ISLAMABAD - Senator Dr. Sania Nishtar, SAPM on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, was invited to speak as a sole headline presenter at the international policy dialogue hosted by Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo, said a press statement issued here.
This was a one-year follow-up event, ‘From Emergency to Recovery: Social Safety Nets beyond the COVID-19 Crisis.’ The high-level policy dialogue aimed to promote dialogue on the future of safety nets and social protection in Asia. It brought together policymakers who discussed country experiences and lessons learned from a year of safety nets. Dr. Sania keynoted the opening session and shared Pakistan’s story of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash last year, including the challenges and breakthroughs.
She highlighted Pakistan’s commitment towards casting wider social safety nets. “Ehsaas’ social protection programme is currently being premised on Ehsaas survey that is currently advancing smoothly throughout the country to conclude by the end of this month. Once the poverty data of survey has been validated, cleaned and analysed, it will underpin over 288 programmes, initiatives, governance reforms and policy actions aimed at uplifting marginalised people, eradicating poverty, and supporting vulnerable households”, she said.
She said that Pakistan’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme launched at the onset of pandemic last year, provided a one-time cash grant of Rs12,000 to 15 million families. The unconditional emergency cash transfer programme, Dr. Sania described, bolstered more effective social protection operations countrywide, strengthened social safety nets, and protected almost half the country’s population from economic shocks and the potential adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
Tetsushi Sonobe, Dean and CEO, Asian Development Bank Institute opened the event. Other distinguished speakers included Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor to the Government of Bangladesh, Access to Information Programme, Information and Communication Technology Division and Cabinet Division Huck-ju Kwon, Professor, Asia Development Institute, Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University Michiel Van Der Auwera, Senior Social Development Specialist (Social Protection), Social Development Thematic Group, Asian Development Bank.
At the dialogue, the policy makers commended Ehsaas for achieving the goal of successfully reaching out to millions of needy families across the country. Ehsaas programme was highly praised for its effective outreach and transparent delivery mechanisms. The Asian Development Bank was interested in exploring what plans Pakistan had in place to address the need for social protection in the after math of COVID-19 and the policy towards unconditional versus conditional cash transfers.
“According to the World Bank’s report, with over 100 million individuals served, Pakistan ranked fourth globally in terms of the number of people covered,” Dr. Sania added. Further, she said that almost for a year after the launch of Ehsaas, an extensive effort was made to build the system of transparency. Also, digital capabilities established under Ehsaas were adapted to deliver Ehsaas Emergency Cash.
The system was end-to-end data-driven, fully automated, rule-based, transparent, and politically neutral. Payments were biometrically verified. Dr. Sania’s keynote speech was followed by a question-and-answer session.