Photo: Rômulo Paes Sousa, Director of the RIO+ Centre, in a dialogue with Pakistan’s authorities in Islamabad
After intense debate, the Parliament of Pakistan passed in April 2010 the 18th amendment to the 1973 Constitution, which devolved many government powers to the provinces. This alteration improved significantly decision-making processes in the country. Nonetheless, it has also generated unprecedented challenges for the provinces, particularly in relation to taking over tasks that were once the federal government’s responsibility, including those in the area of social welfare and social protection.
To prevent the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) from being affected by this transition, the government initiated a series of dialogues to discuss and agree on a framework of cooperation. The dialogues also aim to define the essential elements of the arrangement between federal and provincial authorities that outlines their respective roles in the design, implementation, and financing of social protection policy and initiatives.
The first of this series of dialogues was entitled “Knowledge-Sharing Policy dialogue on Federal-Provincial Partnerships in Social Protection Service Delivery: The Case of Brazil and its Lessons for Pakistan”. This event took place in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, on 16 October 2014. Representatives of Pakistan’s federal government, four provinces, the state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and the self-governed region of Gilgit Baltistan (formerly known as the Northern Areas) participated in the meeting.
Opening remarks were made by Professor Ahsan Iqbal, the Federal Minister of Planning, Development and Reforms, who spoke about Pakistan’s vision on social protection. Rômulo Paes de Sousa, the Director of the World Centre for Sustainable Development (RIO+ Centre) and former Deputy Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger of Brazil, gave the main presentation. The third speaker was Yasuhiko Matsuda, Senior Public Sector Specialist of the Social Protection and Labour Global Practice at the World Bank in Washington DC. He commented on Paes’ presentation.
Paes outlined the main features of the “Bolsa Família” program – the family allowance programme implemented by the federal government in Brazil. He stated that integrating policies at the federal and provincial levels is essential to avoid undesirable imbalances that could harm cash transfer systems. Paes also spoke about monitoring and evaluation in implementation processes and effective programme management, which allow for the adoption of corrective measures. Finally, he highlighted the political and administrative challenges the ministry faced and how it dealt with them.
During the meeting, the Chairman of the BISP, Enver Baig, said that Pakistan’s mechanism is venturing into a new era in which beneficiaries will benefit from not only cash transfer schemes, but also vocational and technical training. Baig also applauded the World Bank’s efforts to assist BISP and added that any future support for the welfare of the poorest would also be welcomed. He noted that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s vision is to make BISP a success story by extending it to the highest number of beneficiaries across the country as possible. Around 7 million families receive cash transfers from the BISP in Pakistan.
Matsuda offered Baig the World Bank’s full support for designing a way to improve cooperation between the federal and provincial governments through enhanced knowledge-sharing mechanisms. World Bank also proposed to carry out research focused on increasing the access of BISP beneficiaries to basic services, such as health and education, through conditional cash transfer programs. Participants informed Baig during the event that Nigeria and Ghana are looking to replicating the BISP model in their respective countries.