The government plans to include 500,000 additional residents of Balochistan to the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), covering 65-70 percent of the provincial population, Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Minister Shazia Marri announced on Monday.
Addressing a press conference, she said this would coincide with the establishment of more BISP centers in the province, adding that 25 mobile units would service the public in the interim. Noting that the BISP had proven to be the most successful social protection initiative in the country, she said the government had raised the budgetary allocation for her ministry to Rs. 372.32 billion for the next fiscal year, 43.2 percent more than had been allocated for it last year. Of this, she said, Rs. 364 billion was dedicated for BISP, while Rs. 6 billion would be utilized for schemes of the Pakistan Baitul Maal.
In light of the prevailing economic situation, said Marri, the government planned to expand the scope of the BISP to 10 million beneficiaries, in comparison to the current 8 million. This would be achieved in phases, she said, with one million being added this year and another million after next year’s budget.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader told journalists around three million children were currently getting Benazir Educational Stipends, adding this would be increased to five million, as budgetary allocations for the program had been increased from Rs. 20 billion to Rs. 36 billion. On the Benazir Nashonuma program, she said centers would be developed in all districts of the country this year and help address the issue of issue of malnutrition in children.
Referring to the Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship program, she said 92,000 scholarships had been granted under the program thus far, while 10,000 students would be added this year. She clarified that these scholarships were granted to students whose families had income less than Rs. 45,000/month. She said the government was considering increasing this slab to Rs. 80,000/month in light of ongoing inflation and economic woes.
Criticizing the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government for the prevailing economic crisis, Marri said the incumbent rulers were working to reverse this. She admitted the government had been compelled to take some tough decisions to stabilize economy, but stressed that Finance Minister Miftah Ismail was striving to put the economy on right track.
Taking aim at former prime minister Imran Khan, she said he had done nothing for the general public during his rule, and lamented he was stoking anarchy at a difficult juncture for the nation. “Imran Khan is dragging the country into controversies, but Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is working hard to put the country on right track,” she added.