Expenditures on social safety nets not to be compromised: Dar

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar and Minister of State For It & Telecom, Anusha Rehman are witnessing while MD Bait-Ul-Mall Barister Abid Waheed Sheikh & CEO USF Faisal Sattar are signing "ICT for Girls Initiative" Project. INP PHOTO


Minister for Finance and Revenue Ishaq Dar on Friday said that strengthening and enhancing outreach of social safety nets was being given priority as expenditures in this area had been increased from Rs 34 billion to Rs 102 billion during last two years.

Despite taking hard decisions on economic fronts no compromise was made in social welfare projects, he said while addressing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) ceremony among Pakistan Baitul-Mal (PBM), Universal Service Fund (USF) and Microsoft under Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for Girls Initiative.

Under the MoU, USF in collaboration with Microsoft would establish 50 information technology laboratories in women empowerment centers running under PBM across the under privileged areas for their skill development and economic empowerment.

In these centers about 4,000 to 5,000 girls would be provided IT training including web designing, networking and other skills to make them economically self-reliant.

Praising the initiative, Dar said empowering women by making them economically self-reliant was part of the PML-N’s election manifesto and government was determined to fulfill its promises.

Besides, he said that the government had also increased the annual budget of PBM by 100 per cent, aimed at assisting and supporting the deserving patients of chronic diseases.

“Working towards social well-being is our religious obligation and it is top priority of the government, Dar said, and added that everyone should come forward to do their share for social welfare programmes.

Dar said provision of modern IT labs would enable young girls of these centers to meet challenges of modern world besides providing skills training to economically empower the women.

Highlighting the economic performance of the government, he said the government has taken some hard decisions to turn around the economy adding that due to these efforts, all economic indicators were showing improvement.

Besides increasing forex reserves which had touched $20 billion mark, he said, the government was now aiming to increase them to $21 billion by addressing the bottlenecks in economic development.

He said that budget deficit had been considerably decreased from 8 per cent to 4 per cent and all the forecasts of the country being on the verge of default had been averted. He said that the government had abolished all discretionary funds of different ministries and departments.

The minister reiterated the government’s resolve to further strengthen the economy by addressing the issues of energy and terrorism from the country.

He said that the government had started work on mega energy generation projects to produce 25,000MW of electricity, adding that 10,000MW would materialise during the tenure of the current government.

Addressing the ceremony, Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunications, Anusha Rahman said that initiation of ICT for Girls programme has opened doors of IT and modern knowledge for future builders of Pakistan to become entrepreneurs and contributors to national development.

“It is quite important and vital that women who make up 50 per cent of country’s population, should come forward, show their potential and contribute in the socio-economic development of the country,” she said.

The minister said that it was the resolve of the government under the capable leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to create and set up bundles and plans to elevate abilities and information of Pakistani women in ICT to build their employability.

Anusha Rahman said that the ICTs for young girls had been launched with joint effort of Pakistan Baitul Maal (PBM), Universal Service Fund (USF) and Microsoft to help prepare a great many young girls from underestimated area of society, with a goal that they can get suitable occupations.

The minister emphasised that in this age of innovation and technological advancement, steps need to be taken so that benefits of ICT reach girls and women, adding that her government was focusing on this particular area and was ensuring implementation of the policy following the party’s manifesto.

She advised that the women should not restrict themselves to typing roles, but should instead take advantage of and focus on learning different IT and computer skills as Information Technology had assumed a pivotal role in every sphere of life. This phenomenon would also lead to women empowerment, she continued.

Anusha Rahman also recorded measures adopted by the government to advance Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the nation and mentioned tele-centre project which had been launched to facilitate population in underserved areas of the country.

“There would be separate desks including 10 for males and 10 for females in a tele-centre,” she said.

The other initiative is setting up of Software Technology Parks and also a tech city in Islamabad. She said that her ministry was in the process of developing the tech city, adding that during the first week of January next year “we would be able to announce final bidder for the project where young entrepreneurs would be facilitated”.

She said that the initiatives introduced had started bearing fruit as Pakistan had achieved 4th position in the e-lancer area where people work and earn their livelihood while working online.

USF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Faisal Sattar highlighted the achievements of his organization and said that out of the targeted 7,000 mauzas across the country, 4,000 had been provided ICT services while optic fibre cable was also being laid to facilitate the remotest parts.

In his brief remarks, PBM Managing Director Barrister Abid Waheed Sheikh said that Microsoft was setting-up IT labs in 50 out of the 150 Women Empowerment Centres (WEC) across the country.

He said it is our duty to impart IT education to girls in order to enable them to earn their livelihood and contribute in national development.

He said that around 4,000 to 5,000 girls would be imparted training in ICT related areas in the first phase of the programme.

Microsoft Country Head Nadeem Malik expressed his organization’s commitment in promoting ICT and hoped that this particular initiative would help materialise government’s vision to make Pakistan a digital country.

National Commission on the Status of Women Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz spoke about ICT for Girls programme and said that this would help ensure women empowerment and make them productive citizens.

Later, heads of PBM, USF and Microsoft signed the document on behalf of their respective organizations.

The ceremony was attended by CEOs of mobile phone and telecom companies, legislators, senior government officials and media persons.