By: Rizwan Ghilzai
ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Tuesday approved removing over 600,000 beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme.
The decision was taken on a recommendation forwarded by the Sania Nishtar-led Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division, taken up at the weekly federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Pegged as the largest social safety programme, BISP provides cash transfers to about 5.1 million poor families across the country. It used the proxy means test (PMT) methodology to ascertain the eligibility of the beneficiaries.
In its recommendation, the division said that a 2010-11 survey on socio-economic indicators for 27 million households across Pakistan established a cut-off poverty score at 16.17 to make ever-married women as BISP beneficiaries.
“The demographic and socio-economic status, as well as the composition of households, change with time,” reads the letter. “Over time some of these beneficiary households have become relatively better-off.”
The poverty alleviation and social safety division said a National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) analysis of living standards of the BISP beneficiaries was conducted on the following baselines:
Foreign travel by beneficiary or spouse,
Ownership of motor vehicle by beneficiary or spouse,
Average monthly PTCL bill of more than Rs1,000 for the last six months in the name of beneficiary or spouse,
Average monthly mobile bill of more than Rs1,000 for last six months in the name of beneficiary or spouse,
Passport processing through Executive Centers by beneficiary or spouse with payment of extra fees,
Three or more family members of beneficiaries having obtained CNIC through executive processing.
The division said at least 625,592 beneficiaries qualified in one or more of the categories.
The poverty alleviation and social safety division also carried out the analysis in consultation with the Controller General of Accounts (CGA) and NADRA to identify beneficiaries who themselves or their spouses are civil employees of Federal or Provincial Governments, Pakistan Railways, Pakistan Post Office or BISP.
“Another analysis is being carried out to identify beneficiaries in Punjab, who themselves or their spouses own more than 12 acres of agricultural land,” it added.
The recommendation stated that the BISP board had approved removing the beneficiaries from the list on “account of their improved socio-economic status”.
The division proposed that the federal cabinet approve the new criteria of screening existing BISP beneficiaries and their removal “except for the households who fall in the disable eligibility category”.
The Sania Nishtar-led division highlighted that although the Ministry of Finance had announced increasing BISP stipends from Rs5,000 to Rs5,500, the increase has not been notified yet.
It also proposed to raise the amount to Rs6,000 and name the new stipends as “Ehsaas Kifalat”.