Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Marvi Memon evokes partisan responses on social media. But sitting in her office discussing the intricacies of Pakistan's flagship social-safety net (SSN) programme, BR Research found the former banker-turned-politico adequately apolitical. Arguably, the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), which Memon has been heading since February 2015, has evolved as a symbol of relative political maturity in the country. Despite a landslide victory in the 2013 General Elections, the PML-N government decided to keep funding the BISP, which was launched by its rival PPP in 2008. Under the current government, yearly cash grants have more than doubled between FY13 and FY16 to reach Rs 96.65 billion in FY16 (source: BISP Progress Report, 2014-16). Even Memon, who as an opposition member in 2011 had accused the then PPP government of turning poor people into "beggars on BISP forms", has come around to become the program's vocal champion.