ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Micro Finance Network (PMN) has launched pilot of the World Bank’s initiative on “Financial Literacy outcomes for Cash Transfer Beneficiaries through the Banking sector in Pakistan” through a two-day training for BISP beneficiaries at the ECI Training Centre in Islamabad.

The initiative is financed through the Rapid Social Response (RSR) Trust Fund at World Bank and has taken input from the State Bank, participating commercial banks, NADRA, BISP, the Cabinet Division and others. The training was attended by 16 women from ultra poor households near Rawalpindi who are BISP beneficiaries and need to learn how to use the Benazir Debit Card (BDC), to access funds granted to them by the BISP and better manage money by making a simple household budget, establishing savings and investment goals and understanding how to use financial services.

The BDC helps beneficiaries withdraw their BISP payments through the ATM and POS networks across the country. Currently, there are over 4.1 million BISP beneficiaries half of whom are accessing their payments via the debit cards. The group is, however, not comfortable with using financial technology and this training is designed to build their capacity. Shazia Bibi, a participant at the training said, “I want my children to go to college and university, to get good education so that they have better lives. Planning for their education is my main priority in financial goals.”

Abrar Ameen, Head of Branchless Banking, Bank Alfalah said, commercial banks “recognise the need and rationale for creating a product around the ultra poor target audience and the banks are currently holding collective talks on how to target the ultra poor group in a way that would be feasible, in terms of the expenses incurred by both clients and banks”.  Kabir Kumar, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) Representative from World Bank (DC) said that financial literacy is often neglected, though it can play a crucial role in communicating effective financial management strategies to beneficiaries of G2P payments. Beneficiaries of G2P payments commonly have multiple sources of revenue (besides the G2P payment) and it is found that people in that particular income bracket often have to be better at managing their limited finances. Training on financial literacy can give them an additional tool to help manage their household revenues more effectively. PMN, through the World Bank commissioned project, will pilot financial literacy and inclusion training for BISP beneficiaries and this will be the first of its kind training to be tailored and offered specifically to meet BISP beneficiaries’ needs. This training will test financial literacy subjects appropriate for the target beneficiaries after which BISP will roll out the trainings in selected districts.