According to World Bank’s present statistics, total 10 percent of the world’s population or 734 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day. In the wake of coronavirus, World Bank estimates that 40 million to 60 million additional people would decline into extreme poverty (under $1.90/day) in 2020, compared to 2019, depending on assumptions on the magnitude of the economic shocks.
Under the pandemic, the worldwide condition of poverty may become worse because of job loss, increasing prices, disruptions in supply chains, loss of remittances, education, and health services. No doubt, the Government of Pakistan is committed to poverty alleviation in line with the SDGs target Goal-1 “No Poverty” in all its manifestations everywhere by 2030. The poverty headcount ratio according to the Planning Commission, was recorded 24.3 percent through estimating the poverty line for this period as Rs 3,250.28 per adult equivalent per month, which showed almost 50 million people living below the national poverty line in 2015-16. Furthermore, the national poverty headcount ratio at $1.90 a day (2011 purchasing power parity, percent of the population) explaining a declining trend from 6.1 percent in 2013-14 to 3.9 percent during FY2016.
The experts revealed that the COVID-19 is predicted to have a pessimistic impact on the Pakistan’s economy, and the number of people living below the poverty line may increase from the existing figure of 50 to 60 million. It is also said that the adverse impact of COVID-19 on the poor and people belonging to low-income groups, the Government of Pakistan has planned to improve the Ehsaas Emergency Cash program from Rs144 billion to Rs203 billion. It is also recorded that under the first phase of the program [of Rs144 billion] 12 million families were offered 4-month stipend of Rs12,000. Now with the rise in its funds the program would facilitate almost 17 million families. This shows that almost half of the population of Pakistan would be covered under the program. Initially the program was introduced with a budget of Rs144 billion for 12 million beneficiaries. However, it is also said that 12.86 million beneficiaries across Pakistan had so far received one-time cash assistance of Rs 155.64 billion by emergency cash initiative as in addition to Rs 144 billion over Rs 10 billion was distributed by other resources, counting the Prime Minister’s Corona Fund.
It is also important to note that in Pakistan, Ehsaas is said to be the largest ever poverty alleviation programs to assist the poorest and weakest sections of society by making them financially independent. Statistics showed that the Ehsaas Emergency Cash program has so far disbursed an amount of Rs. 157.25 billion among 12,997,237 lockdown affected persons. A total of Rs. 70.728 billion has been disbursed among 5,845,019 deserving families in Punjab, Rs. 47.252 billion among 3,918,902 families in Sindh and over Rs. 26.877 billion among more than 2,214,239 beneficiaries in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Over Rs. 7.846 billion has been disbursed among greater than 645,936 persons in Balochistan, over Rs. 2.859 billion among more than 212,024 persons in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and over Rs. 1.149 billion among more than 94,039 people in Gilgit Baltistan. No other government has introduced such a large-scale, large-budget public welfare and poverty alleviation program in the last 72 years.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, from the very starting, has been emphasizing on poverty alleviation, growing the living standards of the weaker sections of the society, promotion of education and better utilization of human and natural resources which are also a significant part of the present government manifesto. Furthermore, Prime Minister has been focusing on policy making for poverty alleviation, enhancing the lives of poverty-stricken, promoting education and better utilization of human and natural resources. Prime Minister launched a comprehensive program like Ehsaas to lift the poor, mainly women, out of poverty, provide higher education opportunities for intelligent children belonging to the poor sections and create such a business environment in Pakistan where the youth can focus on business and entrepreneurship instead of looking for a job. The poverty alleviation programs, launched in the past, have only focused on cash payments and remained unable to disburse financial help among the real beneficiaries in a transparent way. The biggest example of this is BISP which has been termed as the most transparent program. The ongoing programs under Ehsaas include Ehsaas Emergency Cash, Ehsaas Ration Portal, Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship, Ehsaas Panagah (Shelter) and Langar Scheme, Ehsaas Kafalat, Ehsaas Interest Free Loans and Ehsaas Amdan and Assets Transfer Program. Under these programs, billions of rupees have been disbursed to benefit millions of people.
Moreover, besides transparency, another significant aspect of Ehsaas program is expedited process of payments as the processes from introduce to payment in all the programs of Ehsaas have been completed expeditiously because of the use of modern technology. Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program was introduced soon after the coronavirus outbreak under which the entire payment process was completed in a short period of 3-month after it launched, counting receiving applications, scrutiny and removal of practical hurdles.