ISLAMABAD    -  Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr. Sania Nishtar on Thursday said Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme has largely helped the country respond to the immediate crisis of COVID-19 through providing relief to the poor households in Pakistan as well as putting in place critical building blocks for a stronger and deeper financial inclusion of the disadvantaged populations.

She was addressing an international webinar on “Integration and Digitisation of G2P Programmes” in Indonesia. The webinar was hosted by the Ministry of National Development Planning, Republic of Indonesia, in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank. 

The international webinar aimed at supporting the digital transformation process of social assistance programmes’ payment in Indonesia through a more beneficiary centered design, improving the quality of life of the recipients as well as the efficiency and effectiveness of the programmes. The event also intended to familiarise Indonesian policymakers with the international best practices of G2P payment programme digitalisation.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Sania Nishtar shared the scale and ambition of Ehsaas Financial and Digital Inclusion Initiatives and said “Ehsaas financial inclusion is a multi-component initiative that gives access to 21st century financial tools through financial and digital inclusion of seven million disadvantaged households and promotion of access to micro credit and bank accounts for informal workers.

She said this inclusive initiative is hinged on biometrically enabled digital payment system that will transition to the State Bank of Pakistan led Micropayment Gateway by 2021.

Sharing the insights on Ehsaas Emergency Cash, Dr. Nishtar stated, “the government of Pakistan allocated $1.2 billion to deliver emergency cash to extremely poor for controlling the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic.” 

She said Ehsaas Emergency Cash was the largest and most extensive social protection intervention ever in the history of the country. Digital capabilities established in 2019 as part of Ehsaas framework were capitalised to disburse Ehsaas Emergency Cash. 

The programme delivered one-time financial assistance to over 15 million families, as per the given household size in Pakistan, represented almost half of the country’s population.”

The international policy makers praised Pakistan’s Ehsaas initiative and the outcomes of its financial and digital inclusion amid COVID-19 to help the marginalised escape the poverty.

The event was attended by Indonesian central and regional policymakers, academia and research institutes, civil society organisations, development partners, and delegates from countries that have carried out similar transformations.