Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Loan programme for poor families launched

ISLAMABAD: The government launched on Tuesday an income generation programme, ‘Waseela-i-Haq’, under which interest-free loans of Rs300,000 will be given to ‘needy and deserving’ people under a formula prepared by the World Bank.

The programme announced by President Asif Ai Zardari will provide monetary assistance to 731 families each month. The cash support will be for specified purposes, like buying tractors, rickshaws or cabs.
‘It will be a venture of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and the Pakistan Post,’ presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn.
He said the BISP would give money to deserving families through Pakistan Post after necessary verification.
The spokesman said that in other similar schemes the criteria had been set by elected representatives, and for this project by the World Bank.
‘Under the criteria which cover the poorest of the poor, the facility will not be given to families with a member working in the government, having travelled abroad or holding a passport,’ Mr Babar said.
He said the beneficiaries would have to repay the loan in easy monthly instalments over 12 to 15 years.
‘Selection was made through a computerised draw in the presidency today from among poor families identified by a poverty scorecard prepared by the BISP,’ he said. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani attended the launching ceremony. Speaking on the occasion, the president described Waseela-i-Haq as ‘a ground-breaking poverty alleviation programme and the beginning of the end of a generational poverty trap for the poor’.
The programme was ‘without precedent’, he said.‘Through such initiatives poor people will get a lifetime chance to extricate themselves from poverty.’
President Zardari said the BISP was designed to be much more than merely a poverty alleviation programme. ‘It will be a comprehensive social protection scheme and a platform for women’s empowerment.’
‘It will also cover health and accident insurance, vocational training and interest-free financing for self-employment of the poor.’
The president asked the government to complete a nationwide survey of the poor in a transparent manner to raise credibility among international donors.
He said Rs34 billion had been allocated for the programme in the budget for 2008-09, which had been increased to Rs70 billion for 2009-10 to give cash assistance to five million families.
The government plans to expand the coverage to seven million families by 2010-11.
According to the spokesman, the president advised the government to consider allowing the beneficiaries of the Waseela-i-Haq programme duty-free import of vehicles for generating income.
President Zardari said payments under the BISP would be made only to women heads of the families. ‘This will be a highway to women’s emancipation.’
BISP chairperson Farzana Raja said the survey to list poor families had been completed in 15 districts and the nationwide survey would be completed by the end of next year.
She said the programme would meet international standards for social safety net mechanisms.
Money orders of Rs2,000 are delivered every other month at the doorstep of eligible families and details of payments are posted on the internet

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