Development loans: World Bank approves $220m for Punjab

Money to be spent on governance improvement, land record project.


Our Correspondent September 13, 2012

ISLAMABAD:


The World Bank’s board of executive directors on Wednesday approved two loans ($220 million) for the Punjab.


The $150 million Punjab Cities Governance Improvement Project is aimed at realising the growth potential of five largest cities of the province through strengthening systems for improved planning, resource management and accountability. The cities are Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Multan.

The additional financing of $70 million for Punjab Land Records Management and Information Systems Project is meant for further strengthening and expanding service delivery in land record management.

“Punjab is leading the way in fusing together the rural and urban development agenda,” said Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank country director for Pakistan.

He said the improved management of land records strengthens existing and potential landholders’ confidence, especially the small holders who were the most vulnerable and attracted investment in the sector.

“Improved planning, resource management and accountability in larger cities of the province will turn them into true engines of growth, improving quality of life for citizens and reducing poverty. The project will also improve Punjab’s capacity to respond to emergency situations,” he said.

About half of the urban population in Punjab is concentrated in these five cities. Three more cities (Sialkot, Bahawalpur and Sargodha) are poised to cross the one-million mark.
“The largest component of Punjab cities project is annual performance grants to cities which meet targets in seven governance areas,” said

Raja Rehan Arshad, the World Bank task team leader for the project, said that the participating cities will be assessed each year for meeting the targets to qualify for performance grants.

The cities will be assessed in resource planning, procurement, reporting of flow of funds between city district governments and city entities, revenue collection and service delivery and planning including others, he said.

The project will support the cities and province through technical assistance and capacity building to achieve governance-related targets and enhancement in revenue and preparedness for rapid response to a natural disaster, emergency, or catastrophic event.
Arshad said the Punjab Land Records Management and Information Systems Project supported the government’s vision to move to a title-based system of land registration. This, he said, will entail further institutional, legal and policy changes as well as continued investment in human resource development, information systems and improvement in available databases on land.

During the first phase of this long-term programme, Arshad said, the provincial government was focusing on modernisation of the land records system.

The additional financing for the project will allow the government to complete this first phase throughout the province, he said.
Edward Cook, another World Bank task team leader for the project, said that improving the land records service delivery would contribute to long-lasting tenure security and more efficient functioning of land markets.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012. 

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