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ISLAMABAD: Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme helped Pakistan counter the socioeconomic fallout of Covid-19, reveals a report by International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG).

The 48-page report titled “What’s next for social protection in light of Covid-19: country responses,” says Ehsaas Emergency Cash (EEC) programme demonstrated how cash transfer programmes can be deployed to counter the socio-economic fallout due to external shocks such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

“For Pakistan, this has been a watershed period in terms of government functioning, making it more agile, data-driven, experimental, and ambitious. The programme accelerated the adoption of cost-effective, digital initiatives that enabled new ways of coordinating across multiple stakeholders and deploying a whole-of-government approach,” the document says.

“It also bolstered confidence in the government’s ability to execute well and at scale. The legacy of this programme is not just short-term relief. EEC will be an important component of the redesign of social protection after Covid-19 and will help in the re-imagination of social welfare envisaged in Ehsaas—the most ambitious social protection programme to assist marginalised people that has ever been launched in Pakistan,” the report says.

Next steps will include creating a one-window Ehsaas — a single-window information and service approach for better access to multiple Ehsaas programmes, to create awareness integrate service delivery under the Ehsaas umbrella, ensure transparency and improve government-to-citizen service delivery, the IPC-IG report says.

Another priority moving forward is the ‘One Woman, One Bank Account’ initiative, whereby limited mandated bank accounts created for all women as part of the Kifalat programme will be linked to mobile wallets, it says adding that the mobile wallets will serve as branchless banking accounts, and will deepen digital and financial inclusion through improved service offerings for saving, borrowing and risk mitigation, it adds.

“The case of Pakistan provides useful lessons for other countries. It shows that by combining telephones, Internet connectivity and unique national identification numbers, a digital and innovative demand-based social protection system can be created to enable people in distress to seek social support during crises. In addition, this experience has taught us the importance of a coordinated response in government that comes through strengthening institutions and developing partnerships,” according to the report. On April 1 last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan launched EEC programme to provide financial assistance to downtrodden segments of the society adversely affected by the lockdown imposed by the federal and provincial governments to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Under this programme, over Rs 179 billion were distributed among nearly 15 million beneficiaries who were provided one-time cash assistance of Rs 12,000 each.

In October last year, a joint study by the United Nations UN and IPC-IG declared Pakistan as one of the top ranked countries in Asia having the highest response to social protection amid Covid-19 crises.

The IPC-IG is a global forum for international dialogue on innovative development policies, guided by a partnership agreement between the Government of Brazil, represented by the Ministry of Economy and the Brazilian Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The IPC-IG’s says its mandate is to promote the production and dissemination of studies and policy recommendations, the exchange of best practices in development initiatives and the expansion of dialogue among developing countries.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021