The Economic Advisory Group (EAG) on Thursday called for institutional reforms to encourage investment in critical research and development areas such as seed development and disease prevention. The EAG, an independent group of individuals dealing with economics, policy matters and private sector, in a report, stressed the importance of R&D investment to promote innovation, enhance food security, and prevent epidemics and pandemics. It noted that with rising inflation, 73% of households in the country were experiencing a significant deterioration in savings. The government was trying to provide relief to the people through cash transfers and free flour, “but challenges remain in aid distribution”. The EAG called for greater transparency in cash transfer infrastructure and liberalization of cross-border trade in agriculture as donations had decreased by 50%, and the number of people seeking help also increased by 50%. The Group praised the Sindh government’s efforts to provide relief to citizens in the face of rising food prices. While acknowledging that providing free flour may be necessary in certain areas with limited access to markets, the EAG maintained that cash transfers were the most effective means of delivering aid, and highlighted the existing infrastructure available to reach out to those in need beyond the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). The EAG noted that the federal and provincial governments had stepped up their relief efforts. The Sindh government, for instance, had distributed Rs 3.2 billion in cash transfers through BISP to 1.6 million households across the province, with the reported objective of transferring a total of Rs 15.5 billion to 3.8 million households with a monthly income of less than Rs 50,000, it added. The coalition government at Center, it added, announced the provision of free wheat flour in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the Federal Capital Territory to provide relief to affected citizens during the holy month of Ramazan. In 2020, the government had expanded its existing infrastructure to reach out to 40 percent of households across the country in an effort to provide relief in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the EAG said. In response to these challenges, the Economic Advisory Group (EAG) has called for greater transparency in the cash transfer infrastructure, which it believes will reduce opportunities for corruption compared to physical distribution of relief items. The EAG has also recommended that policymakers across Pakistan learn from their best practices when it comes to providing targeted relief to the masses, and that cross-border trade in agricultural commodities, inputs, and machinery be liberalized to improve the productivity of the agriculture sector in the country.