In a significant stride towards women’s empowerment and the augmentation of social protection measures, the 60th Board meeting of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) was convened at its Headquarters on August 2, 2023. The meeting was chaired by Ms. Shazia Marri, Federal Minister and Chairperson of BISP. In attendance were Mr. Amer Ali Ahmad, Secretary of BISP, Mr. Yusuf Khan, Secretary of PA&SS, along with Additional Secretaries from the Finance and Economic Affairs Division (EAD), and esteemed private members including Dr. Kaiser Bengali, Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Barrister Ayesha T. Haq, Mr. Haris Gazdar, and Dr. Amjad Saqib. Notably, the Board unanimously approved a historic budget of Rs. 471 Billion for the fiscal year 2023-24, signaling a resolute commitment to advancing the cause of social welfare and gender equality.
The BISP Board has sanctioned a historic budget of Rs. 471 billion for the fiscal year 2023-24. This allocation encompasses various crucial programs, including Rs. 361.5 billion for the Benazir Kafaalat Programme, which will benefit 9.3 million families. Additionally, Rs. 32.27 billion has been allocated for the Benazir Nashonuma Programme, intended to assist 1.5 million individuals. The Benazir Taleemi Wazaif initiative, aimed at supporting 9.2 million children, has been granted a budget of Rs. 55.4 billion. Moreover, an earmarked amount of 6 billion is set aside for Benazir Scholarships for Undergraduates.
Significantly, only 1.20% of the entire budget is designated for employee salaries and administrative expenses, emphasizing the program-based nature of the budget. Impressively, the 2022-23 revised estimates indicate that a staggering 99.98% of the allocated budget for the programs has been effectively utilized.
The board received a comprehensive overview of the past year’s accomplishments. Notably, the number of beneficiaries under the Benazir Kafaalat Programme has increased from 7.6 million to 9 million families. This expansion was accompanied by a raise in the cash stipend per family from Rs. 7000 to Rs. 8750 per quarter. Furthermore, the Benazir Nashonuma Programme’s beneficiary count surged from 0.2 million to 0.77 million individuals, while the Taleemi Wazaif beneficiaries witnessed a significant rise from 2.6 million to 7.52 million children.
The board was also informed about two pivotal initiatives. A major decision was made to enhance the scope of the recently introduced Benazir Social Protection Account. The existing payment system faced challenges due to its reliance on specific banks and agents, leading to grievances and discrepancies. The new model is designed to provide beneficiaries with greater dignity, transparency, and convenience. It empowers beneficiaries to select their preferred banks, adopting a beneficiary-centric approach that offers enhanced autonomy. The Hybrid Social Safety Net Programme has been referred to the Technical Design Committee for further evaluation.
The board has taken significant steps to address longstanding concerns regarding the employees of BISP. Demonstrating a strong commitment to its workforce, the board has opted to realign staff salaries in accordance with government policies. This decision reflects a response to the persistent request from diligent personnel who have been tirelessly involved in the implementation and management of the program. These devoted employees have been operating without the benefit of a pension plan. However, a pivotal decision has been reached to introduce a Contributory Pension Fund, with corresponding contributions from the government. This measure is poised to alleviate the strain on the government’s financial resources.
During her leadership of the meeting, Ms. Shazia Marri underscored the government’s unwavering dedication to fortifying social protection endeavors. She accentuated that the BISP remains resolute in its mission to uplift the marginalized sectors of society, championing gender parity and empowering women to assume proactive roles in the nation’s progress.