ISLAMABAD: The government announced on Thursday a meagre increase of Rs44.80 in the monthly stipend of beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) aimed at qualifying for a United Kingdom grant.

“The prime minister is pleased to approve increase in the annual stipend to BISP beneficiaries from Rs18,800 to Rs19,338 per annum,” according to an announcement by the Ministry of Finance.

The net addition in aid to the downtrodden is only Rs538 per annum, which is 2.86% higher than the amount the poorest people were getting previously.

While the government increased the stipend by 2.86%, the BISP board on Tuesday increased staff salaries by 10%.

On a monthly basis, the BISP beneficiaries will get an extra Rs44.80, which is not sufficient to even buy half a dozen eggs. If the increase is spread over 365 days, the additional benefit per day comes to just one rupee and 49 paisa.

The increase was in accordance with the rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) last year, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said, adding the decision would contribute to mitigating the effect of inflation on the BISP beneficiaries.

After the increase, the monthly cash support will go up to Rs1,611. Dar said the increase was made after holding discussions with the prime minister.

The government took the decision to qualify for a grant of 60 million pound sterling from the UK Department for International Development.

Last year, the UK government had imposed a condition that Pakistan needed to link the increase in BISP cash stipend with inflation measured by the CPI, according to BISP officials.

For the current fiscal year 2016-17, Pakistan has estimated receiving $187.8 million in UK grant, of which it has already received $76.3 million during July and August.

The annual increase of Rs538 in the BISP stipend appears peanuts when compared to the rise in prices of perishable food items.

The government disburses the cash stipend in quarterly tranches among 5.21 million beneficiaries under the social safety net, initiated by the previous government in 2008.

The increased stipend at the rate of Rs4,834 per beneficiary per quarter would be payable with effect from July 1, 2016, said the finance ministry. Arrears would be paid along with the next installment, the finance minister added.

The Finance Division had already issued instructions to the BISP to ensure disbursement of quarterly stipend at the enhanced rate, it added.

Dar said the government was fully committed to protecting the most vulnerable segments of society and for this purpose the annual BISP allocation had been enhanced from Rs40 billion to Rs115 billion while annual stipends had been enhanced from Rs12,000 to Rs19,338 per beneficiary.

However, out of Rs115 billion, the amount that will be spent on unconditional cash transfers to the poorest is Rs104.4 billion or 90.8% of the total allocation, according to BISP documents.

An amount of Rs594.3 million has been earmarked for research and consultancy. Administrative cost of the BISP stands at Rs2.2 billion, which is on the higher end.

The government has also launched a survey to verify the beneficiaries and its cost of Rs1.23 billion has also been included in the BISP.

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