Budget 2012: Govt likely to slash social safety net funding

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ISLAMABAD: The government’s flagship social safety net programme, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), may get only 37 per cent of its required budget for the next financial year, according to financial ministry sources.

The BISP management had asked for Rs120 billion to give monthly stipends of Rs1,000 to seven million households, but the government is considering allocating it only Rs45 billion. Over the past two fiscal years, the BISP has not been able to meet its target.

The proposed allocation effectively represents a slash in BISP funding. In the fiscal year 2009-10, the government had poured Rs70 billion into the BISP, for providing coverage to five million households. However, BISP statistics show that there were actually fewer than three million beneficiaries.

In the current fiscal year, the BISP was allocated a 50-billion-rupee budget out of which, according to finance ministry sources, Rs32.5 billion have been disbursed. A BISP spokesman says that so far more than Rs35 billion have been given to 3.2 million beneficiaries. He expects the full amount allocated to the BISP will be spent by the
end of the fiscal year and the final figures will include four million beneficiaries.

“The number of beneficiaries is increasing after the nationwide poverty survey was launched and the eligible families were included in the BISP net after the completion of the data entry process,” the spokesman added.

A senior finance ministry official said because of administrative constraints, the BISP could not reach as many households as it had originally planned, adding that the finance ministry had decided to make a realistic allocation, instead of putting more funds into a programme which cannot fully deliver.

The sources said the BISP and the finance ministry are trying to arrive at a consensus on the budget allocation issue.

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