Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Sania Nishtar Wednesday said the federal government is set to launch an ‘institutional arrangement' in the next three months, allowing the corporate and private sectors to connect with Ehsaas Program being the government's “flagship welfare initiative with utmost transparency and efficiency."

She was the chief guest at the 12th Annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Summit-2020 organized by National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH) in collaboration with CSR Club Pakistan and SDPI.

“I have been advising the philanthropists associated with the country's corporate sector and willing to donate for the Ehsaas program to wait for another three months to let this special purpose vehicle be launched allowing the government to receive these donations from the private sector and spend them with utmost integrity and honesty," she said.

She said that a web portal would be launched under the proposed arrangement “to let the private sector know well as in what manner each penny of the philanthropic donations would be spent for the welfare of the individuals and for the benefit of several components of the Ehsaas program."

She said that the government will soon launch an initiative with the help of commercial banks to digitize wages for labours in formal sectors. “The plan is under way for formal sectors to pay wages to labours through digital system from the banks," Nishtar added.

A policy is also being formalized to offer incentives to the corporate sector of the country on institutionalized basis to do philanthropy, Nishtar said.

She said the Ehsaas program comprises 134 different initiatives for the welfare of different sections of the needy and disadvantaged sections of the society including orphans and women, as she has been making efforts to forge partnerships with the private sector to further these initiatives.

Dr Nishtar said that she is well aware of the importance of the private and corporate sectors as “without them the government alone cannot carry out such tasks like poverty alleviation and social protection of deprived masses in the country."

Dr Shafqat Muneer, research fellow at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), said that the philanthropic contributions being provided by Pakistanis as a nation have “always been outstanding as Rs 500 billion are being spent annually in the country as charitable donations."

He said that these charitable donations would increase manifold if proper policy is introduced in the country binding upon the corporate sector to do CSR contributions.

During the event, the participants in different sessions of the panel discussions stressed that the government alone cannot shoulder the burden of providing welfare facilities to the people and the private sector, the corporate sector in particular, needs to step ahead and play a proactive role to make positive contribution to the society with the dissemination of social welfare services to the deserving population.

In addition, the participants urged the government to take effective steps to facilitate the corporate sector to enable it to stand side by side with the government for the betterment of the public.

NFEH President Naeem Qureshi said that proceedings of the conference would have a special focus on proposing strategies and guidelines for the pertinent quarters to utilize corporate philanthropic resources in the best possible manner to fill the gaps where the state has been unable to serve the needs of underprivileged masses in the country.

He said that for the purpose, the speakers of the conference included prominent names of Pakistani philanthropic scene and non-governmental sectors who have been striving hard to ensure socio-economic uplift of the under-privileged people in the country.

Qureshi said that the summit is being organized as an annual event to gather under one roof the companies doing their best to do philanthropy so that their efforts and resources could be meaningfully combined for the welfare of the underprivileged masses in the country.

Salim Baz Khan, General Manager CSR at Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL), said the company has annual budget of Rs 1 billion for CSR activities.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hashoo Foundation Ayesha Khan talked about the home-grown initiative ‘SMART' in line with the Foundation's CSR initiatives. “The Foundation aspires to become a platform to improve socio-economic opportunities by enhancing employable skills and entrepreneurial capabilities as viable options for self growth and societal transformation," she said.

Ambreen Shah, Vice President Legal and Corporate Affairs, China Hub Power Generation Company (Private) Limited, also shared CRS related activities of the company.

The participants of the event agreed that with active public private partnership, the philanthropic activities can be promoted in Pakistan and corporate sector can play a vital role to contribute to the welfare of the masses. Later, awards were distributed among 60 leading business groups of Pakistan in recognition of their CSR contributions.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020