Distinction in social protection

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IN a study, the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) has acknowledged Pakistan as one of the top-ranked countries in Asia with the highest number of responses to social protection. The study was conducted by UNICEF, United Nations and IPC-IG to assess social protection response in Asia focusing on an extensive mapping and overview of how social protection measures were deployed by the countries in Asia and the Pacific region in response to Covid-19 crisis.
This is yet another manifestation of the universal acknowledgement of the satisfactory handling of the social aspect of the Covid-19 situation by the Government of Pakistan. Credit for this surely goes to Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet colleagues especially his Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar who was instrumental in devising an elaborate programme for disbursal of cash assistance to the disadvantaged segments of the population during the peak of the pandemic and did it in a fair and transparent manner. It would be unfair if one doesn’t acknowledge the role of the provinces in reaching out to the poor during challenging times. Though the data of Asian countries shown in a bar graph puts Afghanistan ahead of Pakistan, however, the former’s position has been linked with several external humanitarian interventions. As against this, Pakistan managed the situation on its own despite paucity of resources and this was obviously done by diverting resources from other sectors. It is also important to note that the cash assistance was provided to the people in a timely manner, which helped families a lot in overcoming their financial and economic difficulties during nation-wide lockdown. Leaving aside what the Government did during Covid-19, the overall approach of the Government in tackling the challenge of poverty is also praiseworthy as is evident from different facets of Ehsaas Programme, establishment of shelter homes, points for provision of free food to the poor and focus of the Prime Minister on addressing the issue of stunting. Though it is responsibility of the provincial governments to play a pivotal role in preventing stunting but the federal government is preparing to launch high-level coordination and a comprehensive database pertaining to stunting, ensure provision of information and make special plans for its prevention. Subsidies also play crucial role in tackling the problem of poverty and, therefore, the Government needs to review its policy of their gradual abolition in the face of financial strains.