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Accepted Paper:

Securitized Digital Governance, Cash Transfers, and the Expansion of Social Protection in Pakistan: Covid-19 and the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program  
Hassan Javid (Lahore University of Management Sciences) Sameen Ali (University of Birmingham) Umair Javed (Lahore University of Management Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that in Pakistan 'securitized digital governance products', such as technologies used to track and surveil citizens, have been redeployed in recent years to facilitate the relatively rapid expansion of social protection in the form of cash transfers to vulnerable households.

Paper long abstract:

Since 2009, the Benazir Income Support Program has provided regular cash payments to 4.5 million households in Pakistan. In April 2020, as a response to the economic dislocation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the government launched the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program (EECP), disbursing Rs. 179 billion in aid to 15 million households across the country by December that year. The EECP is being envisaged as a permanent expansion of Pakistan’s existing systems of social protection.

This paper argues that Pakistan’s ability to initiate and expand its cash transfer programs, even as it struggles to reform the provision of healthcare and education, can be attributed in part to donor support for such initiatives and the development of ‘securitized digital governance products’ that have made it easier to identify, categorize, and reach potential welfare recipients. Initially developed as tools through which an authoritarian state could track and surveil the population amidst Pakistan’s involvement in the Global War on Terror, vast repositories of biometric information retained by the National Database Administration and Records Authority, as well as sophisticated mechanisms used to monitor communications, have been deployed in recent years to create a digital infrastructure that facilitates rapid cash payments to vulnerable individuals. In a context where the public provision of welfare has historically been characterized by underinvestment, inefficiency, and institutional inertia, the success of cash transfer programs in Pakistan provides interesting insights into how the uneven development of state capacity can lead to policy innovation and adoption in unexpected areas of governance.

Panel P27c
The politics of expanding and sustaining social protection: continuities and ruptures in unsettled times III
  Session 1 Friday 2 July, 2021, -