Multidimensional poverty in Pakistan is at 38.4 percent, said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection & Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar.
The government is currently conducting a digital poverty survey and is expected to release the National Poverty Survey on February 2020, said Dr. Sania Nishtar while briefing the Senate Standing committee on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety.
The committee met with Dr. Jehanzeb Jamaldini in the chair on Friday. Parliamentarians raised questions over the poverty ratio in the country.
Senator Lt.Gen (retired) Abdul Qayyum said that the recent skyrocketing inflation coupled with rupee depreciation has turned a table and more people were sent below the poverty line.
Dr. Sania Nishtar responded that according to the old data, income poverty measures at 24.3 percent while multidimensional poverty stands at 38.4 percent. To get an accurate picture, a digital survey is being conducted in the field and will be finalized by February next year, she added.
She said that the government has earmarked Rs. 190 billion for the Ehsaas program to address poverty and inequality. It is the biggest pro-poor program ever launched in the country. It consists of 134 programs, policies and initiatives while 34 ministries at the federal level have been tasked with its implementation.
She said that the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation is the only one that received sizable international assistance in one year, receiving $200 million each from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
She further said that a Rs. 5 billion undergraduate education scholarship scheme will be launched next week. She added that the digital payment system was completed in 6 months after a delay of 10 years. Dr. Sania Nishtar further said that good governance and effective policies are the topmost priority of the government, which was ignored in the past.
The special assistant to Prime Minister, while replying to a question, blamed the Sindh provincial government for not agreeing to finance sharing for the health cards, resulting in not launching health cards in the province. She said that except Sindh other provinces have agreed to 30:70 formula (province 70 percent, federal government 30 percent) for launching health cards.
She said that from now on, Benazir Income Support Programm (BISP) payment will be made after biometric verification as huge embezzlements were reported in the past.
Replying to a question, the special assistant said that the lungar is being run on a public-private partnership where the government’s investment is zero. Around 112 such lungars would be set up across the country, she added.
Managing Director Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM) also briefed the committee on its different initiatives. He said that the organization has been given the mandate to work for the destitute and needy widows, orphans in the society. Several initiates are on the cards to provide technical education and other skills and make such people valuable assets of the society.
The committee expressed serious concerns over the low budget for PBM while saying that at one time it was Rs. 28 billion which has been slashed to Rs 5-6 billion. The committee recommended increasing its budget to avoid any hindrances in its operation as it is providing the best services in the country.