COVID-19 and the Pursuit of Financial Inclusion in Pakistan
When Pakistan implemented a national lockdown in mid-March, economic activity for the world’s fifth most populous country was brought to a halt. In a country where nearly 40% of people live in poverty and more than 24 million workers either earn daily or piece-rate wages or are self-employed, the ensuing economic crisis has hit the population hard.
Within 10 days of lockdown, the government had launched the Ehsaas Emergency Cash (EEC) Programme, providing urgent cash payments to 12 million households. This safety-net was rolled out at unprecedented speed, designed in the short-term to offer immediate relief in the form of $75 to the poorest and hardest hit families. The programme, still ongoing, has helped over 9 million families across the country, to date, to weather the initial shock of the crisis.
However, the legacy of this programme is not simply short-term relief. Built into its design are longer-term goals to increase financial inclusion and to strengthen overall safety nets in Pakistan, both of which will bring lasting benefits to recipients and the country as a whole.
Photo courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez.