Iraq mulls introduction of e-food vouchers
Baghdad, June 12, 2013
Top Iraqi government officials will be today (June 12) meeting experts from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to discuss the potential introduction of electronic food vouchers in the Iraqi Public Distribution System (PDS).
A two-day workshop is being held in collaboration between WFP and the High Committee for the Reform of the PDS in Baghdad followed by a meeting chaired by deputy PM and chairman of the High Commission for the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Dr Roz Nuri Shawees with the members of the commission and the High Committee for the Reform of the PDS, headed by the Secretary General for the Council of Ministers Ali Muhsen Al Alak.
They will be joined by financial payments experts from MasterCard, the leading global technology and payments company, which, under a global partnership, is partnering with WFP to strengthen its delivery of “digital food,” in the form of vouchers.
The use of electronic food vouchers to distribute benefits, such as through “smart cards,” is an innovative approach that would increase efficiency in the PDS, which acts as a social safety net for the poor.
By allowing people to shop in local stores, electronic vouchers also increase access to fresh food and other nutritious food while boosting the local economy, thereby encouraging investment in, and growth of, the Iraqi private sector.
Electronic vouchers are more financially secure than traditional cash transfers, and they act as a flexible tool that can help harmonize the distribution of many types of social welfare. They could also be considered as a means to transfer not only credits for food, but for health care, education and other items, said the experts.
Commenting on the initiative, WFP representative and country director Edward Kallon said, "The technical workshop and consultative meeting we are holding together with Iraq over the next few days present an excellent opportunity to build upon the policy analysis and recommendations of our jointly published report in December 2012 on Food Security, Living Conditions and Social Transfers in Iraq."
The report highlighted the vital role of the PDS in ensuring food security and decent living standards for the poorest households, he remarked.
Deputy Minister of Planning Mahdi M. Al-Alak said the government expects the workshop and the subsequent national consultative seminar to pave the way for implementation of a pilot project in specific areas in Iraq to examine the feasibility and benefits of adopting electronic cards to provide citizens with an improved service and a food basket that will help improve food security and contribute to the growth of the national economy.
“The evaluation of the results of the pilot project will inform our decision on the possibility of adopting electronic cards within the PDS on a national scale,” he added.
The workshop will also examine the possibility of designing alternative PDS food baskets that would include more locally procured items, contributing to improved food security in the country and supporting the Iraqi economy.-TradeArabia News Service