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ISLAMABAD: Federal government is hopeful that its social safety initiatives under Ehsaas Programme would receive a major boost as World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved $ 600 million to support Pakistan in expansion of Ehsaas Programme.

It is not clear when the funds would be released but it is expected that World’s Bank assistance for Ehsaas Programme under the newly approved funds would start from next fiscal year 2022-23 starting on July 1, an official of Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division (PASSD) told Business Recorder.

Under normal circumstances, the release of funds by international financial institutions is carried out in a phase-wise manner through different projects that may span from three to five years, the official said.

“As of now, PASSD does not have the blueprint of the funds that have been approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors and it cannot, therefore, be estimated when exactly the funds would be released,” the source said.

Three significant initiatives under Ehsaas Programme that would expectedly benefit from funding by the international monetary institutions are Waseela-e-Taleem, Nashonuma and Street Hawkers programmes, another senior government official told Business Recorder.

Waseela-e-Taleem is a conditional cash transfer initiative for primary school children, which aims to provide children of poorest families conditional cash grants of Rs 1,500 for boy child and Rs 2,000 per quarter for girl child on attainment of 70 per cent attendance in school. This programme’s budget is Rs 8 billion for this financial year.

Nashonuma aims to provide healthcare to pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as minor children facing stunted growth due to malnourishment. Rs 8.52 billion have been allocated in this fiscal year for this programme. Ehsaas Street Hawkers Initiative aims to bring street vendors into social safety net for which Rs 9.6 billion have been allocated in this fiscal year.

In the outgoing fiscal year 2021-22, federal government has allocated an overall amount of more than Rs 416.2 billion for social welfare initiatives. Out of this budget, government has allocated a mega sum of Rs 208 billion under Ehsaas Programme including Rs 203 billion for Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme. 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.

Last week, a report by International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) said Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme helped Pakistan counter the socio-economic fallout of Covid-19.

In October last year, a joint study by the United Nations 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 World Bank has announced approval of $ 600 million in financing from the International Development Association (IDA) for the Crisis-Resilient Social Protection Programme (CRISP) that will support Pakistan to expand Ehsaas Programme — “to protect vulnerable households and increase resilience to economic shocks such as the Covid-19 pandemic.”

A press release from World Bank said CRISP will facilitate the gradual expansion of Ehsaas social protection programmes to better reach informal workers through an innovative, hybrid approach that blends social assistance with promotion of increased savings that informal workers, particularly women, can depend on in the event of economic shocks. It will provide a platform through which the government can rapidly respond to support the most affected households during an economic crisis, the press release added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021