ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said financial mainstreaming of women was important to end poverty at a faster pace, thus ultimately contributing to the economic development of the country.

Addressing here at the launch of Ehsaas Saving Wallets (ESW) initiative, the prime minister said no nation could progress unless it empowered its weaker segments.

The ESW, an essential component of Ehsaas Financial Inclusion Strategy, was launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan in the presence of Queen Maxima of the Netherlands during her visit to Pakistan in November 2019.

The prime minister said Ehsaas Saving Wallets was in line with the worldwide proven fact that inclusion of women in the financial system could help them run independent businesses and save money to overcome the economic crisis.

He mentioned that the Ehsaas programme was acknowledged by World Bank as the fourth effective programme to provide a safety net to the poor and deserving during the coronavirus pandemic.

Imran Khan said across the world, the pandemic pushed millions of people below the poverty line, however, Pakistan’s Ehsaas socio-welfare project succeeded in reaching out to the poor inspired by the principles of compassion of the State of Medina.

He thanked Queen Maxima for especially coming to Pakistan as UN Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development and support the project, aimed at the financial empowerment of women.

He expressed confidence that Ehsaas Saving Wallets initiative would prove an effective step forward to help households better manage financial shocks, meet emergency needs and invest to increase their earnings.

The Dutch ambassador on the occasion read out the message of Queen Maxima, expressing her satisfaction with the implementation of the initiative.

The prime minister interacted with beneficiary women of the Ehsaas Wallet programme and issued directions to resolve their grievances.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Sania Nishtar said Ehsaas Saving Wallets would lead to digital and financial inclusion of women and open avenues for them to take better advantage of opportunities offered under the Ehsaas National Poverty Graduation Initiative.

She said globally, there were examples of economies that had encouraged a mindset shift towards savings and had reaped its benefits.

Kenya, she mentioned, had introduced mobile money transfers, resulting in a savings increase of 22 percent in the beneficiary households, and helped lift 2percent of these households out of extreme poverty.

She said Argentina transitioned from cash handouts to account transfers for a national anti-poverty programme, and the transition was found to reduce corruption. On cash payments, she said, four percent of recipients reported paying kickbacks to people or organizations that helped enroll them in the programme. On the other hand, when the payments were made directly into accounts, the number dropped to just 0.03 percent.

Dr Nishtar also mentioned Bangladesh as an example of how digital savings accounts were used to change the nature of G2P programs from social protection to social investment using financial literacy campaigns.

She said the seven goals of socio-welfare importance under 270 projects of Ehsaas were actively being carried out with weekly and monthly reviews in line with the 32 covenants.

The programme is making headways keeping in view the areas of transparency and audit, information security, data governance and financial control, she added.

Dr Nishtar mentioned that the national Ehsaas survey was complete by 88 percent and announced that its first one-window operation centre would soon be opened at the capital’s Sitara Market.

She also gave a snapshot of the overall achievements under the umbrella of Ehsaas programme, namely the undergraduate scholarship, emergency cash programme, primary, secondary and undergraduate educational stipends, Ehsaas Nashunuma programme to check stunting in 15 districts, the establishment of 35 soup kitchens out of 112, and the orphanages and shelter homes with one-star bed and breakfast facility.

She said a programme had been designed in collaboration with the National Bank of Pakistan to give soft loans to Karyana (small grocery shops) owners.

The newly launched Ehsaas Bachat account will deepen the financial inclusion initiated under the ‘One Woman One Bank Account Policy’.

The design of the Bachat bank account is simple in the following ways: the accounts are targeted to Kafaalat beneficiaries; beneficiaries can open these accounts at agent shops or ATMs; and initial transactions through these accounts will include balance inquiry, cash in and cash out, transfer funds received from Ehsaas to mobile accounts, mobile top-up, utility bill payments, and money transfers, etc. Additionally, the accounts will offer savings on deposits.

The story was filed by the News Desk.
The Desk can be reached at info@thecorrespondent.com.pk.

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