BISP reaches over 5.4m women beneficiaries countrywide


Graduation Model at BISP Marvi Memon

OVER the years, Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has evolved into the government’s flagship social safety net (SSN) programme which helps the most vulnerable to cope with income shocks by providing quarterly unconditional cash transfers (UCT) amounting to Rs. 4834 with effect from July 2016. Currently, BISP reaches more than 5.4 million women beneficiaries across the Pakistan and additionally contributes to human capital development through a primary education conditional cash transfers (CCT), Waseela-e-Taleem (WeT), active in 32 districts across Pakistan.
WeT started in 2013, and has more than 1.7 million children enrolled and receiving stipend across the country. In addition to UCT and WeT, BISP previously offered various combinations of vocational training, health and micro credit initiatives in order to utilize their complementarities for poverty reduction. To date, WeT is under implementation, and BISP is considering exploring various graduation options through linkages, referrals, and piloting some independent programmes that have the potential to be scaled up if found to have a successful impact on graduating potential BISP beneficiaries out of poverty.
There is an increasing role of complementary interventions in determining sustainable impact of cash transfer on the uptake of education and health services, nutrition outcomes, and for improving livelihoods to increase the chances of graduation from poverty. Global experience suggests that where programmes are combined with complementary, well-sequenced interventions, they have greater potential. Graduation strategies aim to increase households’ income, skills, and human capital to promote long-term welfare and poverty reduction.
BISP’s graduation strategies are based on the premise that they would enable the cash grants recipients to eventually transform into income earning individuals. There are four basic components of graduation strategy including incentive structure, labor activation, linkages to other social programmes and financial inclusion. Graduation models are adopted in almost all developing and developed world with country specific interventions. Ethiopia has launched graduation through linking the beneficiaries to intermediate services.
The Chile Solidario Programme reaches households in extreme poverty and provides them with a two-year period of psycho-social support through a local social worker. The Income Generation for Vulnerable Groups Development (IGVGD) programmes links food distribution to destitute women with a series of activities, including training in income generating activities in Bangladesh. The Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) has launched Livelihood, Employability and Enterprise Development (LEED) programme to develop the capacities, opportunities, assets and productivity of community members to reduce their vulnerability to shocks, improve their livelihood initiatives and strengthen their business operations. BISP at this stage wishes to chalk out, in consultation with its development partners and the provincial departments/ agencies, the blueprint of a poverty exit strategy, which could help the ultra poor dependent on BISP get out of the vicious circle of poverty. BISP wishes to achieve this objective through skills development, coaching, hand holding and providing sustainable livelihoods to the target groups. Discussions are under process to finalize the BISP Graduation Model (BGM).
BISP has also engaged poverty experts from internationally renowned universities to share their insights and provide expertise on the graduation discussions currently underway. What is BGM? The BGM is a model which combines elements of three distinct approaches, social protection, livelihoods development, and financial inclusion and draws on the most relevant aspects of these to deliver results by combining support for immediate needs with longer-term human capital and asset investments to move households out of extreme poverty and into sustainable livelihoods. The BGM is structured around the sequencing of the core building blocks of targeting, consumption support, skills enhancement, asset transfer, saving and microfinance, with the objective to graduate out of extreme poverty and into sustainable livelihoods.
The BGM is based on five core elements including i) Area Specific; to harvest local potential and reap the benefits of local market; ii) Beneficiary Specific; to accommodate poor and uneducated BISP beneficiaries; iii) Simple in Implementation, to ensure that BISP can implement it using its internal resources; iv) builds on BISP’s core competencies; that is, takes advantage of its cash payments mechanisms in place; and v) Scalable; to ensure that the largest number of beneficiaries, who have the potential to graduate, are given the opportunity to do so. In order to design BGM, various graduation models are under discussion.
Brief description of these models is as follows: The Asian Development Bank poverty experts shared various graduation approaches with BISP which have been tested in different parts of the world. The purpose of the five suggested graduation approaches is not simply providing comprehensive social protection but increasing income opportunity of the poor to come out of poverty in a systemic and sustainable way.
The models are:
Training for Rural Economic Empowerment (TREE): TREE is a comprehensive training package that identifies and assesses local economic opportunities, designs and delivers community-based skills training and provides post-training services. While entrepreneurship training might help people get better jobs or improve their income, training, however, without secure and well paid job is not sufficient for beneficiaries to get into sustainable livelihood and out of poverty.
Microfinance and Interest free Loans: These programs provide financing at the market rate (or below market rate in case of interest free loans) to candidate borrowers who have no access to regular banking services, as it was found that the poor are not viable self-entrepreneurs in the eyes of financial institutions. Due to higher probability that “richer” poor can better repay the given loan, this approach targets mostly population groups that are above poverty line and above the BISP Poverty Score Card (PSC) cut-off point of 16.17.
Typically, interest free loans are for people at PSC 17-40 and microfinance for people at PSC 30 and above. Consequently, out of 150,000 interest free loans provided under the Prime Minister’s Interest Free Loan program, only 17% went to BISP beneficiaries, with the vast majority going to beneficiaries above poverty line with a poverty score between 17 and 40.
Employment Guarantees: This program follows the public works approach. It aims to enhance livelihood security by providing wage employment (mainly unskilled manual work) for a number of days per year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do the work. There is no such program ongoing in Pakistan. India experimented with public employment programs since 1970s, and institutionalized it in 2005 following the promulgation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) as a right of the poor to volunteer for 100 days of work per year and paid accordingly. Employment guarantees are evaluated as effective programs for poverty reduction. However, they need careful choice of sub-projects with labor based infrastructure components, careful timing of activities, a transparent wage rate, and an effective implementation structure at district level
Comprehensive Coaching for the Extreme Poor (CC-EP model): It is a two-year comprehensive livelihood program for the extreme poor combining investment in productive assets and skills training with comprehensive coaching. The program is targeting extremely poor (lowest band of BISP beneficiaries with PSC 0-11) who have capacity to take on economic activities.
It provides them with 4 an opportunity to increase their income and move up the poverty ladder and for some also to escape the poverty trap. It is a tested program, proven to work and currently being implemented all over the world – as pilot – in various government and NGO-led programs
Inclusive Business Cooperation (IB model): IB is scaled up innovative and commercially viable private sector solutions to relevant problems of the poor. While IB can be found in any sector, only IB solutions creating income and employment are relevant for BISP graduation approach. The proposal is to cost share programs of private sector that engage BISP beneficiaries in value chains of their companies, thereby create new employment and income higher than prevailing market rate.
Households Overcoming Extreme Poverty (HOEP) model is also under discussion which is a hybrid of the two models namely CC- EP and the IB. The National Rural Support Program (NRSP) has implemented a community investment model called the Community Investment Fund (CIF). The main purpose of CIF is to provide a capital grant by the Rural Support Programmes to Community Institutions (CIs) i.e. Community Organizations, Village Organizations, and Local Support Organizations.
The CIF is targeted to women from poor and poorest households, and is used by the CIs as revolving fund. PSC is used to identify the eligible households to ensure that only the identified households (with PSC 0-23) will access CIF capital and start income generating activities.
In essence, BISP intends to design an appropriate graduation strategy for its beneficiaries by exploring global best practices and graduation models that offer a low-cost, high impact and sustainable solutions for their possible exit from the poverty trap. The aim of BGM is to create a model that is sensitive to the local context and specific to characteristics of the BISP beneficiaries.
—The writer is Minister of State/Chairperson BISP and MNA.

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