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|Learning from Experience and Developing SSN Systems to Address Shocks|
In 2007–08, the international food and fuel crisis hit Pakistan hard. In October 2008, the government launched a targeted cash benefit program, the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) as the country’s main SSN program. Through BISP, the Bank has supported the development of a new system for beneficiary identification. The process is under way, but not yet operational. It is expected that the targeting tools and databases (in particular the poverty score database linked to the national identification numbers) can be used by both the federal and provincial governments to deliver relief to populations affected by future disasters on a much larger scale and more quickly than was possible in 2005.
With the disastrous floods of 2010, the government and provincial disaster management authorities were able to fall back on the experience of the earthquake. The strategies adopted are relatively straightforward: the government quickly initiated the Citizen’s Damage Compensation program which provided more than 1.4 million flood affected families with a cash grant of about $230 each by using the national database for the identification of the beneficiaries and providing cash grants through debit cards provided by the private banking sector. The government has now asked development partners to help finance additional cash grants to affected households. As the BISP poverty scorecard is being rolled out (to be completed in 2011), it will provide a basis for directing relief and recovery support in future disaster situations.
Although political support for SSNs has been strong in Pakistan, each political party has often felt the need to develop and launch its own program. Given BISP’s strong association with the ruling party, there is a danger that the program could be dismantled to give way to a new program, should the opposition take over in the next elections. The Bank’s efforts to update systems and build institutions is therefore wise, as these can be used even if a new program comes into place. There is a need to garner broad political and stakeholder support for the underlying systems so that progress can be maintained when the political winds shift.
Sources: IEG case studies.