Girls in school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan ONLINE

Dubai: Pakistan’s poverty alleviation programme called ‘Ehsaas’ (care) is set to change the plight of under privileged people in the country if implementing in letter and spirit.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in its policy document released on Monday said that the programme is for the extreme poor, orphans, widows, the homeless, the disabled, those who risk medical impoverishment.

PKR 80 b

(Dh2.07 billion) spending programme earmarked by Pakistan to reduce extreme poverty in the country for 2019

It is for the jobless, for poor farmers, for labourers, for the sick and undernourished; for students from low-income backgrounds and for poor women and elderly citizens. This plan is also about lifting lagging areas where poverty is higher.

As it happens in most Western countries including UK and Canada, Imran is looking at the constitution change to make provision of food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief for citizens who cannot earn a livelihood due to infirmity, sickness or unemployment, a state responsibility.

According to the Pakistan’s first ever official report on multidimensional poverty released in 2016, nearly 39 percent of Pakistanis live in multidimensional poverty (MPI), with the highest rates of poverty in FATA and Balochistan. Poverty in urban areas is 9.3 percent as compared to 54.6 percent in rural areas.

Disparities also exist across provinces.

PKR 120 b

(Dh3.11 billion) to be spent on poverty alleviation programme by 2021 in Pakistan

The situation has deteriorated over the last few years because of high inflation rate, unemployment and lack of access to affordable educational and health facilities.

Gulf News obtained Imran’s Ehsaas poverty alleviation document which identities the target areas and suggests action plans to implement the policies.

Welfare State

Ehsaas is about the creation of a ‘welfare state’ by countering elite capture. Elite capture is a form of corruption whereby public resources are biased for the benefit of a few individuals of superior social status in detriment to the welfare of the larger population.

Ehsass project supports the economic empowerment of women; focuses on the central role of human capital formation for poverty eradication, economic growth and sustainable development; and overcoming financial barriers to accessing health and post-secondary education

What is Ehsaas

Ehsaas is the biggest and the boldest programme for the poor, ever launched in Pakistan. The government looks forward to working with all stakeholders—public, private, civil society, philanthropists, and expatriate Pakistanis. The Ehsaas programme was developed by the Poverty Alleviation Coordination Council after extensive consultations. The Council is chaired by Dr Sania Nishtar

Ehsaas’ poverty reduction strategy is articulated in four pillars and it currently embodies 115 policy actions.

The four pillars include: addressing elite capture and making the government system work to create equality; safety nets for disadvantaged segments of the population; jobs and livelihoods; and human capital development.

Pillar I: Address elite capture and making the government system work for equality

It is the prime duty of the government to cater for those that are left behind, and to build safeguard against elite capture, which is evident in the taxation system, in water management, in crop choices, in land use priorities, labor laws and in much else.

In this respect, the first pillar encompasses the following polices:

1. A new Constitutional amendment to move article 38(d) from the “Principles of Policy” section into the “Fundamental Rights” section. This change will make provision of food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief for citizens who cannot earn a livelihood due to infirmity, sickness or unemployment, a state responsibility

2. Increase in social protection spending. Additional PKR 80 billion will be added to social protection spending in the forthcoming budget (2019-20) and in the next budget (2020-21) there will be a further increase; hence total incremental increase will be PKR 120 billion.

3. Creation of the Ministry of Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Coordination to address current fragmentation.

4. Creation of a one-window social protection operation to assist beneficiaries of social protection and to reduce duplication and abuse

5. Pro-poor goals and measurable indicators for every ministry

6. Priority earmarking of resources for pro-poor sectors to prevent channeling of resources to other sectors through ad hoc decision-making

7. A need-based system in the framework of the new National Finance Commission Award.

8. All Provincial Finance Commissions will be encouraged to base their future awards on need-based systems to remove intra-provincial disparities

9. A policy to maximize the pro-poor impact of the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) resources. For every project, efforts will be made to raise private capital so that PSDP resources are only spent on projects that serve as an equalizer.

A highway in Pakistan
File photo of a highway in Pakistan: Government has laid down a policy to maximise the pro-poor impact of the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) resources. For every project, efforts will be made to raise private capital so that PSDP resources are only spent on projects that serve as an equaliser. Image Credit: File

10. A Committee on Innovative Financing and deployment of innovative financing mechanisms to mobilise additional resources and create fiscal space for pro-poor investments.

11. Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility in areas related to voluntary expenditure, its alignment, tax rebates and reporting

12. A new mandatory section in the PC1 Performa (Planning Commission approval document) to screen every PC 1 for its impact on poverty and equality

13. A committee to review the bottlenecks in the justice system for the vulnerable.

14. New policy to guide the use of development expenditure by parliamentarians to promote transparency, independent oversight and accountability

15. Guidelines on conflict-of-interest for state and government functionaries

16. Earmarking a share for those below a certain poverty line while allocating Khokhas (cafés), tea shops, newspaper stands, shoe polishing booths on government-owned land or in government-owned hospitals, parks, and railway stations

17. Earmarking a share for those below a certain poverty line while auctioning shops in Town and Tehsil committees

18. Earmarking a share for those below a certain poverty line in Market Committees.

19. Registration of slum and Katchi Abadis residents to facilitate their transparent inclusion in the event of subsequent commercialization of the area

20. A policy of community co-ownership where land development follows freeing up of land from land grabbers

21. A policy of community co-ownership where government gives hunting permits

22. For pro-poverty planning, the government is committed to fixing the local government system, to facilitate need-based community decision making

23. Enhanced free electronic media air time policy to promote information related to the Ehsaas programme.

24. National Strategy for the Development of Statistics, for strengthening quality and availability of statistics and to ensure the independence of statistics.

25. Data accessibility and transparency policy. Free accessibility of data will be ensured through the District Development Portal in which poverty and other socio-economic indicators across Pakistan’s district will be available to policy makers and the public.

Pillar II: Safety Nets

38.8% of people in Pakistan suffer from poverty in one or other form, and 24.4% do not have enough money to satisfy their basic food and non-food needs. The government needs to identify the poor precisely to make government subsidies, targeted.

24. 4 %

percentage of Pakistanis who not have enough money to satisfy their basic food and non-food needs

In this regard the following initiatives have been undertaken/are in the planning pipeline

26. Development of the new 2019 National Socioeconomic Registry

27. Multiple validations of the National Socioeconomic Registry through follow-up review surveys and use of big data analytics to correctly and precisely identify the real poor.

28. Conversion of the National Socioeconomic Registry into a live registry. Two new social protection programs are being introduced—Kifalat (support or sponsorship) and Tahafuz (protection). These will be executed through the agency, Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP)

29. The programme "Kifalat", will ensure financial and digital inclusion of around 6 million women through the one woman one bank account policy

30. Inflation-adjustment in the size of the cash transfer to 6 million women under Kifalat.

31. Establishment of 500 digital hubs at the Tehsil level under Kifalat where government’s digital resources will be made accessible.

32. Programmes for graduation of BISP beneficiaries in lagging districts through the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund’s National Poverty Graduation Programme, using the outreach of rural support programmes and community organizations

33. Launch of the shock-oriented precision safety net, Tahafaz for the vulnerable to protect them against shocks. This will be involve one-time financial assistance to protect against catastrophic events.

34. Assistance to poor widows who don’t have any earning children through Tahafaz.

35. Legal aid through Tahafaz

36. Partnership with NGOs to upscale successful programmes for orphans, street children, seasonal migrants, transgender, victims of child and bonded labor and daily wage workers

37. Ehsaas homes for 10,000 orphans

38. "Panah-gahs" (protection houses) in several major cities

39. Housing scheme for the poor (including landless farmers) through interest free loans

40. Insaf Insurance card in 38 districts for 3.3 million people

Pakistan Province 019
Commercial buildings rising. Opportunities abound in Pakistan with big pro-business push from PM Imran Khan's government. Punjab province promises facilitation in several key sectors. Image Credit: REUTERS

41. Ensuring financial access to treatment in defined categories and protecting the poor against catastrophic health expenditures through Tahafaz

42. Ensuring universal access to assistive devices

43. 20 centers for the physically challenged in under-privileged districts in the public-private partnership mode.

Welfare of the elderly poor:

44. Labour pension increased from PKR 5,250 to PKR 6,500 through the Employees Old Age Benefit Institute.

45. Biometric payments of pensions through Employees Old Age Benefit Institute

46. Five great Ehsaas homes (old people’s homes) through Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal

Labour welfare:

47. Creation of a time- and outcomes-based labour expert group to develop recommendations to address the following issues: loopholes in existing laws as a result of which a large number of workers remain outside the formal network (e.g., agriculture and livestock sector, artisans, construction workers in informal settings, domestic workers and women whose work is seen as an extension of domestic responsibilities in rural area); fragmentation of labour social safety nets; rampant corruption and institutional failures which result in exploitation of labour; and enforcement issues with regard to minimum wage, and health and safety regulations

48. Launch of a welfare and pension scheme for the informal sector as a result of the recommendations of the labour expert group

Welfare of workers abroad:

49. A policy to increase the role and number of Community Welfare Attaches and to involve well reputed expatriate Pakistanis in that role.

50. Increase in the number of Protector of Emigration Offices

51. Initiative to improve quality of pre-departure briefing for intended migrants, and ensuring attendance biometrically so that workers can be made aware about their rights and entitlements (for example insurance), which will ensure that they are not exploited by human resource exporters and employers

52. Protector of Emigration Offices to create one-window for all types of requirements to facilitate migrant workers

53. Negotiations with foreign governments to extend the duration of the first contract agreement for workers to a minimum of 3 years because unskilled workers hardly recover their cost of migration before that time

54. A policy of subsidy on air tickets for low paid workers abroad who have not returned home in seven years

Pillar III. Human capital development

Human capital development is a significant contributor to the wealth of a nation. In this digital age, accelerations in technology require countries to urgently invest in their people if they hope to compete in the economy of the future. Pakistan is facing a crisis in terms of malnutrition that is among the worst in the world.

Malnutrition has long lasting consequences for families and countries. Here are the several initiatives address malnutrition in this framework.


55. A new community and health and nutrition initiative to address stunting in children

56. Provision of de-worming drugs, iron, folic acid, micro nutrient supplements through government hospitals.

57. Awareness regarding breast feeding and complimentary feeding

58. Setting up a Multi-sectoral Nutrition Coordinating `Body

59. Establishment of the first-ever university-hosted National Centre for Human Nutrition

60. 5+1 model of desi chicken asset transfer for poverty alleviation and nutrition

A farmer in Pakistan 09
A farmer in Pakistan: Under a new programme, the government will pursue crop diversification policy to curb 'elite capture' and incentivising local manufacturing of farm equipment, drip irrigation materials and solar equipment. Image Credit: File

61. Asset transfer of goats to the rural poor along with veterinary cover as part of the graduation initiative’s asset transfer programmes

62. A Kitchen gardening initiative to promote subsidised certified seed and seedlings through the entrepreneurial model as well as CSR to promote fruit and vegetable intake.

63. Oil cans to accompany seed packets policy

64. Promotion of seed distribution through the Utility Stores Corporation

65. Specialized nutrition food made available for stunted and wasted children in a cost effective manner.

66. Initiative to address spurious, and adulterated milk

Pro-poor education initiatives

67. Awareness drive aimed at article 25-A so that the disadvantaged become aware of their right

68. Access to education for poor through vouchers where public schools do not exist, but private schools exist; or

69. Contracting out primary and secondary education to private sector in geographic areas where there are no public schools

70. Increase in the budget of the National Education Foundation to enable implementation of contracting out and voucher schemes, mentioned above

71. Freely available e-learning content as a public good

72. Use of chat bots in local languages to overcome constraints faced by dispersed populations in accessing education

73. Conditional cash transfer programme for education in lagging districts

74. A second chance programme for girls in schools, colleges and universities

75. Need-based undergraduate scholarships by the Higher Education Commission for students from low-income families and lagging districts to ensure that all qualified students have access to undergraduate education regardless of income, gender, or location.

76. Transparency placard placement policy for all schools funded by government.


77. Universal health coverage policy to be adopted at federal and provincial levels with innovative technology tools to increase geographic and financial access to healthcare for communicable and non-communicable diseases and for maternal and child health and mental health services.

Priority will be given to conditions where the poor bear higher burden of disease.

Pic06-012 LAHORE: Nov 06 – A nurse administrating polio drops to a child at Mayo Hospital during the launching ceremony of anti polio campaign. ONLINE PHOTO by Malik Sajjad

78. Transparency and integrity measures to address regulatory capture in health-related regulatory agencies

79. Transparency placard placement policy for health facilities funded by government.

80. Policy to accelerate reform of public hospitals with increase in budgets

Pakistani poor people get free food from a restaurant in Rawalpindi, Pakistan Image Credit: AP

Pillar IV: Jobs and Livelihood

Employment generation is a major objective of the broader economic reform agenda. Notwithstanding, a certain set of employment opportunities are included in the Ehsaas framework to promote jobs and livelihoods, despite current limitations

81. The new policy of Solutions Innovation Challenge, Prize Funding, and venture capital funding to develop value chains and solutions for poverty at scale by identifying private sector partners. Two categories of solutions challenges will be developed; one with public good like effect and others that are specific to Geographic Opportunity Clusters in lagging areas.

This approach will help to develop agriculture and industrial value chains and address the drivers of poverty in a local context.

82. Policy by the higher education Commission to support research and evidence-gathering on the drivers of poverty in local settings, as these will assist with the development of locally relevant solutions challenges

83. Promotion of microfinance banking services through a policy aimed at increasing liquidity and digitalisation of phone banking services.

84. The government’s Interest Free Loaning policy and graduation tools (asset transfer and skills development) will be developed around the Solutions Innovation Challenge and Prize

Funding policy

85. Promotion of agriculture credit to support the Solutions Innovation Challenge and Prize Funding policy

86. Promotion of off grid solutions to electricity to support the Solutions Innovation Challenge and Prize Funding policy

A view of Pakistan's port city of Karachi 01
A view of Pakistan's port city of Karachi, the country's financial hub. Image Credit: File

87. Deployment of a certain percentage of loans under the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme to support the Solutions Innovation Challenge and Prize Funding policy

In addition to Solutions challenges, government has identified three areas where there is opportunity to create jobs

Relevant to the IT sector

88. The policy of architecture-based approach to digitize government, coupled with a level playing field for the private sector can help drive jobs at scale

A Pakistani IT sector worker. The Islamabad government has made it a national policy to digitise government, and leveling the playing field for the private sector to help drive jobs at scale. Image Credit: File

89. The policy to promote free lancing by facilitating electronic payments

90. The policy to promote startups through the innovation challenge approach

91. The policy to enhance broadband internet services and basic telephony in lagging districts through the Universal Service Fund

The vocation education and training areas (TVETA)

92. Introduction of skills training in school curricula and 2-year college programmes

93. Rationalizing requirements of 8th class as conditionality for enrollment in TVETAs

94. Decrease in the age of enrollment from 18 to 15 in TVET institutions so that after matriculation, skills training can be started immediately

95. Review of legislation relating to apprenticeship in the informal sector. A system will be designed to formalize arrangements, recognize and certify skills

96. Change In laws related to National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTC) to introduce the mandate to check the mushrooming of substandard and unregulated Trade Testing Centers being run by manpower exporters, which is one of the causes in compromising quality and subsequent exploitation of labour

97. Increase in NAVTCC’s budget

98. NAVTEC to take immediate steps to get international recognition of our TEVT courses

99. A consolidated labour market information system for overseas employment so that intended migrant workers can be empowered, and are not exploited by middlemen.

Manpower export

100. Accelerated foreign policy drive to review opportunities in neighbouring countries, and other emerging opportunities in countries like Japan and Germany that have ageing populations and need human resources

A Saima Builders project takes shape against the Karachi skyline. Demand for offplan remains robust in Karachi. Image Credit: Supplied

101. Introduction of a slab for remitters of up to US$ 100 with half of the existing fee and incentives for the remittances to be socially invested.

102. Products to make remittances agile and cost effective

For poor farmers

103. Labour Expert group to study application of labor laws to tenant farmers and to make recommendations for formalizing tenancy farming system

104. A policy to help farmers with fragmented and small land holdings

105. Crop diversification Policy as a counter to elite capture in this area

106. Incentivisee local manufacturing of farm equipment, drip irrigation materials and solar equipment

107. A policy to promote effective husbandry and hay and silage making

108. Publication of biannual Agriculture Terms of Trade Report to improve pricing mechanism

109. Policy to catalyze development of warehouses and warehouse receipt financing

A road interchange in Karachi -09
A road interchange in Karachi. Image Credit: Courtesy Daily Times

110. Policy to reduce cost of agriculture inputs by minimizing import duties and taxes

111. Policy to provide market stimulus for livestock and fisheries in arid zones

About poor women

This entire agenda is heavily skewed towards the uplift of poor women—from the 6 million women who will benefit from the Kafalat to preferential support for women through Tahafaz.

Pic15-032 HYDERABAD: Oct 15 - Students solve their paper during pre-entry test in University of Jamshoro. ONLINE PHOTO by Nadeem Khawer

More than 50% of the education vouchers and scholarships will be for women. Insaf Card covers health conditions for women, preferentially.

Not just health and education, but jobs and economic empowerment are crucial for poor women. In this regard, the graduation initiative solely serves women. Through the Labour study group the government will explore ways to recognize the work of rural women, pave the way for equal wage and cover domestic work under legislation. In addition:

112. A policy will be developed to ensure that women have joint ownership of houses in each of the new housing schemes the government is supporting

The success of this wide-ranging plan with transformational potential will hinge on two factors—the effectiveness of population control measures on the one hand, and the quality and speed of implementation, on the other. The latter is deeply interlinked with governance effectiveness.

To this effect, the following measures assume overarching significance:

113. Housing the Population Task Force under the direct supervision of the Prime Ministers Secretariat and ensuring universal access to family planning predicated on the understanding that population is the denominator of poverty alleviation

114. Institutionalising integrity and efficiency frameworks in safety net institutions.

115: Maintenance of Risk Register, error fraud and corruption frameworks, risk assurance and management mechanisms, performance metrics, detailed operational work plans, are to be used as frameworks of accountability in all safety net institutions.

These measures are urgently needed to make government institutions transparent, accountable and responsive, which is a necessary pre-requisite for successful implementation of this programme.