Pakistani government has launched an Income Support Programme (BISP) worth over 350 million Euros for financial assistance of less privileged segments of the society. Named after former premier Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated on December 27 a year ago, the scheme is also being criticized because of its little long-term impact.
Bhutto was assassinated during a PPP election rally on December 27, 2007
The Benazir Income Support Programme is the ruling Pakistan Peoples' Party’s tribute to its former chairperson Benazir Bhutto, who fell to the bullets of unknown attackers after an election rally at Rawalpindi a year ago.
Under the scheme, an estimated 3.5 million deserving households would get financial assistance of less than 10 Euros a month. To ensure fairness, the cheques would be sent in the names of the household women.
The lists of the recipients have been based on the data available with the National Data Regulatory Authority.
Beneficial for poor
Farzana Raja, the chairperson of the scheme, says it is a non-partisan programme designed to help the most deserving Pakistanis. “This is not a party specific programme, it is for the people of Pakistan, because of its transparency, the entire world, donor agencies are cooperating and are sending their offers to us,” says Raja.
She claimed that up to 14 percent people with low income would benefit from the scheme across the country, particularly those living in remote areas.
The scheme, however, has also drawn criticism. Economist Dr.Farrukh Saleem describes it as economically insignificant measure: “Frankly I see little economic significance of it. As far as statistics is concerned, it is 34 billion rupees that means less than two percent of Pakistan population will receive it. I think it is more of a political manoeuvre to extract some political knowledge.”
In November, Pakistan faced a severe financial crisis and had to ask the International Monetary Fund for a multi-billion dollar bail-out package to fend off the threat of almost imminent default.
Critics like Dr.Saleem also point out that the cash-starved country should aim for long term investments rather than doling out hand-outs:
“The real problem is the injustice in the indirect taxation. A very large majority of taxations is collected out of indirect taxation, and a segment of the population that is affected most by this are the poorest of the poor, essentially what the government is doing is collecting a large majority of a trillion rupee taxation from the poor and then giving 34 billion out of it back to the poor.”
Pakistani government generates hundreds of millions of dollars through indirect taxation, for instance, from the petroleum products. Despite sharp fall in international oil prices, consumers in Pakistan continue to pay higher for fuel and electricity.