by an increase in working capital or short-term financing, particularly as businesses
faced higher input costs, as opposed to long-term or fixed investment financing. The
business confidence survey index also declined from a pandemic high of 64.0 in June
2021 to 53.4 in December 2021, indicating lower optimism in the business sector
regarding the economic outlook.4
Favorable weather
conditions are
expected to support
higher overall crop
production
In agriculture, estimates suggest that rice, sugarcane, and maize production will be higher
this year, reflecting better weather conditions.5 With regards to agriculture inputs,
agriculture credit disbursement grew 3.9 percent, and farm tractor sales increased by 21.2
percent in H1 FY22.6 Similarly, 97.7 percent of the sowing target for wheat has been met.7
----
Large-scale
industrial production
growth strengthened
The LSM index, a key indicator for industrial activity, increased by 7.5 percent y-o-y
during H1 FY22 compared to a muted growth of 1.5 percent in H1 FY21. Growth was
broad-based with 16 out of the 22 sectors recording higher production. Only

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 26, 2022 at 6:52pm

Modest progress on SDGs
Khaleeq Kiani

https://www.dawn.com/news/1686708


Pakistan’s first Sustainable Develop­ment Goals (SDGs) Status Report (2021) is out and the country’s overall progress on SDGs is modest.

“Overall, Pakistan’s SDGs (composite) index score has increased from 53.11 in 2015 to 63.49 in 2020 i.e. 19.5 per cent up from the baseline of 2015,” according to Dr Shabnam Sarfraz, member of Social Sector and Devolution of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives.

In summary, the status report finds a considerable decline in extreme poverty, improvement in access to energy, increased industrial activities, reduction in maternal mortality, improvement in undernourishment, food insecurity, wash and housing, and climate action.

There are many areas identified by the report that need urgent collective attention such as education, children out of school, the proportion of youth not in education, employment and training, provision of decent work environment, implementation of climatic adaptation etc.

Since 2015, the Government of Pakistan has not published a consolidated report that presents the country’s progress on SDGs indicators viz-a-viz their baseline values. The report captures the existing data availability gap and compares the baseline 2014-2015 with values of the most recent available data on 133 SDG indicators.

The report says that Pakistan’s progress on SDG-1 — poverty reduction has been steady. Poverty has been on the decline between the period 2014-15 and 2018-19 with 9.3 million people lifted out of poverty away from the national poverty line. Similarly, Pakistan witnessed a significant decline in the proportion of the population affected by disasters.

In a drive towards zero hunger as espoused by SDG-2, undernourishment declined by 4.2pc from 20.2pc to 16pc from 2015 to 2019. Also, a moderate achievement was made through the reduction of stunting by 7pc and wasting by 4pc during 2013-18 among children under five years of age.

Improvements are seen in health outcomes for mothers by reducing anaemia among pregnant women by 16.5pc in seven years during 2011-18. There was a one per cent decrease in the agricultural area under productive and sustainable agriculture, from 39pc to 38pc, over four years during 2015-2019.

On good health and well-being under SDG-3, Pakistan has shown reasonable progress by improving most of the basic health indicators. The number of mothers dying during pregnancy and live births reduced by 32.6pc during 2007-2019. Births attended by skilled health personnel increased by 10pc in five years during 2013-18. National vaccination coverage improved by 11.5pc in five years between 2013 and 2018.

Concerning education achievements (SDG-4), the country’s progress has been dismal. The primary completion rate has stagnated at 67pc in five years during 2015-20. Similarly, the gender gap (SDG-5) of 9pc between the primary completion rate of males and females has also persisted in this period. The lower secondary completion rate has marginally increased from 50pc to 59pc during 2015-20. The national literacy rate stagnated at 60pc in five years during 2015-20, which is alarming and worrying.

More girls were enrolled in schools improving the gender parity in net enrolment at primary, middle and Matric levels during 2015-19. Large deficiencies and disparities persist in the provision of basic services to schools across the country.

Access to clean water and sanitation has also shown improvements at the national and provincial levels over time under SDG-6. Improved source of drinking water is available to 94pc of the country’s population. Access to drinking water in Balochistan has increased by 17pc in 5 years during 2015-20. The population having access to unshared toilets and handwashing facilities is 68pc and 54pc respectively, as per Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) 2019-20.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 26, 2022 at 6:53pm

Modest progress on SDGs
Khaleeq Kiani

https://www.dawn.com/news/1686708


Pakistan’s first Sustainable Develop­ment Goals (SDGs) Status Report (2021) is out and the country’s overall progress on SDGs is modest.


On SDG-7, Pakistan’s commitment to the environment is shown by an increase in the share of renewable energy by more than four times between 2015 to 2019. The reliance on clean fuel (cooking) increased to 47pc in the period during 2018-19, from 41.3pc in 2014-15 at the national level. An increase of 3pc was recorded in 2019- 20 with 96pc of the population having access to electricity as compared to 93pc in 2014-15.

On SDG-8 ensuring decent work and economic growth, the economy experienced a slowdown with an annual growth rate of real GDP per capita declining to -3.36pc in the fiscal year 2019-20 from 2.04pc in 2014-15. Similarly, almost one-third of the total youth (30pc) in the age group (15-24 years) was not obtaining education, employment or training at the national level over the four year period of 2015-19 (SDGs indicator 8.6.1). Within the country, the highest instance of this category of youth was in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 38pc. The children aged 10-14 years engaged in work slightly reduced by over 2pc to 6.47pc from 8.64pc during 2015-19, at the national level.

Some progress was made on the SDG-9: industry, innovation and infrastructure targets. With the availability of new data from PSLM the baseline value is established with 88pc of the rural population living within two kilometres of an all-season road. The proportion of small-scale industries in total industry value added increased to 10.50pc in 2019-20 from 8.40pc in 2014-15, despite the overall negative effects of Covid-19 in 2019-20. The proportion of the mobile phone-owning population increased by 1pc in two years, from 45pc to 46pc between 2018-20.

A slight dent was made by the reduction of income inequality by 2pc in 2016-2019 for SDG-10. A small decline of 7pc in the proportion of the urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing also occurred during 2014-2018 from 45pc to 38pc for SDG-11. Pakistan remains committed to addressing the problem of hazardous waste and to compliance with the Basel Convention as required under SDG-12 concerning sustainable consumption and production. Regarding SDG-13 on climate action, greenhouse gas emissions were 375.03 million tonnes in 2016, a 2.5pc increase from 2015.

Relating to the SDG-14: Life below Water, Pakistan has maintained the proportion of fish stocks at 30pc within biologically sustainable levels for the five years between 2015-20. Despite the growing population and rapid urbanisation pressures, Pakistan’s forest area as a proportion of total land remained unchanged at around 5pc in five years between 2015-2020 which is one of the targets of SDG-15: Life on Land.

On SDG-16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions; in terms of counting the uncounted, birth registration of children under 5 years showed an improvement by 8.2pc in five years between 2013-18. Under SDG-17 developing partnerships for achieving SDGs showed significant improvement in its journey towards digital transformation as the fixed internet broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants increased by 20pc in three years during 2017-20.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 14, 2022 at 7:01pm

ndia Stack - Digital Infrastructure as Public Good | November 2019 | Communications of the ACM


https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2019/11/240375-india-stack-digital-i...

India Stack
Leapfrogs. There have been various technologies that have played the role of infrastructure. While the technologies themselves are commendable, their real "disruptive" power has been what applications they enable. For example, the Internet may have been born of a specific need, but its success is because of its design. It was a mass-scale, open, and interoperable protocol. The use cases for the Internet were not restricted by the imagination of its founders.

The India Stack is a name given to a family of APIs, open standards, and infrastructure components that allow a user in India to demand services digitally. As of 2019, the services the India Stack offers are proving identity, completing KYC, making digital payments, signing documents digitally and sharing of data. While the list of APIs is growing, the APIs listed in Table 1 are now mature, well understood, and enable efficient delivery of services in India.

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