45233-001: Social Protection Development Project

Project Data Sheet (PDS): Details


The project will support the Government of Pakistan s national social safety net program, the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP). The project will enable the expansion of the cash transfer program (paid to the female head of targeted poor families) by registering an additional 2.4 million eligible families and financing the first few quarters of their cash transfers. In addition, it will support the strengthening and phased expansion of the pilot health insurance and skills development programs to increase income and good health for targeted families. The project will provide technical support and finance part of the scaling-up costs of both programs using a performance-based allocation. The substantial fiduciary risk of the project will be mitigated through the strengthening of BISP financial management systems and capacity.

Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy

The last official estimates of poverty incidence were released in Pakistan in 2005/2006, with the headcount index for poverty reported at 22.3%. Since 2007 the Government of Pakistan has faced difficult challenges, including external and domestic economic shocks, economic uncertainty, and security problems. Annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates post-2007 averaged about 3%, while inflation averaged 13.8%, resulting in lower living standards. A recent study, using district-based poverty profiles, estimated poverty incidence for all households in the country at 33%. Starting in 2007, the government significantly increased its spending on social protection, established a new institutional framework, and approved the National Social Protection Strategy. In October 2008 the government launched the BISP as the national social safety net program. The immediate objective was to decrease the adverse impact of food, fuel, and financial crises on low-income families. The broader goal was to implement the government s redistributive policy by providing regular cash income support to the poor. The main BISP intervention is a cash transfer program providing PRs1,000 per month to the female head of the family. The government s social safety net spending increased from 0.3% of GDP in FY2004 to 0.9% in FY2011 after introducing the BISP. The BISP uses a transparent and objective methodology to select beneficiaries. It identified 7.2 million eligible poor families (23% of the total population) on the basis of a nationwide poverty scorecard survey using a proxy-means test approach. Initial evaluation findings demonstrate that it is a credible targeting system, covering a substantial number of the poorest in Pakistan. However, 2.4 million eligible poor families are not yet receiving the cash transfer because the female head does not hold a CNIC, which is the key eligibility criterion. Pending families are the most difficult to reach and likely to be the most destitute. The introduction of a national safety net program and the availability of the poverty scorecard database can potentially lead to more efficient use of resources and better targeting and coordination with the provincial social safety net programs. A well-managed targeting system will enable the replacement, over time, of other inefficient social safety net programs and untargeted subsidies that are still pervasive in Pakistan. The BISP piloted several graduation initiatives for health insurance, skills development training, small business development loans, and primary education co-responsibility cash transfers. These programs aim to support human development and economic opportunities for beneficiaries, and reduce the likelihood of intergenerational transfer of poverty. The first two of these graduation initiatives are of special relevance for social protection: (i) Almost 70% of total health expenditures are paid out-of-pocket by families, driving about 4% of the population into poverty every year. Unexpected severe health problems are the most prevalent shock for families. In addition to income loss from being unable to work, medical costs alone can push households into poverty. Health insurance for the poor that covers catastrophic risks and major costs such as births can provide significant financial relief and protection to the most vulnerable families, while improving access to health facilities. (ii) More than 53% of the target population depends on casual labor as their major source of income it is insecure and risky. Beneficiary family members have extremely low literacy and numeracy, affecting confidence and social participation. Rural employment opportunities (both wage employment and self-employment) could be enhanced through skills training. This will improve poor families income-generating capacity and boost their resilience to shocks. In April 2012, the BISP launched a health insurance program, Waseela-e-Sehet (WES), on a pilot basis to provide protection against catastrophic health expenditure to registered beneficiary families in Faisalabad district in Punjab Province through the State Life Insurance Corporation. The insurance package covers full hospitalization for all age groups with an annual maximum benefit cap of PRs25,000 per family. It covers preexisting conditions as well as hospitalization for maternity and child health. So far, 37,575 families have been insured and provided access to WES registered private hospitals on a cashless and paperless basis. Of these expenditures, 40% were maternity related. The Waseela-e-Rozgar (WER) was launched in July 2011 to provide center-based formal skills training to any selected family member of a beneficiary. In FY2013, 56,600 trainees graduated from training centers providing 4 6 month programs. The current WER is very costly; the average cost of PRs53,000 limits outreach of the program. Most courses are taught beyond the absorptive capacity of BISP potential nominees, who are largely illiterate or semiliterate. Training delivery and competency assessment and certification have fundamental problems. While the impact of current training provision on employability is likely very limited, the reputational risks of training delivery arrangements and the lack of effective monitoring are high. Under the 18th Constitutional Amendment (30 June 2011), several subjects including health, education, and social welfare became a shared responsibility of the federal government and the provinces. The federal government continues to play a critical role in ensuring that long-term poverty reduction and social protection goals are met. A centrally operated safety net program is better placed to ensure equal chances for the poor to qualify for the cash transfer program, and to coordinate consistent program standards for provincial graduation programs. The provinces play a key role to develop and implement complementary graduation programs, especially highly customized graduation interventions.


Reduced income poverty and nonincome poverty for poor families in Pakistan

Project Outcome

Description of Outcome

Increased resilience of female BISP beneficiaries and their families

Implementation Progress

Description of Project Outputs

Cash transfer program coverage expanded Health insurance program refined and rolled out Skills development program strengthened Financial management and control systems, and policy research improved

Status of Operation/Construction or Implementation Progress

The project became effective on 24 June 2014. Jul-Sep 2014 and Oct-Dec 2014 cash transfer payments were paid from project resources as scheduled. The project support for health insurance and skills development is still pending the BISP Board approval

Safeguard Categories

Environment: C
Involuntary Resettlement: C
Indigenous Peoples: C

Summary of Environmental and Social Aspects

Environmental Aspect

The program involves no infrastructure development activity nor has any secondary impacts on the environment.

Involuntary Resettlement

Since the project will not support any physical intervention, no land acquisition will be required.

Indigenous Peoples

The BISP is an inclusive program that does not discriminate based on indigenous status. The program beneficiaries are selected based on the results of a poverty scorecard survey using proxy means testing. No questions are included on religion, language, or ethnicity, to ensure participation and inclusion of all poor irrespective of tribe, subtribe, or minority status.

Stakeholder Communication, Participation and Consultation

During Project Design

The main discussions during fact finding were with BISP as executing agency, and its contracted implementing partners. Other discussions were held with Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning, provincial governments involved in education, health, labor and welfare, poor women as beneficiaries of the BISP, industry associations (on the vocational training part), rural support programs (on outreach to the poor) and other development partners.

During Project Implementation

BISP has established a well-functioning grievance redressal mechanism at the sub-district (tehsil) level, which is used well by the poor. Civil society representatives, especially NGOs, will be involved in the community-based skills training component. Implementation also makes use of a strong community mobilization methodology.

Status of Covenants

Category Rating
Loan 3049
Sector Satisfactory
Social Satisfactory
Financial Satisfactory
Others Satisfactory
Safeguards Satisfactory
Project Financial Statements


Project Data Sheets (PDS) contain summary information on the project or program. Because the PDS is a work in progress, some information may not be included in its initial version but will be added as it becomes available. Information about proposed projects is tentative and indicative.

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