The comprehensive report details the design and implementation of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash program

ISLAMABAD (APP) – The federal cabinet appreciated first of its kind report on Ehsaas Emergency Cash authored by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Sania Nishtar presented on Tuesday. It is for the first time that a programme report has been presented with a detailed methodology of the design and insights from real time evaluation before the cabinet.

The Prime Minister also paid rich tribute to the report saying, “Ehsaas Emergency Cash is ground-breaking, transparent, rule-based, apolitical and comprehensive; the program has provided relief to millions of households in the most difficult circumstances”. Authored by the Ehsaas leader, Dr. Sania Nishtar, the report looks in-depth at what is the largest ever government spend on social protection in Pakistan, and outlines its methodology and lessons from real time evaluation.

Commenting on the flagship report, Dr. Nishtar remarked, “Public accountability and transparency are the underlying motivation for this report. I believe that a culture of transparent and evidence-based decision-making is necessary to reform governance in Pakistan. Integrity, transparency and openness have to be ingrained in government institutions and processes in order for democracies to deliver for their people. The report shares the knowledge gained in designing and implementing a massive national program in real time, in a context of complexity and uncertainty, with speed”.

The comprehensive report details the design and implementation of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash program, which allocated Rs. 203 billion to deliver one-time emergency cash to 16.9 million families in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given family size, this represents nearly 109 million people or half the country’s population, representing the largest and most extensive social protection intervention ever in the history of the country. The report states that “digital capabilities established over the past year as part of Ehsaas, Pakistan’s new poverty alleviation framework, were adapted to deliver Ehsaas Emergency Cash. A hybrid targeting approach was adopted, combining emergency assistance for the known vulnerable with demand-based support for the “new poor”.

Requests were sought through an 8171 SMS short code service and web-portal. Data analytics enabled eligibility ascertainment, using unique national identification numbers and drawing on the National Socioeconomic Registry and wealth proxies (travel, taxes, billing, assets ownership data and government employment status).

The system was end-to-end data-driven, fully automated, rule-based, transparent and politically neutral. Payments were bio metrically verified.” This report outlines details about the methodology adopted, implementation modalities and the approach to real time evaluation hardwired in the roll out, operational challenges encountered and mitigation measures.

Ehsaas Emergency Cash pioneers a new policy approach. It demonstrates how cash transfer programmes can be deployed to counter socioeconomic fallout due to external shocks such as COVID-19 which present a long-term predicament. The case of Pakistan provides useful lessons for other countries that utilize unique personal identification systems. It shows that by combining phones, internet connectivity, and national IDs, a digital and innovative demand-based social protection system can be created to enable those in distress to seek social support during crises.

The approach can also address rising inequality and advance attainment of SDGs in a post COVID-19 world. At the end of the report the author outlines: “It was an absolute honour to serve the people of Pakistan through Ehsaas Emergency Cash amid COVID-19 and we continue to stand ready to do our utmost to ensure that we collectively achieve our potential going forward.”