BAGHDAD – In a technical workshop starting today, the Government of Iraq and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) will discuss the potential introduction of electronic food vouchers in the Iraqi Public Distribution System (PDS). 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.
This workshop is a result of the collaboration between WFP and the High Committee for the Reform of the PDS. The two-day workshop will be followed by a consultative meeting on 12 June, chaired by H.E. Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the High Commission for the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Dr. Roz Nuri Shawees, with the presence of members of the Commission and the High Committee for the Reform of the PDS, headed by the Secretary General for the Council of Ministers, H.E. Mr. Ali Muhsen Al Alak.
“The technical workshop and consultative meeting we are holding together with the Government of 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,” said WFP Representative and Country Director Edward Kallon. The report highlighted the vital role of the PDS in ensuring food security and decent living standards for the poorest households.
“We expect that this workshop and the subsequent national consultative seminar will pave the way to implement a pilot project in specific areas in Iraq to examine the feasibility and benefits of adopting electronic cards to provide Iraqi citizens with an improved service and a food basket that will help improve food security in Iraq and contribute to the growth of our national economy,” said Deputy Minister of Planning Mahdi M. Al-Alak. “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.”
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. The review of the PDS food basket is one of the recommendations of the High Committee for the Reform of the PDS.
For more information please contact (email address: email@example.com):
Noemi Voros-Bak, WFP/Iraq, Tel. +962 6 515 4009, Mob. +962 79 7269726
Abeer Etefa, WFP/Cairo, Tel. +202 2528 1730 ext. 2600, Mob. +2 010 666 34352
Reem Nada, WFP/Cairo, Tel. +202 2528 1730 ext. 2610, Mob. +2 010 66634522