OPM research shows cash transfer programme is significantly reducing poverty in Pakistan
An impact evaluation of Pakistan’s Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) shows the poverty rate of recipients in our evaluation sample has reduced by 22%.
Following the completion of the first round of Oxford Policy Management’s evaluation of the programme, the BISP Secretariat has confirmed that poverty among people who receive the cash transfers has reduced by over one-fifth, and that the programme was a significant contributor to this reduction.
The BISP is a poverty targeted cash transfer programme which began in 2009. Its aims are twofold. First, in the short term, its purpose is to alleviate the effects of food price inflation and other unexpected cost increases on poor households. The second, more strategic aim, is to support the achievement of three of the Millennium Development Goals: to eradicate extreme and chronic poverty, to empower women and to achieve universal primary education.
Monthly payments of PKR 1,500 (an increase of PKR 500 from the initial value) are made to female beneficiaries in the 20% poorest Pakistani households targeted by a national Poverty Scorecard. This primarily relates to household income, but also includes other factors such as agricultural landholdings and sanitary facilities. Currently 5.2 million households qualify for the payment. This is a significant expansion from the 1.7 million households that received BISP in its first year.
OPM was brought in to evaluate the programme in 2010. The first round involved designing and implementing a baseline survey (to ensure the consistency of subsequent evaluations), and a follow-up version two years later, supported by complementary qualitative research. Using a Regression Discontinuity Design, a control and treatment group were created and the results compared and analysed.
Sean O’Leary, Senior Consultant at OPM, said of the news:
‘It’s great to see the BISP is having a really positive impact in Pakistan. Our evaluation shows that poverty rates are down, and also provides suggestions for how to improve the programme, as well as highlighting some challenges that must still be overcome. Social protection projects like the BISP provide a vital lifeline for poor people, but the provision of cash alone is not a magic bullet for graduation out of poverty. Complementary interventions such as the Waseela-e-Taleem Conditional Cash transfer, also implemented by BISP, and wider government investments are necessary as well.'
OPM is continuing to evaluate the programme, supporting continuous improvement of its design through evidence-based suggestions at every phase. These continued improvements should ultimately mean better and longer-lasting impacts for vulnerable households in Pakistan.