The World Bank recognized Ehsaas Emergency Cash among top four social protection interventions globally in terms of a number of people covered, according to an official statement issued on Saturday. The statement said that the World Bank has just released a report on global social protection responses to Covid-19 and this report is called the living paper and it is a partnership effort involving 18 co-authors and a large number of contributors. The 650-page volume is accompanying database documenting about how countries and territories are planning, implementing or completing social protection measures in context of the pandemic. According to the report, there has been an exponential growth in social protection measures between March 20, 2020 and May 14, 2021. A total of 3,333 social protection measures have been planned or implemented in 222 countries or territories. Pakistan ranks fourth globally in terms of the number of people covered and third globally in terms of percentage of population covered amongst those that covered over 100 million people. The World Bank stated that only select countries have attained impressive six-digit levels in this regard, and the Ehsaas Emergency Cash is one of them. Ugo Gentilini is the lead author of the paper and head of the social protection at the World Bank. The report is accompanied by an excel sheet as well to make available the larger volume of the data. INNOVATIVE APPROACH According to the report, Pakistan’s Ehsaas also ranked high amongst the programs that did well in terms of planned versus actual coverage rates. According to the report, most of social protection measures are provided as social assistance. These represent 55% of global programs and are the predominant form of support in most regions. Among social assistance measures, cash transfers remain the premier instrument. A total of 734 cash-based measures have been planned or implemented in 186 countries, it said. Highest level of spending in lower middle-income countries category is observed in Pakistan, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, and Bolivia. According to the report, there are four ways to find and enroll new beneficiaries, the first of which was to simply add households to the list from an existing social registry. Pakistan adopted an innovative hybrid targeting approach to enroll new beneficiaries, combining emergency assistance for the known vulnerable with demand-based support for the new poor. It said that requests were sought through an 8171 SMS short code service and web-portal. Data analytics enabled eligibility ascertainment, using unique national identification numbers, and drawing on the national socio-economic registry and wealth proxies (travel, taxes, billing, assets ownership data and government employment status). POLITICALLY NEUTRAL It said that the system was end-to-end data-driven, fully automated, rule-based, transparent, and politically neutral. Payments were biometrically verified and the Ehsaas delivered cash stipends of Rs12,000 to 15 million households last year, which meant helping over 100 million people or half the country’s population, representing the largest and most extensive social protection intervention ever in the history of the country. DR SANIA NISHTAR Digital capabilities, established over the past year as part of Pakistan’s new poverty alleviation framework, were adapted to deliver Ehsaas Emergency Cash. The legacy of this programme is not just a short-term relief, but the Ehsaas Cash will be an important component of redesigning of social protection, and will help in the global re-imagination of social welfare. In terms of global experience sharing, the case of Pakistan provides useful lessons for other countries that utilize unique personal identification systems. It shows that by combining phones, internet connectivity, national identity cards and commercial payment systems, a digital and innovative demand-based social protection system can be created to enable those in distress to seek social support during crises. The Ehsaas Cash demonstrated how cash transfer programmes can be deployed to counter socio-economic fallouts due to external shocks such as COVID-19 which present a long-term predicament. Also, the approach can address rising inequality and advance attainment of SDGs in a post Covid-19 world.