Pakistan: World Bank lists Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme among top global social protection measures

Islamabad: The World Bank has ranked Pakistan’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme among the top four global social protection initiatives based on the number of people covered.

The 650-page World Bank report is focused on global social protection responses in the wake of pandemic and documents 3,333 social protection measures planned or implemented in 222 countries or territories.

With over 100 million individuals covered, Pakistan ranks fourth globally in terms of the number of people covered. Pakistan’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash is among the select countries that have attained impressive six-digit coverage levels.

Pakistan’s federal government announced a relief package worth Rs1.2 trillion in March 2020 “which has been almost fully implemented,” according to the report.

The package included an accelerated procurement of wheat (Rs280 billion), financial support to utility stores (Rs50 billion), a reduction in regulated fuel prices (estimated Rs70 billion benefit for end consumers), support for health and food supplies (Rs15 billion) and relief in electricity bill payments (Rs110 billion), the report noted.

Low-income households

Provincial governments also implemented supportive fiscal measures from the onset of the shock, including cash grants to low-income households, tax relief, and additional health spending (including a salary increase for healthcare workers), the report said.

The World Bank in its report commended Pakistan government’s Rs203 billion ((USD1.23b) Ehsaas Emergency Cash initiative to provide a one-time cash grant of Rs12,000 ($78) to 15 million families (nearly 109 million people) at risk of extreme poverty. The program was devised to offer relief to those experiencing hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. The payment system relied on the use of mobile phones and biometric verification to strengthen the link between government assistance and social protection.

Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated Dr Sania, who is leading the Ehsaas cash aid program, and the whole Ehsaas team on the successful implementation of the program and global recognition. “Congratulations to Sania and the Ehsaas team for achieving this milestone and well-deserved international recognition” he wrote.

Senator Sania Nishtar, special assistant to PM on poverty alleviation and social protection, thanked the premier for “vision, policy direction and all out support for the hard decisions” taken to depoliticize social protection operations under Ehsaas. “Under your leadership, I will fight corruption to the core within my mandate” she said on Twitter.

Ehsaas social protection program includes over 170 initiatives aimed at uplifting marginalized people, eradicating poverty, and supporting vulnerable households.

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