Making land titles tangible collateral
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.