Aggregating the Evidence: Shock-responsive Social Protection Delivery Mechanism in Pakistan

Aggregating the Evidence: Shock-responsive Social Protection Delivery Mechanism in Pakistan

Event details

  • Monday | 11 Oct, 2021
  • 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
  • Islamabad

Concept Note:

The COVID-19 crisis urged policymakers to adapt existing systems rapidly to meet the new challenges facing all aspects of public policy. In many ways, the crisis presented an extraordinary situation requiring extraordinary measures. This is particularly true for social protection in developing countries. In developing countries, Social Protection plays a critical role in uplifting the destitute out of abject poverty. For the case of Pakistan, the established, flagship national safety net system is one of the largest in South Asia, comprising of multiple actors (government depts/agencies/Implementing partners/development sector etc.), working in different domains for delivery mechanism. When nationwide lockdown was imposed in Pakistan, in mid-March 2020; economic activity came to a halt in a country where over 40% of the population lives in poverty and over 24 million are either daily wagers or self-employed. The establishment of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash (EEC) Program, to provide immediate cash transfers to more than 15 million families, was one of the government's fiscal responses to Covid-19. This safety-net was rolled out at unprecedented speed, designed in the short-term to offer immediate relief in the form of $75 to the poorest and hardest hit families, to weather the initial shock of the crisis. This shock responsive social security program has given relief at one hand but on the other, there are evidence gaps that need serious consideration. The evidence has revealed that in terms of shock-responsive systems, more can be done for meeting citizens` emerging needs of consumption smoothening and livelihood assistance. For instance, there can be; improved and progressive digital initiatives for SP, reduced inclusion/exclusion errors and deeper considerations to inadequate financial & digital literacy on the demand side. The existing system

excludes/do not cover all the vulnerable people while, on the contrary many are getting benefited from multiple initiatives. Moreover, the program targeted the household size of 6-7 persons, by extending PKR 12,000 (USD $75), roughly $11.25 USD per person, or $0.09 USD per day. Using World Development Indicators, per person daily consumption for the poorest 40 percent of the population in Pakistan is estimated at $2.60 USD per day, thus, the amount of the transfer is only a meager portion of daily consumption. The program’s approach also embodies certain unintended risks particularly those related to gender inequality in the country as the current rollout strategy relies heavily on individuals’ ability to send an SMS or access an online portal, as well as having a national ID to apply for support. In this regard, women are at a disadvantage in their ability to access payments due to significant financial and digital illiteracy. Considered against women’s financial and digital exclusion in the context of Pakistan, the rollout strategy risks exacerbating gender gaps in financial inclusion as well. Moreover, the distribution systems have used pre-existing financial and banking infrastructure along with biometric registration systems, but this has not led to what advocates describe as financial deepening; such as one limitation was that EEC comprised of a Limited Mandate Account (LMA) with the option of opening a mobile savings wallet linked to this account, yet it was not functional. As a result, many transfer recipients simply used their accounts as a mailbox, withdrawing all their funds. As for the Punjab, the provincial government, with assistance from the FCDO’s Sub-National Governance Programme-II identified a number of gap areas required to be bridged in the realm of shock-responsive social protection. Among them, the salient ones included the devising of a mechanism for the on-demand enrolment of poor people to supplement the outdated National Socio-Economic Registry’s data, a reliable method for the identification and registration of informal workers in Punjab for extending them the social protection benefits, the establishment of a Social Protection Fund, the allocation of shock-responsive funds on the basis of a Spatial Vulnerability Index and the initiation of new provincial Ehsaas programmes to establish minimum standards of welfare for the most marginalised groups in the province. While many of these initiatives are currently under implementation through various ADP schemes in Punjab, it is essential that a dialogue to establish effective, integrated progressive SP systems, tailored initiatives and optimal deliverance of social protection should be initiated between the stakeholders. As SNG-II has been engaged with both stakeholders and governments (federal and provincial) in response to COVID-19, it can facilitate the initiation of such a dialogue and this webinar is the first in series.

Meeting Link:
Moderator: Dr. Fareeha Armughan, Research Fellow, SDPI
- Dr.  Amjad Saqib, Founder and Executive Director Akhuwat, (Chair of the Session)
- Mr. Qazi Azmat Isa, CEO, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF)  
- Ms. Beenish Fatimah Sahi, CEO, Punjab Social Protection Authority (PSPA)
- Mr. Musharaf Khan, Project Director, Social Protection Reforms Unit-KPK
- Mr. Mazhar Siraj, Senior Social Development Adviser, FCDO
- Dr. Sohail Anwar, Advisor, Governance and Social Protection, SNG Punjab