UN terms Ehsaas as international best practice

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In the recently released edition of UN Principles for Responsible Digital Payments 2021, Pakistan’s Ehsaas programme has been featured as an international best practice.

According to UN’s report, Ehsaas simplified the know-your-customer procedure for users by collecting simple data fields and issuing accounts after basic verification. Incentivized 500,000 branchless banking agents to work with the program by reducing taxes on commission earned from beneficiaries, thereby increasing doorstep banking services to elderly, persons with disability, and women.

Taking to twitter, Dr. Sania Nishtar said, “Glad to see Pakistan’s Ehsaas continue to be lauded as international best practice by the UN as it looks to accelerate Responsible Digital Payments to advance developmental progress.” In times of COVID-19 pandemic last year, Ehsaas programme emerged as the largest social protection program in the history of the country by benefiting almost half of the country’s population. Rs.179 Billion Ehsaas Emergency Cash provided a one-time cash grant of Rs.12,000 to 15 million families (nearly 109 million people) at risk of extreme poverty. This year as well, 1 million eligible families are being paid Ehsaas cash.

To deliver Ehsaas Emergency Cash, digital capabilities established as part of Ehsaas were adapted, in particular, a new biometric payment system, a demand side SMS based request seeking platform and a new wealth profiling big data analytics mechanism. The digitally enabled payment system fully relied on the use of mobile phones and biometric verification to strengthen the link between government assistance and social protection.

Ehsaas Emergency Cash payments were made through branchless banking platforms of two commercial banks (in retail settings and specially established payment campsites) and their 1,800 biometrically enabled ATMs. The available cash out points in 2,270 campsites were more than 11,500. Provincial governments and their security apparatus were responsible for logistic arrangements on ground at the payment campsites to coordinate payments in over 2,270 locations across the country, covering an area of over 881,000 square kilometers.

Money was deposited in limited mandate accounts and individuals were able to draw the money after biometric authentication in real time. The UN Principles for Responsible Digital Payments advocate for responsible practices in the digitization of payments. These principles have been developed by the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance, guided by its member governments, companies and international organizations. This flagship resource responds to the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.

Report can be accessed at:

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