ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Sania Nishtar at a webinar held on Monday highlighted Pakistan’s efforts to address socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 through its historic initiative of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program, giving prompt financial relief to the most vulnerable segments.
The webinar titled ‘#NextGenGov- Whole of the Government Integrated Social Protection Policy Response to COVID-19’ was hosted by United Nation Development Fund (UNDP).
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Nishtar demonstrated how cash transfer programmes can be deployed to counter socioeconomic fallouts due to external shocks such as COVID-19 which present a long-term predicament.
Dr. Sania outlined the experience of Ehsaas Emergency Cash and how the programme pioneered a new policy approach.
Dr. Sania then described how a ‘whole of the government approach was adopted to deliver emergency cash assistance to 15 million daily wage earners countywide.
She summarized how the crucial dependencies had been deep rooted in the methodology of the emergency cash programme including successful collaborations with NADRA, State Bank of Pakistan, provincial and district governments in union councils, public representatives and agencies responsible for law and order.
Dr. Sania explained the role of Cabinet approvals when fiscal measures had to be taken to incentivize payment retailers.
She also discussed how volunteers helped in the programme execution and how different agencies of the government were involved in beneficiary centered communications particularly the role of Radio Pakistan and PTV in providing a national hook up space for public announcements.
Concluding the discussion, Dr. Sania highlighted that it was not just whole of the government approach but also public private with regard to the role of commercial banks and actors involved in providing connectivity which enabled real time authentications in the field.
The webinar aimed to enable learning and sharing the international experiences to help add value to the other governments keen to redesign their social protection policies and recalibrating their governance approaches post-COVID-19.
The event mainly featured real time provocations around “Whole of Government” approach to social protection, inter-ministerial coordination and new institutional modalities and investment priorities that emerged in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis and whether governments will be able to carry over this “collaboration premium” generated by the crisis into the future of social protection.
The regional learning session brought together senior policymakers spearheading ‘whole of government’ approach in their social protection policies and systems to reflect on the lessons of COVID-19.
Three countries were invited- Pakistan, Malaysia and Canada. Together with Dr. Sania Nishtar, Dr. Jamila Mahmood, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia and Pia Andrews Advisor to Government of Canada shared the ‘whole of government’experiences in their respective countries.