Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection & Poverty Alleviation, Dr Sania Nishtar has said the multidimensional poverty stands at 38.4 percent in Pakistan.

The government is currently conducting a fresh poverty digital survey and expecting to announce the National Poverty Survey in February 2020, said Dr Nishtar while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety.

The committee met with Senator Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini in the chair here on Friday where parliamentarians raised questions over the poverty ratio in the country.

Senator Lieutenant General Abdul Qayyum (retd) said the recent skyrocketing inflation coupled with rupee depreciation turned table and more people have gone below the poverty line.

Dr Nishtar responded that according to old data, income poverty measures at 24.3 percent while multidimensional poverty stands at 38.4 percent. To get the correct picture, digital survey was in the field and would be finalized by February next year, she added.

She further said the government has earmarked Rs 190 billion for Ehsaas programme to address poverty and inequality. It is the biggest and boldest pro-poor programme ever launched in the country. There are 134 programs, policies and initiatives while 34 ministries at the federal level have been tasked with implementation.

She said it was the only ministry to receive sizable international assistance in one year including $200 million each from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

She further said Rs 5 billion Undergraduate Education Scholarship Scheme would be launched next week. She further said digital payment system was completed in six months after a delay of 10 years. Dr Nishtar further said that good governance and effective policies were the top most priorities of the government, which were ignored in the past.

The special assistant to the prime minister while replying to a question blamed the Sindh provincial government for not agreeing to finance sharing for health card, due to which the health card scheme was not launched 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 card scheme.

She further said that from now onward, Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) payment would be totally made after biometric verification as huge embezzlement was reported in the past.

Replying to a question, she said Langars were being run on public-private partnership where the government's investment is zero. Around 112 such langars would be set up across the country, she added.

The managing director Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM) also briefed the committee on different initiatives of PBM. He said that the organization has been given the mandate to work for the destitute and needy widows, orphans and other such people of the society. Several initiatives are on the cards to provide technical education and other skills and make such people valuable asset of the society, he said.

The committee expressed serious concern over the low budget for PBM, saying that at one time it was Rs 28 billion which has been slashed to Rs 5-6 billion. The committee recommended for increasing PBM budget to avoid any hindrances in its operation as it is providing best services in the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019