BISP seeks $150m loan for poverty project

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ISLAMABAD, Jan 5: The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is seeking about $150 million from the World Bank to set up an effective national safety net and foster human development of the poor in the long term.

Sources told Dawn that the loan from the International Development Association (IDA), the soft window of the World Bank group, is expected to be approved early next month.

Additionally, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) will provide $95 million for the project.

The new proposed funding will be an addition to the original credit amount of $60 million for the project which was
approved in May 2009.

The project has four main components which are: establishment of a national targeting system, strengthening safety net operations, enhancing safety programme management, accountability and evaluation and developing social protection policy and strategy monitoring.

However, the new funding will bring restructuring and entail changes in the project which include renaming of the project to reflect the expanded and restructured scope; changes in the component and its cost; a change of lending instrument from a technical assistance loan to a specific investment loan to introduce result-based financing mechanism and extension of closing date till June 2016.

The IDA funding will support the expansion of the basic cash transfer programme to eligible poor families and to introduce a co-responsibility cash transfer for BISP beneficiaries linked to primary education.

With this package, the BISP intends to counter the long-term poverty cycle and reduce beneficiary dependence on the income support programme, which is an objective stemming from the country’s social protection strategy.

The National Targeting System and Expanding Coverage of Basic renamed from the National Targeting System will add support for the expanded coverage of BISP’s basic income support programme and will cover additional costs for data processing analysis.The strengthening of safety net operations, which involves IDA credit of $81 million and $53 million from DFID, will be expanded to build on progress made to date, and to expand the focus of safety net operations to the
introduction of a conditional cash transfer component.

The BISP intends to provide all beneficiary families with primary school children ages six to 12 years a benefit with two components: a base transfer of Rs1,000 in continuation of the present income support, and a co-responsibility transfer of Rs200 per month for each child attending primary school, up to a maximum of Rs600 for three children in a specified age range.

The new funding will also support BISP in taking the pilots of technology-based payments to scale for enhanced transparency and accountability.

It will support the additional surveys needed to measure the impact of the conditional cash transfer and the expanded period of cash transfers and help to make public the results of the BISP evaluation for both future policy making and public information on results.

Appraising the project, the World Bank says that the potential positive social effects of the project are expected to be significant.

The project design relies heavily on international experience as well as on work undertaken as part of the impact evaluation of a conditional cash transfer programme pilot implemented by Pakistan Baitul Maal as well as findings from various analytical background papers prepared for the draft social safety net report currently under preparation by the World Bank and results of the impact evaluation of a conditional cash transfers pilot programme implemented by Baitul Maal.

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