The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $200 million loan as additional financing to help support the government of Pakistan's flagship social protection program, Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), which supports more than 5 million eligible families across the country through over $3.6 billion in total cash transfers disbursed so far.
The BISP, considered one of the largest social protection programs in South Asia, is part of a larger government strategy, called Ehsaas, to reduce poverty and inequality. BISP, which is primarily funded by the Government of Pakistan, supports Ehsaas through cash transfers, poverty graduation programs, and a targeted social safety net, says a press release issued here.
The ADB-financed Social Protection Development Project, approved in October 2013, has enabled the enrollment of over 855,000 women beneficiaries to BISP, or about 15% of the eligible beneficiaries. The $200 million additional financing for this project will continue to support cash transfers as well as help BISP implement institutional strengthening measures.
"Social protection programs like the BISP are crucial to ensure that the poorest segments of the population do not go further into poverty, especially at a time when the country is facing difficult macroeconomic challenges," said the director of public management, Financial Sector, and Trade for ADB's Central and West Asia Department Tariq Niazi. "We are also committed to helping the Government of Pakistan implement alternative modalities for social protection and poverty reduction such as asset transfer programs that promote improved human capital and reduce intergenerational poverty."
"The ADB's additional financing will support further institutional strengthening and improvements in financial management and controls in BISP. A policy research unit will also be established within BISP to help monitor and improve the performance of ongoing programs and design new cost-effective and evidence-based initiatives such as poverty graduation programs and conditional cash transfers for health and nutrition in line with global best practices," said ADB Country Director for Pakistan Xiaohong Yang.-PR