ISLAMABAD - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Pakistan Wednesday signed a $430 million agreement to strengthen Pakistan’s Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).

Werner E. Liepach, ADB’s Country Director for Pakistan, and Haseeb Athar, Secretary, BISP signed the project agreements in the presence of Enver Baig, Chairman BISP.

“The direct cash transfer project will help reduce poverty among the most vulnerable groups specially women in Pakistan. The project will broaden the social safety net enabling millions of poor families contribute positively towards country’s overall development,” said Werner Liepach.

The programme launched in 2008 with the immediate aim to lessen the adverse impact of rising food and fuel prices on low-income families, identified 7.2 million families for cash transfer assistance, but about 2.4 m of them cannot receive payments because women do not have national identity cards required for getting assistance through the programme.

Hence, to speed up access to cash transfers for more eligible families, the ADB will support mobile teams who will issue the cards to needy families at their doorsteps.

The project, funded through the ADB’s highly concessional Asian Development Fund, will disburse cash income support to the female head of eligible family on quarterly basis till December 2018.

“The current phase of investment will expand the skill development program to increase income generating capacities of the targeted poor families; it will also introduce a pilot health insurance scheme to improve poorer families’ access to medication and health facilities.

The project will also strengthen the financial management systems to ensure that resources are delivered to needy families in most efficient and transparent way,” added Werner Liepach.