There was a several-fold increase in fiscal allocations for social protection in Pakistan in 2008. This coincided with a change of government and heightened public concerns about the adverse poverty impacts of an economic crisis.
Federal as well as provincial governments demonstrated an unprecedented level of commitment to cash transfers and other programmes aimed specifically at the poor and vulnerable. The federal government’s Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) was protected by law, and became the first targeted cash transfer programme to reach up to 7 per cent of all households. It is too soon to say that social protection in Pakistan has finally turned a corner, and the fact that current interest is linked to political change implies that the future course of public policy is vulnerable to political turbulence.
This paper argues that besides continued commitment to fiscal outlay and programme scale, institutionalisation of recent innovations in implementation, such as the linking of the programme with the national citizens’ registry and a primary focus on women beneficiaries, will signal that there has indeed been an irreversible paradigm shift.
Related publication: Social Protection in Asia: Research findings and policy lessons