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June 3rd, 2020 World Economic Forum-COVID-19 and the pursuit of financial inclusion in Pakistan

June 3rd, 2020 World Economic Forum-COVID-19 and the pursuit of financial inclusion in...

May 5th, 2020 World Economic Forum -COVID-19: Using cash payments to protect the poor in Pakistan

May 5th, 2020 World Economic Forum -COVID-19: Using cash payments to protect the poor in...

Logic behind the langar

Logic behind the langar Published in The News International, October 15, 2019 The Langar Policy is one of several policies under the Ehsaas umbrella, in its Safety Net category. This policy is being implemented in the public-private partnership mode, as part of which private charities and trusts will be supported to operate langars (soup kitchens) at designated government land/premises. The policy is predicated in the understanding that many welfare organizations in the country, already providing meals to the destitute at some scale, have capacity to upscale further significantly, if strategic support is provided by the government. Pakistan scores very high in philanthropic giving. According to estimates, more than Rs300 billion is channelled to welfare, annually. However, up until now, the government and welfare organizations have been siloed. There has been no strategic approach to collaboration. Ehsaas aims to change that, so that the expertise and resources of reputed welfare organizations can amplify with government support. With regard to langars, the question is: what sort of government support is needed? To this effect, three areas have been identified. The first is logistic...

The Ehsaas strategy

The Ehsaas strategy Published in The News International, September 17, 2019 The Ehsaas Strategy has been released today (pass.gov.pk/) to solicit public input, prior to its finalization. The strategy elaborates on the prime minister’s vision of a welfare state. This is the first time that a government document has gone to government officials and the public for review at the same time, introducing a culture of openness and transparency. Ehsaas is unique for three reasons. One, with currently 134 policies and programme elements, Ehsaas is the most ambitious umbrella initiative the Pakistan government has ever undertaken aimed at social protection and poverty alleviation. Two, it takes a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach, recognizing the importance of the private sector, civil society and multisectoral across-government collaboration. Three, Ehsaas is embedded in a theory of change, reflected in four pillars: action against elite capture; safety nets; livelihoods and jobs; and human capital formation with a focus on lagging areas. Safety nets are the short-term priority within Ehsaas in view of the current fiscal austerity measures. To expand safety nets, the social protection budget has been increased...

More provinces?

More provinces? Published in The News International, May 1, 2018 Calls to create more provinces are once again resonating across Pakistan as the elections draws closer. Beyond the election rhetoric, the objective of creating more provinces in the country should be carefully deliberated to ensure that this exercise strengthens the federation and democracy rather than stirring ethno-lingual factionism, which is detrimental to good governance. As a starting point, it must be appreciated that a province/state – in other words a sub-national and, indeed, a federating unit – has a specific status and purpose in a federation. A federation (as opposed to a unitary or confederal style of political state) is characterised by a union of partially self-governing sub-national units under a central/federal government where power-sharing between the federal and the provincial governments is constitutionally entrenched. Pakistan is one of the 27 federations in the world where the power-sharing formula between its federal and provincial governments is stipulated in its constitution. Power-sharing was altered in favour of the provinces by the 18th Amendment and the 7th National Finance Commission Award...

The e-voting challenge

The e-voting challenge Published in The News International, April 13, 2018 Discussions on e-voting have re-emerged as the election draws closer and the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) gears up to present its plans about the three-tiered Internet Voting System for overseas Pakistanis, this week. Since I came across this subject in my capacity as a federal minister in the 2013 caretaker government, I am sharing a few insights for the planning currently underway. E-voting for overseas Pakistanis was a subject of much discussion during the initial days of the 2013 caretaker government. The Supreme Court had issued a directive in response to a petition about the establishment of an e-voting system for overseas Pakistanis and had directed that this be expedited. Within this context, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) convened a meeting of government functionaries for the process to be facilitated, which is how I and other ministers were invited to the table. After the first meeting it became clear (at least to me) that it would be practically...

Corrupting health

Corrupting health Published in The News International, April 7, 2018 Over half the world’s population is denied essential health services. This means that scores of communities cannot get the medicines they need, have no hospital to go to, are not being immunised and receive no advice about family planning. This is a sobering reminder on World Health Day. To make matters worse, ill health often serves as the harbinger of poverty around the globe – with more than 800 million people spending over 10 percent of the money they have on healthcare. On a recent trip to Africa, I heard a harrowing story of a hospital where women and their newborn babies are routinely held hostage for months until families settle their bills. Across South Asia, and here in Pakistan, we all hear stories of children being pulled out of school, cattle sold, and valuables pawned in desperate attempts to keep death at the door and food on the table. The financial hardships and unforgiving compromises households go through in order to take care of a sick relative tend to...

The future of government

The future of government Published in The News International, March 17, 2018 Governments in countries such as Pakistan – with exploding and rapidly urbanising populations – face increasing challenges to deliver ‘good government’. In the context of scarce resources and declining trust, it is increasingly becoming difficult to ensure the key government mandates: delivery of law and order, justice, services to bridge inequalities, market competitiveness, and effective and even regulation. Fortunately, technology provides an unprecedented opportunity to provide solutions even for low-resource settings. These opportunities have been tapped by the private sector, and have created islands of progress in the public system. The critical question is: will governments be able to harness them to bring about quantum change in their performance? Even in Pakistan, when you seek services online, fast food chains and online taxis deliver on the objective of trackability, efficiency, transparency, and accountability. The same technological capabilities that underpin these service delivery mechanisms could, if well managed and strategically deployed, support the development of innovative public-sector digital ecosystems that are transparent, accountable and responsive. The potential of Pakistan’s existing...

The fight for women’s health

Nurses: our silent heroes Published in The News International, March 8, 2018 Over the last year, as the global movement for women’s equality and gender parity gained momentum, we saw a sea change around the world. Women have demanded their right to work safely, be paid fairly and live without fear of harassment and harm. This movement has been a long time coming. But it is only the beginning. As women (and men) continue to advocate for change from #MeToo to #TimesUp and beyond, we must make sure that our vision includes uplifting women from all backgrounds across the world. The fundamental building block of a girl’s life, whether in Botswana or Baltimore, is her health. Before a young girl in Pakistan can run a company or a country, she needs an equal chance at living a healthy life. Most girls never get that opportunity. That is why investing in women’s health around the world from birth to adolescence is both the right thing to do and comes with a huge economic...

Nurses: our silent heroes

Nurses: our silent heroes Published in The News International, March 01, 2018 While they are often in the background, nurses are at the heart of every national health system. They do everything, whether it involves caring for patients, administering lifesaving treatments in emergency situations, supervising health workers or ensuring that the correct information is passed between doctors and patients. Nurses are, in effect, the silent heroes of the healthcare system. This week, a new global campaign, titled ‘Nursing Now’, was kicked off to celebrate the critical role that nurses play in delivering health services across the world. The campaign also seeks to ensure that recognition for nurses translates into leadership positions at all levels of the health decision-making system. ‘Nursing Now’ will run until the end of 2020, which is when nurses will be celebrated worldwide to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. ‘Nursing Now’ is an evidence based-campaign. It was conceptualised following a global review of nursing by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, which concluded simply by reiterating that universal...

The human capital agenda

The human capital agenda Published in The News International, February 21, 2018 As the country gears up for the 2018 general election, it is important to examine where and how human capital development features in party manifestoes. Human capital development is being emphasised for a specific reason. Human capital development is not just inextricably linked to the principles of universalism and freedom, and to human rights. It is also the most significant contributor to the wealth of a nation – far more than physical or natural capital. Recent evidence shows that human capital contributes to 65 percent of the wealth of high-income countries and 40 percent of the wealth of low-income countries. In the wake of this evidence, new studies have been launched globally to understand the link between human capital development and economic growth. Initiatives are being put in place by international financial institutions to accelerate financing in this regard. It is clear that in the digital age, an acceleration in technology requires countries to urgently invest in their people if they hope to compete...