PM Khan announces Poverty Alleviation Programme Ehsaas’ policy

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday released the policy statement on Ehsaas, his poverty reduction programme.

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“I am pleased to release my policy statement on #Ehsaas, my priority poverty reduction programme with its 4 focus areas and 115 policy actions to reduce inequality, invest in people, and uplift lagging districts,” Prime Minister Khan tweeted.

Ehsaas, the government’s Rs80 billion poverty alleviation programme was launched by the government at the end of March and is aimed at helping the downtrodden and vulnerable segments of society, including the poor, orphans, widows, homeless, disabled, undernourished and jobless.

During a ceremony, Prime Minister Khan unveiled the salient features of the programme, stating the government would allocate an additional amount of Rs 80 billion in the country’s social protection spending in backward areas from the current year, which would be raised to Rs 120 billion in 2021.

The prime minister also announced the establishment of a new Ministry of Social Protection/Poverty Alleviation to address the current fragmentation. Various institutions likes the BISP, PBM, Zakat, PPAF, etc would be working under that ministry, which would develop a one-window operation for social protection of the poor and to facilitate citizens, he added. He said the government would introduce a new constitutional amendment to move Article 38(d) from the “Principles of Policy” section to the “Fundamental Rights” section.

The change would make provision of food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief for the citizens, who could not earn a livelihood due to infirmity, sickness or unemployment, a state responsibility, the prime minister said, and described it as a first step towards the creation of a welfare state.

Prime Minister Imran, while realising that 25% to 40% of the people in Pakistan were suffering from poverty, said the government wanted targeted subsidies, adding that the government would have a new survey of poverty to be completed by December this year.

He said the government was also launching a new programme “Kafalat” under the BISP, adding the new programme would have fives pillars.

The prime minister said that under the new programme which was aimed at economic empowerment of women, 5.7 million women would be given savings accounts under the “one woman, one bank account plan”.

He said 500 BISP and Pakistan Baitul Mal (PBM) offices would be transformed into digital hubs where the government’s IT, technology and innovation resources would be pooled in.

The government’s digital resources, such as access to the labour information system, online curricula and one-window social protection interface would be accessible, which would create opportunities for BISP families to graduate out of poverty, he added.

Imran said the government would not just give money to the poor but link it with health and nutrition-related assistance, which would help address the problem of stunting among children.

He said that under Kifalat, the government would raise the current cash transfer of Rs 5,000 to Rs 5,500. He said the government was launching a precision safety net called “Tahafaz” to protect individuals from catastrophic risks – a transparent and trackable digital system of cash transfers through which the government would give legal aid, education grants and health assistance to those without Insaf card entitlements.

He said the government also had plans to graduate BISP beneficiaries out of poverty for the most backward districts and added that a programme for asset transfers worth Rs 5 billion in five districts had additionally been launched through Kifalat.

The premier said the government would use the social mobilisation skills of the rural support programmes and their network of community organisations for this purpose.

In Tahafaz, he said, the government would provide assistance to poor widows who had no sources of income and no bread earners.

To help the most marginalised segments of society, he said, his government would partner with organisations that support street children, seasonal migrants, transgender, victims of child and bonded labour and daily wagers who do not find daily work.

He said that in order to provide a secured future to the orphans, the PBM would expand its network of Ehsas homes for children to provide decent living, food, education and health facilities to 10,000 children in four years.

The prime minister said the government would also help upscale reputed private institutions for orphans so that the government could fulfil its objectives of serving the poor.

He said the government had already committed to launching the Insaf Insurance Card in 38 districts for 3.3 million people over a four-year period and had committed Rs 33 billion for the purpose.

In addition, he said, through “Tahafaz” the government would cater to additional needs of those requiring financial access to treatment.

The government would make sure that every poor and deserving person approaching public hospitals had access to treatment and surgery, he added.

Imran said that as stunted growth was linked to malnutrition and poor sanitation, he had directed that de-worming drugs, iron-folic acid and micronutrient supplements of quality should be made available at all government hospitals and Basic Health Units (BHUs). Awareness about breastfeeding should also be created in the rural areas, he added.

He referred to a survey and tests of unpacked milk conducted in a city and said it showed 75% adulteration. The government would launch a pilot programme to ensure the availability of pure milk initially in Islamabad and Lahore, he added.

He said that with an aim to help poor village women earn their livelihood, the government would provide them with buffaloes, cows, goats and hens. It was a test method of poverty alleviation worldwide, he added.

He said the provision of goats could be both income generating and nutrition boosting.

Similarly, he said a kitchen gardening initiative would also be introduced, where subsidised certified seed and seedlings would be provided both through the entrepreneurial model as well as corporate social responsibility.

The premier, besides urging the edible oil companies to give seed packets along with oil cans, also directed the Utility Stores to do likewise. He regretted that during the last 10 years of democracy, the country’s debt swelled to Rs 30,000 billion from Rs 6,000 billion, and added that Rs 6 billion a day was paid as interest on those loans, he added.

APP.

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