Imran says Ehsas a step towards making Pakistan a welfare state


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s Ehsas programme was a step towards the creation of a welfare state, aimed at reducing inequality, alleviating poverty, investing in people and uplifting districts lagging behind in development.

In a 15-page policy statement released by the PM Office, Imran said Ehaas launched on March 27, would 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 would focus on four areas through 115 policy actions. It relied on addressing the chronic issue of elite capture – a form of corruption whereby public resources were biased for the benefit of a few individuals of superior social status. The other three priority areas, he said, aimed at making the government system create equality, safety nets for disadvantaged segments of the population, jobs and livelihoods, and human capital development.

“Ehsas is the biggest and the boldest programme for the poor, ever launched in Pakistan,” the prime minister said in his statement.

“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.”

The programme developed by the Poverty Alleviation Coordination Council after extensive consultations would 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, in a tweet, said he was pleased to release his policy statement on Ehsas – “my priority poverty reduction programme with its 4 focus areas and 115 policy actions to reduce inequality, invest in people, and uplift lagging districts.”

He said the programme’s premise was grounded in the importance of strengthening institutions, transparency and good governance. It was designed for the extreme poor, orphans, widows, homeless, disabled and those, who risked medical impoverishment. Imran Khan said it would 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 would center on tapping whole-of-government multi-sectoral collaboration for solution, ensuring joint federal-provincial leadership, and mainstreaming the role of private sector.

The programme would also create jobs and promote means for livelihood, he added.

The prime minister said it was the government’s prime duty to cater for those who were left behind, and to build safeguards against the elite capture, which was evident in the taxation system, water management, crop choices, land use priorities, labour laws and much else.

He said Ehsas set a policy direction for initiatives to providing relief to the economically venerable segments such as the Benazir Income Support Programme. It proposed to amend the Constitution to legally bind the government to provide food, shelter and basic social services to all the citizens.

He said an additional Rs80 billion would 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 total incremental increase would be Rs120 billion. At that level, the social protection spending would be 1 % of the GDP (gross domestic product) with federal and provincial contribution.

The programme Kifalat, he said, would ensure financial and digital inclusion of around 6 million women through the one woman one bank account policy. Some 500 digital hubs would be established at the Tehsil level under Kifalat where the government’s digital resources would be made accessible to create opportunities for poor families to graduate out of poverty, he added

He said the shock-oriented precision safety net, Tahafaz, would protect the vulnerable against shocks. It would involve one-time financial assistance to protect against catastrophic events, assistance to poor widows who did 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 Ehsas programme, Ehsas homes for 10,000 orphans and Panah Gahs (shelter homes) in several major cities would be constructed while housing scheme for the poor (including landless farmers) through interest-free loans would be launched.

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