Disasters and epidemics are meant to be a test from nature that how nations face, support each other and overcome these types of problems. Although, developing countries like Pakistan have a lot of social and economic problems. All sectors, including health, education, agriculture and infrastructure, are over-burdened by our rapidly increasing population. The main segment of the population in our country is from middle and lower middle class which depends upon small businesses and jobs so any type of financial problem in economic activities or employment sector can directly affect their financial stability.
After almost three months of long lockdowns all over the world, people are suffering from financial crisis and even in some developed countries citizens are out on streets against lockdowns. Daily wager, small and medium businesses and even overseas Pakistanis are most affected segments.
Due to the limited financial resources, now it is very hard to continue lockdown or closure of those sectors which are directly or indirectly linked with middle and lower middle class people. If the government eases the lockdown then it can be dangerous for the health of citizens. As we observed during the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, the government allowed the business community to open businesses and shops and allowed citizens for shopping which caused more spread of virus.
Eid-e-Qurban is the next upcoming event which also has a lot of relevant business activities. If the government continues current smart or strict lockdown then it will increase the miseries and financial problems for the majority of the population in Pakistan. All precautionary measures are totally dependent upon people as the government can only implement lockdowns.
The BISP was also a very effective relief program for poor, especially vulnerable women of deprived society
On other hand, due to the lack of sincerity, sense of responsibility and weak political system, some of our political parties are trying to politicize the situation. Even then governments at federal and provincial level are trying their level best to cope with the situation with available limited resources. But our systems are so weak in this regard that whenever our nation faces any disaster, our opportunists start to get maximum benefits by misusing resources and public funds.
Government can only give relief in terms of cash or ration but again it is very hard to find deserving people and deliver relief to them. To strengthen this, the government initiated a Tiger Force to help at district level and these volunteers are effectively helping district administrations.
With limited resources even before COVID-19, the federal government launched Ehsaas Program to help the most poor and neglected population of the country. After COVID disease, the government decided to help poor, needy and affectees of the virus by effectively utilizing this program.
Governments using modern technology and techniques to identify real affectees and delivering them relief packages either in terms of cash or in terms of goods. After system verification deserving people receive confirmation and collect their cash relief packages all over the country from designated places through a systematic procedure.
This emergency cash program launched by the prime minister on April 1, 2020 to help the needy and affectees of ongoing pandemic. The program will cover 12 million families with a total budget of Rs144 billion. An SMS campaign is the entry point to identify these beneficiaries. For the ease of applicants, an emergency cash application/registration web-portal has also been developed and launched to check eligibility and smooth fund transfers.
Before Ehsaas Programme, the government of the Pakistan Peoples Party launched the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) – the National Cash Transfer Programme (NCTP) – in July 2008, as the premier safety net institution in Pakistan. The BISP, a targeted unconditional cash transfer program in Pakistan was implemented by focusing on poor women.
The programme was established through an Act of Parliament. The major objectives of the programme were to enhance financial capacity of poor, to uplift of underprivileged and vulnerable people and to reduce poverty and promote equitable distribution of wealth especially for the low income groups.
At that time, it was the largest single social safety net program in the country with nearly Rs. 90 billion ($900 million) distributed to 5.4 million beneficiaries in 2016. The Department for International Development of the United Kingdom was the largest foreign backer of the program, providing $244 million (or 27%) of the total funds in 2016 with the Pakistani government providing the rest.
The BISP was also a very effective relief program for poor, especially vulnerable women of deprived society. But due to some loopholes in the political system, the funds were being miss-used or wrongly collected by using fake documents.
Ehsaas Programme previously known as BISP, is no doubt a very good source and system to help poor and needy persons and currently the cash relief program can help people in pandemic but we need to make this system more effective and helpful for beneficiaries in the long run. This is possible in a way that if we develop a mechanism to utilize these funds to provide skill development facilities especially to women. And later disburse funds to them so that they can start small scale businesses. Almost 49% of total population is female and majority is housewives and have time to start some small-scale side businesses that can additionally help and support the whole family as males are already doing jobs or small businesses. This can also reduce the dependency of the whole family on one family.
Platform of DigiSkills can also play a vital role and by utilizing Ehsaas Funds, This platform can provide skill development facilities to women. Training related to E-commerce and safe and secure international online payment systems can also be very effective to promote local products manufactured by these beneficiaries to international markets.
This article was originally published at: https://dailytimes.com.pk/630639/best-relief-and-support-after-covid-19/
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.