After several years of delay, the countrywide National Socio-Economic Registry Survey has been completed and has identified more than 34 million poor families to be eligible for financial assistance. The survey has been completed by the Ehsaas Programme, a flagship social safety and poverty alleviation programme launched by this government in March 2019.

This registry was an utter necessity. An important criticism of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), which was the largest social welfare programme in the country before Ehsaas, was of corruption, based on the fact that the process of identification of families to receive financial assistance was not transparent. One of the promises of the PTI government before coming into power was that it would retain and improve BISP. A transparent, accurate and fair process of identification of beneficiaries was necessary in order to make Ehsaas a credible programme, and it is regrettable that this was not concluded sooner. Moreover, this was also imperative considering the government spent more than Rs 200 billion on its social safety initiatives through the Ehsaas Programme.

If the government expected to continue approving a large number of funds for the programme, it was requisite to have a more efficient process. This kind of data collection, collected digitally, in a country where technology is not always up-to-date, and surveys and census often lead to controversy, is a milestone, which has also been praised by the World Bank.

Apart from identification, having a basis of assessment for specific data on poverty in Pakistan, based on households and livelihood, is mandatory for policy planning for any country. The survey includes households’ information in terms of geographic data, demographics, socioeconomic status, education, health, disability, employment, ene¬rgy consumption, assets, communications, agri-landholdings, water-sanitation-and-hygiene (WASH) and livestock. This is crucial data collection that the government and non-government organisations can utilise for a number of policies, including targeted subsidies, specific loans and cash transfers.