Mak­ing land ti­tles tan­gi­ble col­lat­eral

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Af­shan Subohi

THE digi­ti­sa­tion of land records is ex­pected to be com­pleted in two ma­jor prov­inces - Pun­jab and Sindh - dur­ing this cal­en­dar year. This would make doc­u­men­ta­tion trans­par­ent and in­stantly ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic.

And to quote ex­perts, dig­i­til­i­sa­tion is poised to rad­i­cally change the coun­try's eco­nomic ma­trix. Apart from en­abling a more ef­fec­tive pub­lic plan­ning, a se­cure pri­vate land own­er­ship will gen­er­ate tan­gi­ble col­lat­eral to support a flurry of mar­ket ac­tiv­ity.

Con­trary to gen­eral im­pres­sion, Sindh was dis­cov­ered to be ahead of other prov­inces in terms of tech­nol­ogy and cov­er­age. Land records in the prov­ince have al­ready been scanned and about 95pc of it has been punched into the com­puter in a cen­tralised pro­gramme.

The col­lected data, a source in the Sindh gov­ern­ment con­firmed, has been passed on to the dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tions for phys­i­cal ver­i­fi­ca­tion. The records have been made ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic from the ser­vice cen­tre in Hy­der­abad, and the fa­cil­ity will be ex­tended to Karachi and Sukkur by March.

Un­like other prov­inces, Sindh self­fi­nanced the ex­ten­sive ex­er­cise and de­vel­oped ded­i­cated apps for the pur­pose. The records are said to be in Sindhi for bet­ter ac­ces­si­bil­ity to a majority of peo­ple in the prov­ince.

Pun­jab, which had started the ex­er­cise much ear­lier, is fol­low­ing close and is also re­ported to have cov­ered nearly 95pc of the task. In a press re­port, it de­clared that it will com­plete the project by Novem­ber. The cost of project in the big­gest prov­ince is be­ing shared by mul­ti­lat­eral donors.

Ex­perts see far-reach­ing so­ci­o­log­i­cal gains from the ex­er­cise, as it would loosen the stran­gle­hold of the tapedar-pat­warimukhtiarkar-big landowner-power nexus that is be­lieved to have kept the ru­ral land mar­ket hostage.

Trans­par­ent de­mar­ca­tion of land will cur­tail land dis­putes and pave way for in­vest­ment in cor­po­rate farm­ing and boost pro­duc­tiv­ity in the labour-in­ten­sive ru­ral econ­omy, im­prove liveli­hoods and re­duce ru­ral-ur­ban mi­gra­tion. The ur­ban in­vestor may quickly reap the div­i­dends of clear, ver­i­fi­able land ti­tles, and the avail­abil­ity of bank­able prop­erty doc­u­ments will en­hance ac­ces­si­bil­ity of bank credit.

Ex­perts see far-reach­ing so­ci­o­log­i­cal gains from the ex­er­cise, as it would loosen the stran­gle­hold of the tapedar-pat­warimukhtiarkar-big landowner-power nexus that is be­lieved to have kept the ru­ral land mar­ket hostage

The scope of real es­tate in­vest­ment tools in the cap­i­tal mar­ket is ex­pected to widen. An­a­lysts say the prop­erty trans­ac­tions will be for­malised, push­ing the share of real es­tate in GDP to 5pc per an­num over the next five years, from the cur­rent 0.5pc. The gain in GDP growth, as ac­tiv­ity in the sec­tor picks up pace, may in­crease as much as 1-1.5pc per an­num. In other emerg­ing economies like Thai­land, Philip­pines and In­done­sia, real es­tate makes up 10-15pc of GDP.

When con­tacted, all stake­hold­ers, land­lords, agri­cul­tur­ists, real es­tate de­vel­op­ers, busi­ness­men, bankers and of­fi­cials spoke the same lan­guage, with var­ied de­grees of clar­ity on the sub­ject. Many were not aware of the progress made, but sup­ported the idea that it would cur­tail cor- rup­tion, re­duce land dis­putes, im­prove the cov­er­age of bank credit and mod­ernise the econ­omy.

Shaukat Tarin, a for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter, was pleas­antly sur­prised, par­tic­u­larly by the progress Sindh has made in digi­tis­ing its land records. "This will change the eco­nomic land­scape of Pak­istan. The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Land Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Rev­enue Man­age­ment In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem (LARMIS) will ini­ti­ate the process of change, with huge eco­nomic div­i­dends for busi­nesses and cit­i­zens," he said when reached over tele­phone in Dubai.

In KP, the land record com­put­er­i­sa­tion project was launched last year, and a pi­lot project has digi­tised the records of Mar­dan dis­trict. After an as­sess­ment of its out­come and ad­dress­ing the iden­ti­fied weak­nesses, the prov­ince plans to repli­cate it in other dis­tricts.

But owing to se­cu­rity and ad­min­is­tra­tive chal­lenges, it is ex­pected to be com­pleted by the end of the PTI gov­ern­ment's cur­rent ten­ure. A news­pa­per re­port said seven dis­tricts, in­clud­ing Ab­b­otabad, Banu and Pe­shawar, have been cov­ered, but this was not con­firmed by the rel­e­vant depart­ment. In Balochis­tan, how­ever, the ex­er­cise is yet to be ini­ti­ated, de­spite the 2011 decision of the Supreme Court di­rect­ing all prov­inces to digi­tise their land records

Shahram Khan Tarkai, KP's se­nior min­is­ter for health and IT, sounded ex­cited over the project of com­put­er­i­sa­tion of land records in his prov­ince. "There are chal­lenges, but we are com­mit­ted to stem all sources of cor­rup­tion and con­flicts. The avail­abil­ity of trans­par­ent prop­erty doc­u­ments will pro­mote har­mony and move us to­wards our tar­get of a cor­rup­tion-free KP," he told Dawn from Pe­shawar.

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