After the launch if Insaaf heath cards, the government has recently taken another step in the human capital domain. Under the concept of a welfare state, the Prime Minister had recently launched a poverty alleviation program titled “Ehsas". And just a few of days ago, the PM released the policy statement of his poverty reduction plan.

A few initial remarks by the Prime Minister caught attention. First, setting up a new division in the name of Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division to coordinate functions of all federal and provincial departments, agencies and programs working on poverty under the newly launched Ehsas Program is being appreciated as an attempt to bring everything under one roof for a more targeted assistance.

Second, the idea of making food, shelter, health and clothing all fundamental rights will push the whole poverty alleviation up a rung on the priority ladder. the government plans to amend the Constitution's Article 38 (d) by moving it from the “Principles of Policy" section into the “Fundamental Rights" section, which will make food, clothing, shelter, education and medical relief for the needy a state responsibility.

However, there has been more criticism than praise. Those who argue the program say that the poverty alleviation program is more about gaining political mileage as government's policy of increasing power tariffs, hiking up interest rates, and devaluing the currency so massively go against any poverty alleviation aims.

Also, another much valid criticism is no focus on how to fund the program. The PM announced additional Rs80 billion spending on social protection in the upcoming budget; this additional spending is going to be difficult for the government.

Nonetheless, the policy brief highlights a very diverse plan to counter poverty. There are 4 focus areas and 115 policy actions to combat factors like inequality, lack of investment in human capital and uplifting lagging districts, especially the rural areas. “The program is for the extreme poor, orphans, widows, the homeless, the disabled, those who risk medical impoverishment, for the jobless, for poor farmers, for labourers, for the sick and undernourished; for students from low-income backgrounds and for poor women and elderly citizens. This plan is also about lifting lagging areas where poverty is higher", says the policy brief. The four focus areas include: equality; safety nets for disadvantaged segments; jobs and livelihoods; and human capital development.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019