WB approves two credits totalling $220m for projects
ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government’s holistic approach to developing rural and urban areas in tandem received impetus on Thursday when the World Bank’s (WB) board of executive directors approved two credits totaling $220 million.
A WB statement said that 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 additional financing of $70 million for Punjab Land Records Management and Information Systems Project is meant for further strengthening and expanding better service delivery of land record management throughout the province.
“Punjab is leading the way in fusing together the rural and urban development agenda,” said WB Country Director for Pakistan Rachid Benmessaoud. “Improved management of land records bolsters existing and potential landholders’ confidence, especially the small holders who are the most vulnerable, and attracts 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.”
Lahore, the capital of Punjab is currently home to about 8 million people. The province has four other cities with population in excess of one million, namely Faisalabad (3 million), Gujranwala and Rawalpindi (2 million each), and Multan (1.7 million). Collectively, about half of the urban population in Punjab is concentrated in these five cities. In addition, three other large cities (Sialkot, Bahawalpur and Sargodha) are poised to cross the 1 million mark.
“The largest component of Punjab Cities Project is annual performance grants to cities who meet targets in seven governance areas,” said WB Task Team Leader for the project Raja Rehan Arshad. To qualify for performance grants, participating cities will be assessed each year for meeting the targets in resource planning, procurement, reporting of flow of funds between city district governments and city entities, revenue collection, service delivery planning, public disclosure, access to information, and accountability for effective and transparent feedback and grievance redress mechanism.”
The other two components of the project 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, and/or catastrophic event as needed.
Making land rights secure, reducing the potential for disputes and enabling an improved investment climate have been prioritised at the highest levels of the government of Punjab. The Punjab Land Records Management and Information Systems Project supports the government’s vision to move to a title-based system of land registration. This will entail further institutional, legal and policy changes, as well as continued investment in human resource development, information systems, and improvement in the available data bases on land. As a key first phase in this long-term programme, the provincial government is 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.
“Improving the land records service delivery of the province of Punjab will contribute to long-lasting tenure security and more efficient functioning of land markets,” said WB Task Team Leader for the project Edward Cook. “It will also establish a basis for fuller integration of information associated with rights in land.”The four components of the project deal with institutional capacity building and changes in business processes, development and establishment of the automated land records system, stakeholder outreach and operation of the new system, as well as system monitoring and evaluation and project management.
The credits are from the International Development Association, the WB’s concessionary lending arm. These carry a 0.75 percent service charge, and 1.25 percent interest rate, five years of grace period and a maturity of 25 years.