Pakistan's social protection response to the COVID-19 pandemic: the adequacy of Ehsaas emergency cash and the road ahead
Abstract:This Working Paper presents an analysis into the adequacy of Pakistan's social protection response to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights pertinent policy takeaways for turning the health crisis into an opportunity for a strengthened social protection system in Pakistan. It focuses on Ehsaas Emergency Cash (EEC) as the country's flagship initiative to attenuate the economic fallout for the most vulnerable people during and after the crisis. The report starts with a brief analysis into the economic context of the crisis in Pakistan and describes the country's social protection landscape. Furthermore, the paper distinguishes adequacy considerations for emergency measures put in place from those for regular social protection. Subsequently, we introduce EEC's programme design in light of the crisis and later discuss its adequacy regarding benefit values, coverage, and selection and payment mechanisms. Throughout this analysis, the paper shines a light on the merits of the existing social protection response and highlights important benefits as well as potential shortcomings of the measures taken. Drawing on some of EEC's most significant limitations as previously identified, we then shift our focus to estimates of the costs of a number of stylised changes to the programme's design. The paper concludes with a look ahead into challenges for social protection in Pakistan and summarises some of its most pertinent findings into brief, policy-oriented recommendations.