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Ehsaas programme is step towards creation of welfare state: Imran Khan

09 April, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s ‘Ehsaas’ programme is a step towards creation of a welfare state by reducing inequality, alleviating poverty and investing in the development of people as well as regions lagging behind.

In a 15-page policy statement released here by the PM Office, the prime minister said ‘Ehsaas’, launched on March 27, will use data and technology to create precision safety nets, promote financial inclusion and access to digital services, and support economic empowerment of women. He said the programme will focus on four areas through 115 policy actions. It relies on addressing the chronic issue of elite capture – a form of corruption whereby public resources are biased for the benefit of a few individuals of superior social status. The other three priority areas, he said, aim at making the government system create equality, safety nets for disadvantaged segments of the population, jobs and livelihoods, and human capital development.

“Ehsaas is the biggest and the boldest programme for the poor ever launched in Pakistan,” the prime minister said. “The government looks forward to working with all stakeholders – public, private, civil society, philanthropists, and expatriate Pakistanis – to ensure that we deliver on our promise of lifting millions of people out of poverty and build a strong foundation together for a stronger, safer, and successful Pakistan,” he added.

The programme developed by the Poverty Alleviation Coordination Council after extensive consultations will also focus on central role of human capital formation for poverty eradication, economic growth and sustainable development, besides overcoming financial barriers to accessing health and post-secondary education.

The prime minister said the programme’s premise is grounded in the importance of strengthening institutions, transparency and good governance. It has been designed for the extreme poor, orphans, widows, homeless, disabled and those who risk medical impoverishment. He said it will also cater to the jobless, poor farmers, labourers, the sick and undernourished, students from low-income backgrounds, poor women and elderly citizens. He pointed out that it will centre on tapping whole-of-government multi-sectoral collaboration for solution, ensuring federal-provincial joint leadership and mainstreaming the role of the private sector. The programme will also create jobs and promote means for livelihood, he added.

The prime minister said it is the government’s prime duty to cater for those who are left behind, and to build safeguards against the elite capture, which is evident in the taxation system, water management, crop choices, land use priorities, labour laws and much else. He said Ehsas has set a policy direction for initiatives to provide relief to the economically venerable segments such as the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). It has proposed to amend the constitution to legally bind the government to provide food, shelter and basic social services to all the citizens.

The prime minister said additional Rs 80 billion will be added to the social protection spending in the forthcoming budget (2019-20) and in the next budget (2020-21) there would be a further increase. “Hence, the total incremental increase will be around Rs 120 billion. At this level, the social protection spending will be 1% of the GDP (gross domestic product) with federal and provincial contribution,” he added.

The prime minister said the Social Welfare Ministry, created for the implementation of the social protection policy, will supervise all pro-poor projects. “The entity will create a dependable database of needy households. It will also develop a network of centres to serve the poor by helping them with legal aid, skill development, job placement and access to banks for micro-loans,” he said.

The prime minister said special schemes for women to allow them to better care for themselves and their families have been included in the Ehsas programme. He said the Kifalat programme will ensure financial and digital inclusion of around 6 million women through the ‘one woman, one bank account’ policy. “Some 500 digital hubs will be established at the tehsil level under Kifalat where the government’s digital resources will be made accessible to create opportunities for poor families to graduate out of poverty,” he added.

Imran Khan said the shock-oriented precision safety net, Tahafaz, will protect the vulnerable against shocks. “It will involve one-time financial assistance to protect against catastrophic events, assistance to poor widows who do not have any earning children and legal aid, besides partnership with NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to upscale successful programmes for orphans, street children, seasonal migrants, transgender, victims of child and bonded labour, and daily wage workers,” he added. “Under the programme, Ehsaas homes for 10,000 orphans and Panah Gahs (shelter homes) in several major cities will be constructed while housing scheme for the poor (including landless farmers) through interest-free loans will be launched,” the prime minister said.

“To give protection against catastrophic health expenditures, Insaf Insurance card in 38 districts for 3.3 million people will be issued while ensuring financial access to treatment in defined categories and protecting the poor against catastrophic health expenditures through Tahafaz will be ensured,” he added.

Besides human capital development, the prime minister said the Ehsas programme aims at addressing stunting in children, provision of de-worming drugs, iron, folic acid, micronutrient supplements through government hospitals, awareness regarding breast feeding and complimentary feeding, 5+1 model of desi chicken asset transfer for poverty alleviation and nutrition, a kitchen gardening initiative to promote subsidized certified seed and specialized nutrition food made available for stunted and wasted children in a cost effective manner, and initiative to address spurious and adulterated milk.

He said pro-poor education initiatives include awareness drive regarding Article 25-A so that the disadvantaged become aware of their rights and access to education for poor through vouchers where public schools do not exist, but private schools exist, need-based undergraduate scholarships by the Higher Education Commission for students from low-income families and lagging districts to ensure that all qualified students have access to undergraduate education regardless of income, gender, or location. This policy, he said, will be applicable to public sector and participating non-profit private sector colleges and universities.

The prime minister said under the Ehsas programme, in health sector a universal health coverage policy will be adopted at the federal and provincial levels with innovative technology tools to increase geographic and financial access to healthcare for communicable and non-communicable diseases and for maternal and child health, and mental health services. Employment generation, he said, is a major objective of the broader economic reform agenda.

“Notwithstanding, a certain set of employment opportunities are included in the Ehsaas framework to promote jobs and livelihoods, despite current limitations,” he said. “The government’s interest-free loaning policy and graduation tools (asset transfer and skills development) will be developed around the Solutions Innovation Challenge and Prize Funding,” he added.

The prime minister the Ehsas programme also aims at introduction of skills training in school curricula and two-year college programmes, rationalizing requirements of 8th class as conditionality for enrollment in TVETAs, decrease in the age of enrollment from 18 to 15 in TVET institutions so that after matriculation, skills training could be started. “Change in NAVTCC’s law will introduce the mandate to check the mushrooming of substandard and unregulated trade testing centers being run by manpower exporters, which is one of the causes in compromising quality and subsequent exploitation of labour,” he added.

The prime minister said a consolidated labour market information system for overseas employment will be introduced so that intended migrant workers could be empowered and are not exploited by the middlemen. He said the manpower export is priority of the government, where opportunities in neighbouring countries and other emerging opportunities in countries like Japan and Germany that have ageing populations and need human resources, will be sought.

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