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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Ehsas Emergency Program: Making it work

PM has announced an ambitious relief package for the poor. However, the Ehsas Emergency Program under the same old BISP filters in place won't be able to lift people out of poverty. There is another way, a better approach in making the Ehsas Program work. Rashid Ali, a banker illustrates

Data is prerequisite for making informed decision and policy making. This is important for relief work in general and Ehsas Emergency Program in particular. It also has paramount significance in evaluating the results of policies. Data may also be utilised for accountability purposes.

The irony is that we do not have the data of the underprivileged population, data available in the form of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is also compromised. Recently the Government eliminated the names of more than 0.800 million non-deserving beneficiaries of BISP.

In the prevailing situation, millions of daily wagers have fallen below the poverty line because of the sudden lockdown which halted their ability to earn a livelihood, Ehsas Emergency Program is the right step in the right direction but transparency is a concern.

Read more: Branchless banking arrives to AJK to help those without bank accounts

American Statistician W. Edwards Deming famously said: “In God we trust, all others must bring data.”

In a media briefing, the chairperson of Ehsas Emergency Program requested the general public, not to send SMS to 8171 unless they are deserving. A better way would’ve been that instead of requesting she should have given a statement that we have strong data checks and filters in place to eliminate non-deserving persons.


Relief assistance: Filters in place 

• Either beneficiary or their spouse has travelled abroad.
• One or more vehicles are registered in the name of the beneficiary or their spouse.
• Average monthly bill of beneficiary or spouse is more than 1000PKR
• Beneficiary or their spouse applied for the CNIC or passport through Executive Booth.
• Beneficiary or their spouse is a Government servant.

Read more: Pakistan’s PM announces Rs. 1200 billion “COVID-19 Relief Package”

There is a need to implement stronger filters based on data already available so that it could be made more reliable, composed of deserving people only. An accurate data would not allow any ineligible person to get the benefits from the Ehsas Program and vice versa. There is a need to define family and dependent family members including linear ascendants, descendants.

Proposed reforms in the Ehsas Emergency Program

The following checks and balances will make the process of cheque distribution more credible:

• Beneficiary or their spouse is a Govt pensioner
• Beneficiary or their spouse is an Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOIB) pensioner.
• Beneficiary, their spouse or their son is a private company employee.
• Average electric bill of the house is more than 2000 PKR per month.
• Beneficiary or their spouse is taking a grant from benevolent fund amounting 3000 PKR or above.
• Any member of the family is possessing a bank account having a deposit of 50000 PKR or above or annual turnover above 0.500 million.
• Any member of the family is holding an insurance with an annual premium above 25000 PKR.
• Any one member of the family or collectively the family is a shareholder in a company with market value shares above 500000 PKR.

Moreover, the following filters for Ehsas Emergency program should be applied:

• Any one member of the family or collectively the family owns more than one house or a commercial shop.
• One of the family members sold wheat or sugarcane to PASCO/sugar mills amounting 300000 PKR or above.
• One of the family members received an insurance claim of 500000 PKR or above.
• One of the family members availed loan from commercial banks amounting 300000 PKR or above against liquid assets.
• One of the family members is working abroad.
• One of the family members is an active taxpayer.
• Children of a beneficiary is studying at a school with a monthly fee above 3000 PKR.

All the data is available with different government departments and organizations, a centralized database can be formulated by gathering this data at one point. The president should promulgate an ordinance for sharing of information for Ehsas Emergency Program so that any legal hindrance restricting the sharing of data can be dealt with.

Read more: Govt to give away billions of rupees in corona-relief package for poor

Benefits of better checks and balances

This exercise has two benefits. Firstly, the non-deserving people will be eliminated from the list of the BISP. Secondly, creditable and authentic scrutiny for the second and third phase of Ehsas Emergency Program will be possible. Confidentiality is also a plus point of this database eligibility criteria. Deserving people can get relief without getting their self-respect or ego hurt.

The rejected applicants of Ehsas Emergency Program should be informed that why they are rejected and given right of appeal against the decision. It may be possible that they fall under the eligibility criteria but are not a beneficiary. In such cases, an exemption may be granted.

Rashid Ali is a Banker by profession and Student of MS. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.