Friday, January 14, 2022

Pakistan Pursuing Ambitious Program to Build Social Safety Net

Pakistan's PTI government has built South Asia’s first digital National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER) as a part of its ambitious effort to build a basic social safety net. The Ehsaas (also known as BISP- Benazir Income Support)) program's socio-economic registry includes household information by  geography, age, income, education, health, disability, employment, energy consumption, land and livestock holdings etc. Ehsaas Programs include both Unconditional Cash Transfers (UCT) and Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT). Unconditional Cash Transfers are made only to people living in extreme poverty or distress. Conditional Cash Transfers like Waseela-e-Taleem and Nashonuma  are given for education and nutrition respectively.  In addition, there are feeding centers (langars) for the hungry and shelters (panahgahs) for the homeless. 

Development of Ehsaas Social Registry. Source: Maintains

The National Socio-economic Registry will be regularly updated to keep it current and deliver services to the Pakistanis most in need. The effort started in earnest in 2020 to hand out Rs. 12,000 per family to 3 million most affected by the COVID19 lockdown. Here's how a Pakistani government website describes the digital registry architecture:

"The Cognitive API architecture for Ehsaas’ National Socio-Economic Registry 2021 is one of the six main pillars of ‘One Window Ehsaas’. With the survey, which is building the registry currently 90.5% complete nationwide, Ehsaas is firming up its plans to open data sharing and data access services for all executing agencies under Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division (PASSD). Data sharing will be done through the Cognitive API Architecture approach. The deployment of Ehsaas API architecture for data sharing will allow executing agencies to access data from the unified registry in real-time to validate beneficiary information. This will empower them to ascertain eligibility of potential beneficiaries". 

Universal Healthcare Map. Source: World Population Review


More recently, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) governments in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab provinces have rolled out Sehat Cards to provide free health coverage to cover tens of millions of people. This is essentially a government-funded health insurance program run by insurance companies to cover up to one million rupees worth of care each year at government certified public and private clinics and hospitals. It represents a major expansion of this program which was first introduced in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. It is now available to residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, and Tharparkar district in Sindh under the Sehat Sahulat Program.    

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18 comments:

SAMIR SARDANA said...

Instead of CCT and UCT - this is the time to FLOAT the DIGITAL PKR - which can be activated and deactivated,at will !

The Trillion USD Crypto,is based on this - and so,there are may companies in the US and EU, which can provide this tech,almost free - for being tagged with a nation.Also some Pakistani IT firm,can do the same,and then,roll it all over Africa and LDCs

Thus bank infra need not be created,and there is no need of ATMs,and all the user spend, will have an e-trail,and so,minute analysis of consumer spend,can be made - which will aid in subsidy management and policy and Govtt policies

The same model can be applied to agri subsidies,for farmers.dindooohindoo

And most importantly it will boost the GDP,and bring that incremental GDP,into he VAT net

JIYE JIYE PAKISTAN !

Riaz Haq said...

Global Hunger Index 2021 reflects India’s reality where hunger accentuated post Covid-19: Oxfam India
India slipped to 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 116 countries, from its 2020 position of 94th, and is behind its neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/global-hunger-index-2021-india-reality-hunger-accentuated-covid-19-oxfam-india-7580110/

India’s Global Hunger Index 2021 ranking at 101st position “unfortunately” reflects the reality of the country where hunger has accentuated since the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, Oxfam India said.

India slipped to 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 116 countries, from its 2020 position of 94th, and is behind its neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Reacting sharply to the report, the Ministry of Women and Child Development had said it was “shocking” to find that the Global Hunger Report 2021 has lowered the rank of India on the basis of FAO estimate on proportion of undernourished population, which is found to be “devoid of ground reality and facts and suffers from serious methodological issues”.

Oxfam India said the GHI data which states that India dropped to the hunger-level ranks by seven spots to the 101st spot “unfortunately reflects the reality of the country where hunger accentuated since the Covid-19 pandemic.

This trend of undernutrition in India is unfortunately not new, and is actually based on the government’s own National Family Health Survey (NHFS) data.

The data shows that between 2015 and 2019, a large number of Indian states actually ended up reversing the gains made on child nutrition parameters.

This loss of nutrition should be of concern because it has intergenerational effects, to put it simply – the latest data shows that in several parts of India, children born between 2015 and 2019 are more malnourished than the previous generation, said Amitabh Behar, CEO, Oxfam India.

The Union budget this year discussed India’s POSHAN (Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment) scheme with increased allocations to POSHAN 2.0.

However, the POSHAN Abhiyaan launched in 2017 to improve nutrition among children, pregnant women and lactating mothers, has languished due to poor funding resulting from clever clubbing with other schemes within the health-budget and even worse implementation.

Only 0.57 per cent of the current budget has been allocated towards funding the actual POSHAN scheme and the amount for child nutrition dropped by a whopping 18.5 per cent compared to 2020-21, Oxfam India said in a statement.

“There are massive negative consequences to not arresting high levels of malnutrition. In India, both our adult population and children are at risk. For instance, the BMI of a quarter of our (teenage and middle aged) women is below the standard global norm, more than half of our women suffer from anaemia.

A quarter of our (teenage and middle-aged) men also show signs of iron and calcium deficiencies as per the latest round of NHFS data, said Varna Sri Raman, Lead, Research and Knowledge Building at Oxfam India.

The GHI report, prepared jointly by Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide and German organisation Welt Hunger Hilfe, termed the level of hunger in India “alarming”.

zen, germany said...

riaz, next time when you write about IITs in india :)

https://www.timesnownews.com/the-buzz/article/iit-mandi-director-prof-laxmidhar-behera-says-ghosts-exist-claims-to-have-driven-out-evil-spirits-via-chants/849746

SAMIR SARDANA said...

Mr Zen From Germany has awoken late !

IIT - INDIAN INSTITUTE OF TOILET CLEANERS !

Sample this clown - who says farming needs,no fertiliser,or seeds or water

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/chant-vedic-mantra-to-get-a-better-crop-goa-govt-scheme-for-farmers-5244821/

MODI CHAIWLAA IS ALSO FROM THAT INSTITUTE AND HAS MADE MANY MAGICAL WONDERS FOR COVID

The Indians were trying out 3000 year OLD – ANCIENT HINDOO MEDICINES, as under :

MAGIC COW PISS COLA (by drinking it – the smell will drive away the COVID Virus !)

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/drink-cow-urine-to-fight-virus-bengal-bjp-chief/article32119516.ece

MAGIC COW DUNG CAKES (by applying it on the nose and mouth and face – the COVID virus will get scared off)

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/cow-dung-cake-mix-prepared-by-uttarakhand-ayurvedic-university-can-kill-coronavirus-in-air-claims-vc/articleshow/77225183.cms

The Indians were also trying out some MAGICAL RITUALS,OF THE RIG VEDA (also 3000 years old)

LIGHTING LAMPS (to attract the COVID Virus to the lamp fire and burn it)

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/india-lights-lamps-to-show-unity-in-fight-against-covid-19-2206576

LIGHTING LASERS OF CELLS ( to blind the COVID Virus)

LIGHTING CELL PHONES (to divert the Virus into the Phone)

CLAPPING HANDS ( to send sonic shock waves to the COVID virus)

https://www.france24.com/en/20200320-clap-our-hands-says-modi-but-india-needs-more-to-tackle-coronavirus-crisis

BEATING UTENSILS ( to send sonic shock waves to the COVID virus)

https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/corona-come-crowding-streets-to-beat-thalis-wont-help-us-defeat-coronavirus-2546699.html

Riaz Haq said...

Spirit of Riyasat-i-Madina: Transforming Pakistan

By PM Imran Khan

https://dailytimes.com.pk/869730/spirit-of-riyasat-i-madina-transforming-pakistan/


Over the last 75 years, our country has suffered from elite capture, where powerful and crooked politicians, cartels, and mafias have become accustomed to being above the law.

--------

The fourth founding principle was of inclusive development through the creation of a welfare state where society takes care of its poor and vulnerable and everyone is a stakeholder in the development of society and state. State of the medina was the first recorded welfare state of mankind where the state took responsibility for its weak. Since we must emulate the example of our blessed Prophet (SAW), our citizens should learn to be strict with themselves and generous with others.

Keep in mind, however, that in recent times the idea of the welfare state has been coloured by the Western European experience. Indeed, the West created impressive welfare systems from the 1950s to 2010s, of which the most impressive were the Scandinavian ones. However, most of the Western welfare states were not sustainable environmentally because these were very high consumption societies that produced enormous waste. If the whole of non-West were to copy these welfare states, then our pattern of production, consumption, and waste would resemble theirs, and by some estimates, it would require us six more planet earth to act as sinks that would absorb our waste. Such a welfare state is neither possible nor desirable. Since Islam is the middle path, only moderate prosperity and consumption would be ideal, just enough to fulfil our basic needs with dignity and honour, with universal health care and education.

And finally, a knowledge-based society that doesn’t confound literacy with knowledge. Literacy may lead to illuminative knowledge that may guide us to good behaviour, but some of the highest crime zones of the world also have very high literacy rates. One must not lose sight of an important historical fact that nearly all scholars of early and medieval Islam had deep roots in spirituality.

-----

Lastly, in the light of our ideals, we have embarked on the road to the welfare state with some great initiatives. Despite tight financial means, we allocated an unprecedented amount of money to our initiatives such as the Ehsaas Program which was launched back in 2019. Ehsaas Program is a social safety and poverty alleviation program necessary for vulnerable groups in society. This was one of our key initiatives towards building a state that cares about the welfare of our citizens. By far, one of the greatest programs in the history of Pakistan is the Sehat Sahulat Program, which offers our citizens universal health coverage. This is not just to protect vulnerable households from sinking into poverty who often borrow money for medical treatment, but it also leads to a network of private sector hospitals all over the country, thus benefitting both the public as well as the private sectors in the field of health. Just Punjab government alone has allocated Rs. 400 billion rupees for this. The Sehat Sahulat Program is an important milestone towards our social welfare reforms. It makes sure that certain low-income groups in Pakistan may have access to their entitled medical health care quickly and honourably without accruing many financial obligations. In the wake of global economic hardship brought about in the post-COVID era, we have not neglected the fast transforming educational arena. Our Ehsaas scholarship program would ensure that talented students within the underprivileged and poor strata of society would get a chance to pursue decent education that would augment their chances of getting better livelihoods. This program combined with all our other scholarships amounts to six million scholarships worth Rs 47 billion. This, too, is unprecedented in the educational history of Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Only two countries, #US & #Israel, voting against making #food a basic #humanright
https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/gashc4336.doc.htm
https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1486552024070062086?s=20

In other action, the Committee approved a draft on the right to food by a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, expressing alarm that in 2020, the number of people lacking access to adequate food rose by 320 million ‑ to 2.4 billion ‑ amounting to nearly a third of the world’s population, and that between 720 million and 811 million people faced hunger.

“Hunger is a violation of human dignity”, Cuba’s delegate asserted. Presenting the draft, he voiced concern that the United States has blocked consensus on the text for four years. The United States representative — highlighting conditions in the Lake Chad Basin, Yemen and Somalia ‑ said the draft contains unbalanced and inaccurate positions that her delegation simply cannot support. The concept of food sovereignty could justify food protectionism, negatively impacting food security, she explained, adding that the United States does not recognize the right to food, as it lacks a definition in international law.

Riaz Haq said...

Senator Dr Sania Nishtar
@SaniaNishtar
Anonymized data from the #Ehsaas Registry is being made public. This is a gold mine for researchers and globally, a stellar example of #DataDemocratisation. 3/3
https://bit.ly/3LZEnuZ

https://twitter.com/SaniaNishtar/status/1514183448109498370?s=20&t=lUJLHYFi3kPzTTGu6rThHg

Ehsaas, the Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf government-run social safety net, achieved a historical landmark of completing the Ehsaas Survey for 34 million households in Pakistan.

This is South Asia’s first digital door-to-door ‘census-like’ survey, with multiple digital safeguards to hedge against abuse, said Dr Sania Nishtar, former special assistant to PM and Chairperson Benazir Income Support Program (BISP).

Senator Dr Sania Nishtar today shared an informational video on the Ehsaas National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER) as she stepped down, highlighting an important component of Ehsaas that was completed but not yet publicly released.


On Twitter, she wrote, “Our Government achieved the historical landmark of completing the Ehsaas Survey for 34 Mn households. This is South Asia’s first digital door-to-door ‘census-like’ survey, with multiple digital safeguards to hedge against abuse”.


She further added “Ehsaas’ Registry enabled the govt to target Ehsaas’ social benefits effectively, target subsidies, and respond to shocks. Here are some insights from the survey across multiple dimensions and unique attributes of the registry. Anonymized Data from the Ehsaas Registry is being made public. This is a gold mine for researchers and globally a stellar example of #DataDemocratisation”.

Ehsaas achieved a historical landmark earlier this year to conclude the nationwide door-to-door NSER survey for more than 34 million households. The NSER survey is an all-encompassing survey designed to assess the socioeconomic status of the household and ascertain their poverty score through Proxy Means Testing (0 – 100). The survey has 43 unique variables and covers demographic, socio-economic, education, health, and asset profiles of the household.


The Ehsaas Registry is unique and important for its own reasons. It was not just Pakistan’s but also South Asia’s first digital and census-like door-to-door survey. Multiple digital safeguards, logical checks, and 3rd party validation and profiling were conducted to hedge against the risk and ensure data credibility. And through its credible and reliable database, it became a key enabler in decision making for all Ehsaas programs and facilitated making evidence-based and impartial decisions on the basis of need and merit.

To promote transparency and encourage data sharing, Ehsaas has made selective data from the NSER registry public. The video shares key insights across four key dimensions including Household coverage, Socio-economic analysis, Education analysis, and Health and Disability analysis. A dynamic PowerBI-based dashboard has also been developed and can be accessed here:

Riaz Haq said...

P A K I S T A N
DEVELOPMENT UPDATE
April 2022

https://thedocs.worldbank.org/en/doc/410d0506bba8afc6fd9d9541148bfe4d-0310062022/original/PDU-April-2022-April18-ForWEB-Final.pdf


Supported by higher growth and the recovery in the manufacturing and services sectors,
the poverty headcount, measured at the lower-middle-income class line of US$3.20 PPP
2011 per day, is estimated to have declined from 37.0 percent in FY20 to 34.0 percent in
FY21.

Rising inflation has disproportionally affected poor and vulnerable households that spend
a relatively larger share of their budget on food and energy. More specifically, the poor
spend around 50 percent of their total consumption on food items, whereas this share is
only 43 percent among the non-poor. In response, the Government inaugurated a
targeted commodity subsidy program, Ehsaas Rashan Riayat, in February 2022 to
compensate eligible households for higher prices.22

The Government undertook timely policy measures to mitigate the adverse
socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP)
lowered the policy rate and announced supportive measures for the financial sector to
help businesses and the Government expanded the national cash transfer program on an
emergency basis.2 These measures contributed to economic growth rebounding to 5.6
percent in FY21.3 However, long-standing structural weaknesses of the economy,
particularly consumption-led growth, low private investment rates, and weak exports have
constrained productivity growth and pose risks to a sustained recovery. Aggregate
demand pressures have built up, in part due to previously accommodative fiscal and
monetary policies, contributing to double-digit inflation and a sharp rise in the import bill
with record-high trade deficits in H1 FY22 (Jul–Dec 2021). These have diminished the
real purchasing power of households and weighed on the exchange rate and the country’s
limited external buffers.
b. Real Sector
Growth
Economic
momentum
continued, but
business confidence
has declined
During H1 FY22, y-o-y growth in car production and sales, petroleum sales, and foreign
remittance inflows indicate continued momentum in economic activity and private
consumption. Similarly, investment is also expected to have increased with a strong
growth in machinery imports and government development expenditure. Government
consumption is also expected to have expanded given the 16.0 percent increase in
consolidated current expenditure in H1 FY22. Activity in the external sector was also
vibrant, with import and export values growing by 54.4 percent and 27.3 percent,
respectively. While the flow of bank loans to private businesses grew in this period, it was
led by an increase in working capital or short-term financing, particularly as businesses
faced higher input costs, as opposed to long-term or fixed investment financing. The
business confidence survey index also declined from a pandemic high of 64.0 in June
2021 to 53.4 in December 2021, indicating lower optimism in the business sector
regarding the economic outlook.4
Favorable weather
conditions are
expected to support
higher overall crop
production
In agriculture, estimates suggest that rice, sugarcane, and maize production will be higher
this year, reflecting better weather conditions.5 With regards to agriculture inputs,
agriculture credit disbursement grew 3.9 percent, and farm tractor sales increased by 21.2
percent in H1 FY22.6 Similarly, 97.7 percent of the sowing target for wheat has been met.7
----
Large-scale
industrial production
growth strengthened
The LSM index, a key indicator for industrial activity, increased by 7.5 percent y-o-y
during H1 FY22 compared to a muted growth of 1.5 percent in H1 FY21. Growth was
broad-based with 16 out of the 22 sectors recording higher production. Only

Riaz Haq said...

Modest progress on SDGs
Khaleeq Kiani

https://www.dawn.com/news/1686708


Pakistan’s first Sustainable Develop­ment Goals (SDGs) Status Report (2021) is out and the country’s overall progress on SDGs is modest.

“Overall, Pakistan’s SDGs (composite) index score has increased from 53.11 in 2015 to 63.49 in 2020 i.e. 19.5 per cent up from the baseline of 2015,” according to Dr Shabnam Sarfraz, member of Social Sector and Devolution of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives.

In summary, the status report finds a considerable decline in extreme poverty, improvement in access to energy, increased industrial activities, reduction in maternal mortality, improvement in undernourishment, food insecurity, wash and housing, and climate action.

There are many areas identified by the report that need urgent collective attention such as education, children out of school, the proportion of youth not in education, employment and training, provision of decent work environment, implementation of climatic adaptation etc.

Since 2015, the Government of Pakistan has not published a consolidated report that presents the country’s progress on SDGs indicators viz-a-viz their baseline values. The report captures the existing data availability gap and compares the baseline 2014-2015 with values of the most recent available data on 133 SDG indicators.

The report says that Pakistan’s progress on SDG-1 — poverty reduction has been steady. Poverty has been on the decline between the period 2014-15 and 2018-19 with 9.3 million people lifted out of poverty away from the national poverty line. Similarly, Pakistan witnessed a significant decline in the proportion of the population affected by disasters.

In a drive towards zero hunger as espoused by SDG-2, undernourishment declined by 4.2pc from 20.2pc to 16pc from 2015 to 2019. Also, a moderate achievement was made through the reduction of stunting by 7pc and wasting by 4pc during 2013-18 among children under five years of age.

Improvements are seen in health outcomes for mothers by reducing anaemia among pregnant women by 16.5pc in seven years during 2011-18. There was a one per cent decrease in the agricultural area under productive and sustainable agriculture, from 39pc to 38pc, over four years during 2015-2019.

On good health and well-being under SDG-3, Pakistan has shown reasonable progress by improving most of the basic health indicators. The number of mothers dying during pregnancy and live births reduced by 32.6pc during 2007-2019. Births attended by skilled health personnel increased by 10pc in five years during 2013-18. National vaccination coverage improved by 11.5pc in five years between 2013 and 2018.

Concerning education achievements (SDG-4), the country’s progress has been dismal. The primary completion rate has stagnated at 67pc in five years during 2015-20. Similarly, the gender gap (SDG-5) of 9pc between the primary completion rate of males and females has also persisted in this period. The lower secondary completion rate has marginally increased from 50pc to 59pc during 2015-20. The national literacy rate stagnated at 60pc in five years during 2015-20, which is alarming and worrying.

More girls were enrolled in schools improving the gender parity in net enrolment at primary, middle and Matric levels during 2015-19. Large deficiencies and disparities persist in the provision of basic services to schools across the country.

Access to clean water and sanitation has also shown improvements at the national and provincial levels over time under SDG-6. Improved source of drinking water is available to 94pc of the country’s population. Access to drinking water in Balochistan has increased by 17pc in 5 years during 2015-20. The population having access to unshared toilets and handwashing facilities is 68pc and 54pc respectively, as per Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) 2019-20.

Riaz Haq said...

Modest progress on SDGs
Khaleeq Kiani

https://www.dawn.com/news/1686708


Pakistan’s first Sustainable Develop­ment Goals (SDGs) Status Report (2021) is out and the country’s overall progress on SDGs is modest.


On SDG-7, Pakistan’s commitment to the environment is shown by an increase in the share of renewable energy by more than four times between 2015 to 2019. The reliance on clean fuel (cooking) increased to 47pc in the period during 2018-19, from 41.3pc in 2014-15 at the national level. An increase of 3pc was recorded in 2019- 20 with 96pc of the population having access to electricity as compared to 93pc in 2014-15.

On SDG-8 ensuring decent work and economic growth, the economy experienced a slowdown with an annual growth rate of real GDP per capita declining to -3.36pc in the fiscal year 2019-20 from 2.04pc in 2014-15. Similarly, almost one-third of the total youth (30pc) in the age group (15-24 years) was not obtaining education, employment or training at the national level over the four year period of 2015-19 (SDGs indicator 8.6.1). Within the country, the highest instance of this category of youth was in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 38pc. The children aged 10-14 years engaged in work slightly reduced by over 2pc to 6.47pc from 8.64pc during 2015-19, at the national level.

Some progress was made on the SDG-9: industry, innovation and infrastructure targets. With the availability of new data from PSLM the baseline value is established with 88pc of the rural population living within two kilometres of an all-season road. The proportion of small-scale industries in total industry value added increased to 10.50pc in 2019-20 from 8.40pc in 2014-15, despite the overall negative effects of Covid-19 in 2019-20. The proportion of the mobile phone-owning population increased by 1pc in two years, from 45pc to 46pc between 2018-20.

A slight dent was made by the reduction of income inequality by 2pc in 2016-2019 for SDG-10. A small decline of 7pc in the proportion of the urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing also occurred during 2014-2018 from 45pc to 38pc for SDG-11. Pakistan remains committed to addressing the problem of hazardous waste and to compliance with the Basel Convention as required under SDG-12 concerning sustainable consumption and production. Regarding SDG-13 on climate action, greenhouse gas emissions were 375.03 million tonnes in 2016, a 2.5pc increase from 2015.

Relating to the SDG-14: Life below Water, Pakistan has maintained the proportion of fish stocks at 30pc within biologically sustainable levels for the five years between 2015-20. Despite the growing population and rapid urbanisation pressures, Pakistan’s forest area as a proportion of total land remained unchanged at around 5pc in five years between 2015-2020 which is one of the targets of SDG-15: Life on Land.

On SDG-16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions; in terms of counting the uncounted, birth registration of children under 5 years showed an improvement by 8.2pc in five years between 2013-18. Under SDG-17 developing partnerships for achieving SDGs showed significant improvement in its journey towards digital transformation as the fixed internet broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants increased by 20pc in three years during 2017-20.


Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan women fight gender norms to build online health business
by Zofeen T. Ebrahim |

https://news.trust.org/item/20220427154524-2hs38

Growing number of Pakistani women jump into health tech

Women founders face multiple barriers in conservative Pakistan

Mental health care not considered legitimate

Pakistan, April 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - After surviving a car crash that left her hospital-bound and unable to walk for months, Saira Siddique embarked on a mission: making health care accessible to Pakistanis.

The 45-year-old left her high-profile job in government health to pitch her app linking doctors and patients by video to investors.

Months later, with COVID-19 hurting businesses across Pakistan, Siddique's firm, MedIQ, burst on to the scene as the country's first "virtual hospital".

"(The pandemic) really gave a boost to my company," said Siddique.

With face-to-face doctors' appointments restricted due to contagion risks, Siddique's company, connecting patients across Pakistan with doctors and pharmacies, was suddenly in demand.

MedIQ served 16,000 patients in its first six months. Almost two years on, the number has increased by nearly 20 times.

Siddique is one of a growing number of women in Pakistan who are defying conservative gender norms by jumping into the health tech industry.


"Running a startup business is like riding a bull," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the capital Islamabad.

"You never know which way or how hard it's going to buck."

Siddique's company raised $1.8 million in an early stage of financing last week after receiving mentoring in the World Bank-backed WeRaise programme, which helps women-led ventures in Pakistan raise capital.

'DOCTOR BRIDES'
Others are blazing a similar path.

Two entrepreneurs in Karachi wanted to use the untapped potential of tens of thousands of so-called "doctor brides" - women doctors who quit their medical practise after marriage in a country where millions have no access to medical care.

Iffat Zafar Aga and Sara Saeed Khurram's platform allows female medics to provide e-consultations from their homes to patients in mostly rural communities.

In the country of some 210 million the doctor-patient ratio stands at just a little over one for every 1,000 patients, according to the World Bank.

Countries such as the United States, Japan and Brazil have more than two doctors for every 1,000 patients, while Britain has nearly four.

The pair has set up dozens of 'e-health clinics' in low-income communities where, for as little as 80 rupees ($0.43), a patient visits a nurse who uses the online platform to reach a doctor.

Khurram said they provided free consultations during COVID-19 after the government sought their help - a task made possible by their team of 7,000 doctors, many of whom are former doctor brides.

The phenomenon of doctor brides remains pervasive with many families encouraging their daughters to study medicine not for a career, but to bolster marriage prospects.

More than 70% of the country's doctors are women, but only half will ever practise, according to the Pakistan Medical Commission.

'LATE-NIGHT DEALS'
From domestic violence to anxiety over job losses and grief of losing family members to Covid-19, requests for virtual appointments on ReliveNow, an online mental health care platform, surged during lockdowns.

Amna Asif, its founder and CEO, said most of the clients were women, including single mothers, struggling to juggle children while working from home.

"This put us on the radar, and helped increase our sales," said Asif by phone.

Founded in 2018, ReliveNow has clients - 80% of whom are women - in dozens of countries including Pakistan, Britain, Canada and Australia.

But the road to success for firms like MediIQ and Sehat Kahani has been paved with misogyny, stereotypes and discouragement.

Riaz Haq said...

India Stack - Digital Infrastructure as Public Good | November 2019 | Communications of the ACM


https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2019/11/240375-india-stack-digital-infrastructure-as-public-good/fulltext

India Stack
Leapfrogs. There have been various technologies that have played the role of infrastructure. While the technologies themselves are commendable, their real "disruptive" power has been what applications they enable. For example, the Internet may have been born of a specific need, but its success is because of its design. It was a mass-scale, open, and interoperable protocol. The use cases for the Internet were not restricted by the imagination of its founders.

The India Stack is a name given to a family of APIs, open standards, and infrastructure components that allow a user in India to demand services digitally. As of 2019, the services the India Stack offers are proving identity, completing KYC, making digital payments, signing documents digitally and sharing of data. While the list of APIs is growing, the APIs listed in Table 1 are now mature, well understood, and enable efficient delivery of services in India.

Riaz Haq said...

The Indian economy is being rewired. The opportunity is immense
And so are the stakes

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2022/05/13/the-indian-economy-is-being-rewired-the-opportunity-is-immense

As the country emerges from the pandemic, however, a new pattern of growth is visible. It is unlike anything you have seen before. An indigenous tech effort is key. As the cost of technology has dropped, India has rolled out a national “tech stack”: a set of state-sponsored digital services that link ordinary Indians with an electronic identity, payments and tax systems, and bank accounts. The rapid adoption of these platforms is forcing a vast, inefficient, informal cash economy into the 21st century. It has turbocharged the world’s third-largest startup scene after America’s and China’s.

Alongside that, global trends are creating bigger business clusters. The it-services industry has doubled in size in a decade, helped by the cloud and a worldwide shortage of software workers. Where else can Western firms find half a million new engineers a year? There is a renewable-energy investment spree: India ranks third for solar installations and is pioneering green hydrogen. As firms everywhere reconfigure supply chains to lessen their reliance on China, India’s attractions as a manufacturing location have risen, helped by a $26bn subsidy scheme. Western governments are keen to forge defence and technology links. India has also found a workaround to redistribute more to ordinary folk who vote but rarely see immediate gains from economic reforms: a direct, real-time, digital welfare system that in 36 months has paid $200bn to about 950m people.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan to launch digital ID wallet this year
By Daniel Tost - March 8, 2022, 6:19 pm

https://www.globalgovernmentfintech.com/pakistan-to-launch-digital-id-wallet-this-year/


Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is planning to roll out a digital identity wallet later this year in a move that will end the need for physical ID.

NADRA is tasked with digitising all citizen data in the country, which – with more than 220 million citizens – is the fifth biggest in the world in terms of population.

As part of a digital push aimed at generating benefits including greater financial inclusion, the authority is working on a significant evolution of the existing ‘Pak-ID’ smartphone app – which was itself only introduced seven months ago, the authority’s chairman Tariq Malik told Pakistani media Dawn.

Launched last September, Pak-ID allows citizens to apply for a physical ID card remotely by using their Android or iOS device to scan documents and biometric data including their fingerprints and take a picture to verify their identity. When it was introduced, NADRA proclaimed that Pakistan had become ‘the first country in the world to introduce ID technology’. Two weeks later, the authority launched a similar biometric verification service for the banking and payments industry. With five banks initially participating, the service enables customers to open bank accounts and undertake biometric authenticated financial transactions using a mobile-phone camera.

Hailing Pak-ID’s debut, prime minister Imran Khan called the app “a revolutionary step in providing convenience, especially to overseas Pakistanis”. It seems these expats have at least partly driven the decision to launch the digital identity wallet by updating the Pak-ID app. “In a short span, 75,000 overseas Pakistanis have processed their national identity cards from the comfort of their homes by using the app,” Malik told Dawn. “With successful testing on 75,000 overseas Pakistanis, NADRA will go for a digital wallet.”

The wallet would be “a leap forward putting an end to the conventional physical ID” and is to be made available “later this year”, Malik said. “The digital dividends of such technology innovation will yield positive results in contactless banking, financial inclusion, ease of doing business and e-governance initiatives by offering remote identification and e-KYC [know-your-customer procedures].”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan to launch digital ID wallet this year
By Daniel Tost - March 8, 2022, 6:19 pm

https://www.globalgovernmentfintech.com/pakistan-to-launch-digital-id-wallet-this-year/

Focus on unregistered citizens
As of January, 96 per cent of Pakistan’s adult (above 18) population, have a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC), according to Islamabad-headquartered NADRA. Pakistan started rolling out its Smart National Identity Card (SNIC) in 2012 in a programme overseen by NADRA and aimed at replacing CNICs. Currently, both types of cards remain valid.

Recently, NADRA has focused on unregistered individuals (citizens without an identity card) by creating an ‘Inclusive Registration Department’. Its aim is to enhance registration, especially for women, minorities, transgender and unregistered persons. The agency targeted 80 districts with a gender gap of more than 10 per cent in registration figures. Eighteen female-only NADRA centres were opened to overcome socio-cultural barriers of women cautious about dealing with male staff. Additionally, 262 mobile registration vans and 80 ‘ManPack’ mobile units have been deployed countrywide for people living in remote areas or senior citizens who may struggle to travel. In total there are more than 700 registration centres operating countrywide and in all 154 districts of Pakistan. According to a NADRA press notice issued last month, the gender gap has been reduced by 40 per cent in targeted districts.

NADRA says it holds the largest biometric database of citizens in the world. The security of such a stock of citizen data is clearly important but the authority states that its SNIC is equipped with 36 security features, using a layering system to safeguard sensitive information.

Principles for interoperable ID
Pakistan’s move comes against the international backdrop of high-level principles to support the development of mutually recognised and interoperable digital ID systems and infrastructure having been drafted by a working group on digital identity comprising representatives from eight countries.

The 11 principles call for digital ID infrastructure to be open; transparent; reusable; user-centric; inclusive and accessible; multilingual; secure and private; technologically neutral and compatible with data portability; administratively simple; able to preserve information; and effective and efficient.

In its report, the Digital Identity Working Group (DIWG) said its goal is to enhance trade agreements and to ‘facilitate economic recovery from Covid-19, for example to support the opening of domestic and international borders’.

Established in 2020, DIWG comprises Australia, Canada, Finland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, the Netherlands and the UK. It is chaired by Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency.

Riaz Haq said...

FSI - Frameworks for a Developmental Welfare State: Lessons From Pakistan's Ehsaas Programme

Sir Michael Barber, Muqueet Shahzad

https://fsi.stanford.edu/publication/frameworks-developmental-welfare-state-lessons-pakistans-ehsaas-programme

Pakistan's Ehsaas Programme has set itself apart as a world-leading anti-poverty effort to uplift the country's most vulnerable. This paper is a review of the Ehsaas Programme, implemented by the Government of Pakistan from 2018 onwards. Ehsaas, in its goal of becoming a holistic and integrated response to poverty, provides a diverse set of services for vulnerable Pakistanis, including unconditional cash transfers, targeted subsidies, and increased health and nutritional coverage. We study the various policy, programmatic, and implementation reforms undertaken during this period and explore the lessons these reforms offer for global policymakers. In particular, we point to the importance of good leadership, building strong institutions, effectively using data and technology, and of using an integrated, inclusive approach to anti-poverty. Our findings indicate that these reforms have enabled Ehsaas to successfully scale impact, increase transparency, and improve the efficiency of its interventions, whilst building trust amongst beneficiaries and programme administrators.

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Poverty in Pakistan
Pakistan’s poverty challenge is one of the hardest in the global context. Pakistan
ranks as the 51st poorest country in the world5
, as well as the 5th most populous6,
with population continuing to grow at an alarming rate of 2%
. While the
population growth rate is on a downward trend, countries of similar
demographics indicate that the implications in the long run can be damaging
for the livelihoods of millions of people.
Pakistan’s wealth is incredibly concentrated amongst a few families, leaving
35%8 of Pakistanis below the poverty line. As Pakistan’s wealthiest pay little tax,
Pakistan’s poor citizens pay more taxes in their place

https://fsi-live.s3.us-west-1.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/ffdws_ehaas_20220602_0.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

Senator Dr Sania Nishtar
@SaniaNishtar
Pakistan's first ever end-to-end digital targeted subsidies program #Ehsaas Rashan Riayat (implementation of which was underway) has been closed down, which means 20 million eligible families will not have access to 30% monthly subsidy on 3 grocery items. https://bit.ly/3zawG1M

https://twitter.com/SaniaNishtar/status/1548000577803563008?s=20&t=Ayv6DV96CLsNOkL-6885ew

Each year, Pakistan spends billions of rupees in untargeted federal and provincial subsidies across sectors. Much of these government transfers are subject to elite capture, subsidizing producers, corporations, and middlemen instead of reaching the poorest households.

Earlier this year, Ehsaas sought to address this issue by launching the first-of-its-kind, end-to-end-digitized targeted commodity subsidy programme, called Ehsaas Rashan Riayat. The programme established infrastructure to deliver government subsidies directly to millions of deserving households.

------------------

Unfortunately, the current government has decided to end the programme as of July 1, 2022, and instead committed Rs16 billion in untargeted subsidy to be disbursed through Utility Stores. Utility Stores are meant to provide subsidized ‘rashan’ without any digital targeting or verification. This will open avenues for collusion and elite capture. Given fiscal constraints and double-digit inflation, which is placing a disproportionate burden on the poor, I would urge the federal government to reconsider its decision and use the Ehsaas Rashan Riayat mechanism, instead.

Ehsaas Rashan Riayat was launched after extensive stakeholder consultations and has several features, which can be a gamechanger to target support to poor households while minimizing likelihood of corruption or elite capture. To make sure that public money is targeted, the programme created objective criteria for beneficiary eligibility, based on socioeconomic conditions drawing on data infrastructure of the 2021 National Socioeconomic Registry.

The backbone of the programme is the nationwide network of kiryana, Utility, and CSD stores, which were leveraged for disbursing the subsidy, instead of creating new distribution channels. Through an extensive process of engagement with merchant unions, visits to multiple cities, social mobilization, and grassroots awareness campaigns, the programme achieved a retail outlet footprint in 84 per cent of districts across Pakistan, to develop a network of 15,000+ merchants. This helped us reach the poorest families by mobilizing distribution channels wherever they lived. The plan was to reach more than 50,000 merchants by the end of the 2022 calendar year.

A key feature of the programme was to digitize the entire network of participating stores. These stores were linked in real-time through a mobile app of the National Bank of Pakistan, which was used to conduct subsidy transactions, with the subsidy given as a digital voucher. This programme enabled small, often informal kiryana stores to become more technologically savvy. Additionally, by connecting these merchants in an online database and geotagging them, the programme started digitally documenting a previously undocumented part of the economy.

The programme improved financial inclusion for thousands of unbanked small merchants by facilitating the opening of bank accounts. These merchants were reimbursed for the subsidy disbursed, in near real-time, through an entirely digital payment mechanism. These small merchants were to get access to banking services, including saving, transacting, and using other financial instruments, which could help further scale their businesses.


Riaz Haq said...

Senator Dr Sania Nishtar
@SaniaNishtar
Pakistan's first ever end-to-end digital targeted subsidies program #Ehsaas Rashan Riayat (implementation of which was underway) has been closed down, which means 20 million eligible families will not have access to 30% monthly subsidy on 3 grocery items. https://bit.ly/3zawG1M

https://twitter.com/SaniaNishtar/status/1548000577803563008?s=20&t=Ayv6DV96CLsNOkL-6885ew


Ehsaas Rashan Riayat was also meant to provide an ecosystem where cash recipients of Ehsaas benefits could potentially transition into digital payment practices, thus eliminating pilferage and interplay of extractive middlemen.

The underlying digital ecosystem that was set up as part of this programme was agile and had immense potential to be scaled even further. Initially, we used a demand-based model in which people had to SMS a request. The next model was based on pre-qualification of all the eligible beta families, developing pools of CNICs and corresponding registered SIMS for each eligible beta family, allowing any family member to visit their nearest merchant with their phone and CNIC to avail of the subsidy, without the need to register or wait weeks for verification. Just before I left office, I convened a steering committee meeting to approve detailed modalities of the new registration model.

If the programme is continued, its infrastructure could also be utilized to expand the range of subsidized commodities. Other household food essentials – beyond wheat, pulses, and cooking oil – could be added with minor backend changes in the program’s infrastructure. The monthly subsidy amount can be increased. The plan was to use the system beyond groceries, for subsidies on fuel and outpatient healthcare assistance, which is not covered by health insurance.

Our country faces economically challenging times, where drastic measures will be needed to address the far-reaching effects of the rising fiscal deficit. Ehsaas Rashan Riayat provides an opportunity for the government to take the lead in exercising fiscal prudence and to phase out untargeted subsidies, in favour of targeted support to households that need it most while at the same time address corruption.

The government must reconsider its decision and continue the operation and expansion of Ehsaas Rashan Riayat in the public interest.