ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday launched Ehsaas Saving Wallets (Ehsaas Bachat Bank Account) Initiative which aims at financial and digital inclusion of women.

Addressing the ceremony, the Prime Minister termed it a very significant program saying financial inclusion of women will help in their mainstreaming and reduce the poverty. “I praise the Ehsaas programme for making it possible,” said the Prime Minister.

He said through Ehsaas Bachat Bank Account, the women will be able to better utilize the cash assistance being given to them under the Ehsaas Program.

The Prime Minister was confident that like other programs of Ehsaas, this will also prove to be a success. Imran Khan pointed out that Ehsaas Cash Emergency program has been ranked amongst top four social protection interventions by the World Bank.

He said in the wake of Covid-19, cash assistance was delivered to the deserving families in the most transparent and apolitical manner. He said if timely assistance was not delivered, the situation arising out of the pandemic would have added to the woes of the poor lot.

The Prime Minister noted that no nation can become great until and unless it takes care of the poor people.

The Prime Minister once again expressed the commitment to uplift the weak segments of the society as per the principles of State of Madina.

On the occasion, Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar briefed the Prime Minister about the Ehsaas Saving Wallets.

The Dutch ambassador on the occasion read out the message of Queen Maxima, expressing her satisfaction on the implementation of the initiative.

The prime minister interacted with beneficiary women of the Ehsaas Wallet programme and issued directions to resolve their grievances.

Under this program, Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries will have the option of either drawing their money or saving money into the digital wallets.

The beneficiaries of Kafaalat program can open these accounts at agent shops or ATMs. Initial transactions through these accounts will include balance inquiry, cash in and cash out, transfer funds received from Ehsaas to mobile accounts, mobile top up, utility bill payments and money transfers.

In her remarks, Dr. Sania said that the social safety net will be further expanded and the one-window facility will be opened at tehsil level to integrate all Ehsaas programs under one roof.

She said the first one-window facility will soon be opened in Islamabad.  

She said Ehsaas Saving Wallets will prove to be an important milestone for the economic empowerment of women.

She said this program has been framed keeping in view the best international practices.  

She said that globally, there were examples of economies that had encouraged a mindset shift towards savings and had reaped its benefits.

Kenya, she mentioned, had introduced mobile money transfers, resulting in savings increase of 22 percent in the beneficiary households, and helped lift 2percent of these households out of extreme poverty.

She said Argentina transitioned from cash handouts to account transfers for a national anti-poverty programme, and the transition was found to reduce corruption. On cash payments, she said, four percent of recipients reported paying kickbacks to people or organizations that helped enroll them in the programme. On the other hand, when the payments were made directly into accounts, the number dropped to just 0.03 percent.

Dr Nishtar also mentioned Bangladesh as an example of how digital savings accounts were used to change the nature of G2P programs from social protection to social investment using financial literacy campaigns.

She said the seven goals of socio-welfare importance under 270 projects of Ehsaas were actively being carried out with weekly and monthly reviews in line with the 32 covenants.

The programme is making headways keeping in view the areas of transparency and audit, information security, data governance and finance control, she added.

Dr Nishtar mentioned that the national Ehsaas survey was complete by 88 percent and announced that its first one-window operation centre would soon be opened at the capital’s Sitara Market.

She also gave a snapshot of the overall achievements under the umbrella of Ehsaas programme, namely the undergraduate scholarship, emergency cash programme, primary, secondary and undergraduate educational stipends, Ehsaas Nashunuma programme to check stunting in 15 districts, the establishment of 35 soup kitchens out of 112, and the orphanages and shelter homes with one-star bed and breakfast facility.

She said a programme had been designed in collaboration with National Bank of Pakistan to give soft loans to Karyana (small grocery shops) owners.

The newly launched Ehsaas Bachat account will deepen the financial inclusion initiated under the ‘One Woman One Bank Account Policy’.

The design of the Bachat bank account is simple in the following ways: the accounts are targeted to Kafaalat beneficiaries; beneficiaries can open these accounts at agent shops or ATMs; and initial transactions through these accounts will include balance inquiry, cash in and cash out, transfer funds received from Ehsaas to mobile accounts, mobile top-up, utility bill payments, and money transfers, etc. Additionally, the accounts will offer savings on deposits.