Cash Transfers Help Pakistan’s Poorest

May 19, 2016


Children of BISP beneficiaries doing their school homework.

World Bank

Launched in 2008, Pakistan’s flagship national safety net program, the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), is currently providing income support though predictable $15 monthly cash transfers to more than 5.2 million families of the country's nearly 20 million poorest people.

Over $3.5 billion has so far been disbursed to beneficiaries and the program aims to reach 5.3 million families by the end of the current financial year.

To further support these families and promote human capital development amongst the poorest, effective 2012, BISP has rolled out a top up Co-responsibility Cash Transfer (CCT) program, linked with primary school education of beneficiaries’ children.

Since BISP delivers transfers to female members of the families, this has significantly contributed to women empowerment and promoting financial inclusion. With a variety of innovations and building blocks of Social Protection systems, BISP is evolving as a national platform for provision of targeted services to the poor.


BISP beneficiaries waiting to receive their benefits

World Bank

" It is miraculous. Over time with the benefits that we have received, our children have rejoined school. Payment of children’s school fee and other expenditures is easy for us "

Khalida, BISP beneficiary from Faisalabad


According to a recent revision of poverty numbers, around 29% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line and many others are vulnerable to shocks likely to push them below the poverty line.

Before the launch of BISP, Pakistan’s main safety net programs had limited coverage and targeting efficiency: up to one third of the resources distributed were going to non-poor families and the delivery systems were inadequate.

Since 2009, the World Bank’s Social Safety Net Project has supported BISP to develop modern service delivery systems that enabled the institution to efficiently and transparently reach a large proportion of the poorest and provide them the benefit transfers. Besides various administrative improvements, the Project has also supported BISP to strengthen its partnership with provinces for joint implementation of CCTs.

" I was living my life in extreme poverty. BISP became my savior. My children are able to receive the formal education. "

BISP beneficiary


BISP beneficiaries waiting to receive their benefits

World Bank


  • The establishment of a National Socio-Economic Registry through the use of an objective targeting system, hosting a database of more than 27 million households (approx. 167 million people) – the first in South Asia. More than 30 federal and provincial organizations are already using this registry to improve pro-poor targeting performance of respective social sector programs. BISP is about to launch the update of household welfare information in the Registry to be completed by December 2017.
  • By providing women access to national identification cards and making payments to female heads of beneficiary families, the program has significantly contributed to women empowerment. The enrolment of women for the NID card has almost doubled post the launching of BISP.
  • Transparency and efficiency have improved since more than 93% of the current 5.2 million beneficiaries receive payments electronically, and even the poorest women can access branchless banking accounts for the first time ever in their lives.
  • The Co-responsibility Cash Transfers (CCT) in 32 districts is linking cash transfers to primary school education. More than 1.3 million children have been enrolled in the program, of which nearly 50% are girls.  
  • Partnerships with the provinces helped promote the National Enrolment Drive, raise awareness of the program amongst the poor and pave the way for the design and delivery of complementary services.   

Bank Contribution

The World Bank first supported BISP in 2009 through the $60 million Social Safety Net Technical Assistance Project, followed by a $150 million restructuring with Additional Financing in 2012, also introducing the modality of result based financing . The Social Safety Net project is being complemented by a Bank-executed Trust Fund financed by the DFID. A follow up $100 million National SP Program is under preparation to consolidate the gains made todate. 



In 2009, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) approved a World Bank-managed trust fund to support the test phase of the Poverty Score Card and set up BISP. Other donors such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) each provided $150 million to finance cash transfers to beneficiaries identified through the Poverty Score Card targeting system.

The partnership between the World Bank and DFID further continued with the approval of £300 million of DFID’s 8 years (2012-20) support to Pakistan’s National Cash Transfer program. In 2013, ADB also approved  $430 million, mainly to expand basic cash transfers to the eligible families.

Last Updated: May 19, 2016

Nearly 5.2 million of the country's poorest families have received cash transfers