Aziz launches Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund
ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz launched phase II of the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund on Friday to help the poor gain access to micro-credit, infrastructure, health education, a skill enhancement programme and training.
The World Bank is offering US $238 million for the programme’s second phase. The fund is a government project to help tackle poverty by challenging the poor’s vulnerability through well-managed non-government organisations (NGOs).
“The project is currently being implemented in 86 districts, benefiting 4.6 million people through 26,500 community organisations. It is running 5,200 infrastructure projects and as of December 2003 has a base of 316,000 micro-credit borrowers,” an official press statement said.
The statement said a third-party evaluation of the first World Bank-supported project observed that many household are better off today than they would have been if they had not borrowed from the fund. On average, family incomes and consumption have increased and personal and business assets, such as houses, have improved. The social status of borrowers, especially that of women, has also improved.
Phase II aims to work on the pattern of the first phase while introducing innovative ideas. World Bank project leader Qazi Azmat Isa said, “Today’s proposed project builds upon the strong foundations laid by the first project and scales up operations. The innovations will include offering inclusive financial and business solutions to the poor that consist of marketing, skill development and a choice of lending instruments in infrastructure going beyond single to more integrated schemes, expanding its agenda to support health and education, encouraging links with the local government and comprehensive institutional development of NGOs and community organisations.
Phase I of the project sought to establish a solid governance structure consisting of an independent board of nationally-respected professionals who have ensured transparent and non-political decision making, high quality management ensuring a well-run institution, clear eligibility criteria to access resources, pro-poor institutions with an enhanced capacity, close monitoring and audits at every level and continuous feedback from PPAF’s clients.
Mr Aziz said the synergising role of PPAF was critical since Pakistan positions itself to meet the more fundamental challenge of poverty.
PPAF President Kamal Hyat and World Bank Country Director John Wall and other officials were also present during the opening ceremony.