LAHORE - Around 5 million people benefited from the World Bank’s Second Poverty Alleviation Fund Project, with half of them being women during 2004 to 2011. The Bank’s efforts helped extend 4.7 million micro-loans with a 78 per cent Return on Investment (Rol).

According to a report issued by the World Bank, the Economic Rate of Return (ERR) on infrastructure sub-projects was 23.8pc. 129,000 children (more than half of them girls) enrolled in schools; and the project also supported the reconstruction of 110,534 completely destroyed houses and 10,000 partially damaged houses. The project trained 17,475 skilled labourers and restored 676 damaged community infrastructure schemes in earthquake-affected areas.

Report further said that insecure environment and the deteriorating security situation in conflicted areas, especially in FATA, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, created major hurdles and delays in project implementation.

At times, partner organisations (POs) had to pull out of troubled areas, suspend work temporarily and close field offices. The POs also had to maintain contact with the local administration and security forces so as to ensure ability to continue and/or return to the affected areas. Another major hindrance is the prevalent extremely rigid and conservative local traditions and practices and any initiative out of the ordinary is received with negative propaganda and suspicion.

The project was implemented through Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund working with non-governmental organisations as its partners in reaching out to the poor. Financing was provided to partner organisations with good track record of working with communities and building their capacity to handle grants, micro-credit, implement and maintain small scale infrastructure, livelihood development, rehabilitation and reconstruction and to support social sector interventions.

The IDA allocated and disbursed around $568 million to the Second Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund for the Micro-Credit & Enterprise Development (MED) loans, small scale infrastructure projects, education & health projects, training and skill development, reconstruction and rehabilitation of 2005 earthquake affected areas, social mobilisation, capital and operating costs of PPAF, and equity for PPAF components.

In another report to highlight Benazir Income Support Programme also issued by the WB, it said that in response to the financial, food and fuel crises of 2008, the government of Pakistan introduced a new, nationwide safety net initiative: the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP).

The objective was to provide effective income support to the poor in short-term, with a longer-term view to establish a national safety net platform that would support poor and vulnerable in moving out of poverty. Todate, BISP has disbursed more than R5.85 billion in cash grants of Rs1,000 per month to 3.5 million beneficiary families in all regions and areas of the country, thus benefiting more than 20 million people directly.

The World Bank supported BISP through the Social Safety Net Technical Assistance Project (SSN TA) with $60 million, approved by the Bank’s Board in May 2009. The project also included support to Planning Commission to develop and monitor National Social Protection Policy — this was intended to foster policy dialogue on social protection at national and provincial level to guide formulation of programmatic interventions that can help the poor in graduating out of poverty.

Given the success of BISP in establishing itself as the national safety net platform and in continuation of the sectoral reforms initiated by SSN TA Project, the additional financing of $150 million has been approved by the Bank on March 6, 2012.

BISP has disbursed more than Rs 5.85 billion ($1 billion) in cash grants to the female representatives of 3.5 million beneficiary families in all regions and areas of the country.

As an additional outcome, given the programme encourages women to register with the National Database Registry Authority for a national ID card since the introduction of BISP, a 40 percent spike has been observed in females’ registration of Computerised National Identity Cards, which can potentially open avenues for their socio-economic and political empowerment.

Yet in another report on Sindh Education Reform Programme also financed by the WB, it said that with the help of SERP, the primary net enrolment rate has increased from 50 percent to 54 percent in Sindh, which translates into an additional 600,000 children in school. In addition, the ratio of female-male primary net enrolment in rural areas has increased from 61 percent to 76 percent.

Approximately 13,500 new teachers were hired into government service over two recruitment rounds from 2009 onwards, based on test scores and other objective criteria and locally placed in schools under fixed-term, school-specific contracts.

Evidence suggests that local teachers recruited on merit have a lower rate of absenteeism on average than teachers hired from far off places through non-transparent recruitment procedures.