MasterCard is partnering with the UN World Food Programme (WPF) to promote the use of smart cards for the distribution of welfare benefits such as healthcare and education credits and food vouchers in Iraq.
Details of an initial pilot for the potential introduction of electronic food vouchers in the Iraqi Public Distribution System (PDS) are being hammered out in a two-day technical workshop comprising representatives from the Iraqi government, the WPF and MasterCard.
"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," says 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."
Electronic vouchers are more financially secure than traditional cash transfers, and they act as a flexible tool that can help harmonise the distribution of many types of social welfare, argues WPF: "They could also be considered as a means to transfer not only credits for food, but for health care, education and other items."
The two-day workshop will be followed by a consultative meeting on 12 June to discuss a timetable for welfare reform.