LAHORE: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $603 million results-based lending programme to strengthen and expand social protection programmes in Pakistan.
Using conditional cash transfers, the programme will support the implementation of Ehsaas, Pakistan’s national social protection and poverty reduction strategy, according to an ADB statement on Wednesday.
“Under the Integrated Social Protection Development Program, 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,” the statement read.
Commenting on the development, ADB Director General (DG) for Central and West Asia Yevgeniy Zhukov said that the programme marks a significant shift in ADB’s strategic engagement in the social protection space in Pakistan in line with Ehsaas priorities.
“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,” he said.
As per the statement, 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.
In addition, the program supports improvements in implementation and fiduciary capacity for Pakistan’s social protection programs. 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.
Commenting on the ABD’s decision, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) for Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar said that ADB is a trusted and longstanding partner.
“This program incentivizes parents to send their children to schools, particularly girls, and will help to provide specialized nutritious food and conditional cash transfers to children and mothers in the districts of Pakistan that most need it,” the Bank’s statement quoted Nishtar.