ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $603 million lending programme to strengthen and expand social protection programmes in Pakistan.
According to a statement issued by Manila-based bank on Wednesday, the programme using conditional cash transfers will support the implementation of Ehsaas, the country’s national social protection and poverty reduction strategy.
Under the Integrated Social Protection Development Programme, ADB will provide a regular loan of $600 million and a $3 million grant from the Asian Development Fund, and will administer a $24 million grant from the Education Above All Foundation.
Special Assistant to the PM for Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar said that ADB is a trusted and long-standing partner of Pakistan. “This programme is the result of years of engagement with ADB and other partners and focuses on areas where we believe the bank can have most impact. It is a key priority under the government’s Ehsaas strategy,” said Sania.
She said this programme incentivises parents to send their children to schools, particularly girls, and will help to provide specialised nutritious food and conditional cash transfers to children and mothers in the districts of Pakistan that most need it.
ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Yevgeniy Zhukov said the programme marks a significant shift in ADB’s strategic engagement in the social protection space in Pakistan in line with Ehsaas priorities.
He said, “ADB’s support will transition from unconditional cash transfers that provide income support to a mixed-modality approach that focuses more on conditional cash transfers for education, health services, and nutritional supplies that will help reduce intergenerational poverty through human capital development.”
The programme supports the Ehsaas goal of expanding cash transfers to improve access to primary and secondary education up to grade 10 for children and adolescents of poor families, especially girls, and enhancing health services and nutrition for women, adolescent girls, and poor children. It also aims to initiate coverage of accelerated learning programs at primary education level for overaged out-of-school children under conditional cash transfers, said the statement.
In addition, the programme supports improvements in implementation and fiduciary capacity for Pakistan’s social protection programmes. This will build on previous ADB support to further improve grievance redress, risk management, financial management, procurement, monitoring and evaluation, and management information systems—functions which help to strengthen internal controls.
The ADB said that Pakistan is prone to the impacts of climate change and natural hazards, including floods, heat waves, and droughts which have a disproportionate impact on the poor and vulnerable.
By leveraging Asian Development Fund resources for climate adaptation, the programme will help identify and integrate appropriate climate resilience measures, such as vulnerability mapping and early warning systems, the statement said.
Pakistan is a founding member of ADB. Since 1966, ADB has committed more than $36 billion to promote inclusive economic growth and improve the country’s infrastructure, energy and food security, transport networks, and urban and social services.