03-The Making of Benazir Income Support Program

Abstract

The Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), introduced in 2008-09, is a unique cash support scheme for economically stressed families. Its uniqueness arises from several facets. The cash transfers are provided only to women aged over 18 years and have been ever married. It is unconditional and aimed at supplementing income as opposed to alleviating poverty. It was politically neutral, given that the facility to identify potential beneficiaries was extended to all parliamentarians, irrespective of party affiliation. A set of filters, applied electronically, ensured objectivity in beneficiary selection. Disbursement mechanism was automated to ensure minimal leakage.

This paper outlines the process of the preparatory work that went into designing BISP – the conceptual debates, the beneficiary identification and disbursement procedures, etc. – involving a combination of high quality research with political decision making. It also addresses the debates surrounding BISP, cites independent empirical studies that show that the parliamentarian-based beneficiary selection mechanism was efficient and equitable and did indeed cover the deserving, and also responds to the variety of criticisms.

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