ISLAMABAD, Sept 12: The Punjab government’s holistic approach to developing rural and urban areas in tandem received impetus when the World Bank approved on Tuesday two credits totaling $220 million to support the Punjab large cities in strengthening systems for improved planning, resource management, accountability, and strengthening land record management.

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.

Provincial capital Lahore is currently home to about 8 million people. The province has four other cities with populations in excess of one million. These cities are: 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 set to cross the one-million mark.

“Punjab is leading the way in fusing together the rural and urban development agenda,” WB Country Director 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,” he said.

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.

The other two components of the project support the cities and province through technical assistance and capacity building to achieve governance related targets.

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