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Bosnia and Herzegovina works to improve property rights and spur investment

17/06/2019

Bosnia and Herzegovina is working with the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to further modernize its real property registration and cadastre systems – a move designed to stimulate economic growth and sustainable development.

With such a system in place, the country’s two entities – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska – have been able to work more efficiently, effectively and transparently while providing better and faster services. The system also paves the way for investment and protects citizens’ real property rights.

The main challenge in the reform was that real estate data were mostly not harmonized between the cadastre registry, which describes land parcels, and the land registry, which details the rights of those parcels.

With support from the World Bank and FAO, the governments in both entities are harmonizing the data between the two registries in urban areas in order to accelerate economic development. And they are improving data accuracy, reliability and transparency by making these data available online.

Although challenging and time-consuming, these efforts to modernize the system are already making a difference, said Željko Obradović, director of the Federal Administration for Geodetic and Real Property Affairs in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“There is greater legal certainty in the real estate market and security for domestic and foreign investors now that there’s a reliable registration of ownership and other property rights, complete information on restrictions of ownership rights, and up-to-date technical data on the real estate, including the land and buildings,” he said. “We have proven that high commitment, responsibility and ownership of the reform can turn any challenge into a success.”

For Bosiljka Predragović, director of the Republic Authority for Geodetic and Real Property Affairs in Republika Srpska, the establishment of the real estate cadastre there “is an important step to creating safe and accurate data, which will have a significant impact on investments and improved access to loans. With this unified register, we enable our citizens and business community to exercise their property rights easily and fast in one place, in our local offices.”

Digitized data

With such a large volume of records digitized, the entities can now readily share the data with other institutions and introduce new e-services. Applying for a mortgage, for example, or for a loan to start a business, will become easier and faster.

Since the websites went live, traffic to the sites has been steady. The cadastral web portals in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina receive an average of 5 million views per year, while the website in Republika Srpska registered 11 000 views within its first 20 days.

According to senior FAO land administration officer Rumyana Tonchovska, the introduction of modern information technology (IT) systems contributes to greater transparency and better accountability. It also simplifies procedures and enables better performance monitoring of staff and offices.

“With just a few clicks, people can check the status of their properties,” she said. “Nothing is hidden. It’s all online. This level of transparency is helping minimize opportunities for inappropriate practices and making services and data available to all.”

She added that the two entities went from having very little institutional capacity to full ownership of these new systems in a relatively short time.

“They are now using the geospatial information for evidence-based decision-making around land tenure governance and really growing and developing as institutions. They are sharing experience with other countries from different regions, like Tunisia,” she said, referring to an FAO-supported knowledge exchange that occurred recently between the two countries.

The entities have also invested in renovating and upgrading the land registry and cadastral offices to improve working conditions and the quality of services offered to the public.

Responsible tenure governance

FAO Investment Centre service chief Wafaa El Khoury commended Bosnia and Herzegovina for “taking important steps to ensure responsible land tenure governance, which is vital for sustainable social and economic development.”

The work is in line with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security.

In addition to enhancing transparency and accountability, the new land registration system is promoting justice, equity and gender equality.

“With these new IT systems, we can quickly generate gender-disaggregated reports to monitor how many women are landowners,” said Predragović, from Republika Srpska. “That information can help us raise awareness of the benefits of improving gender equality in property ownership and control.”

Looking forward, the country will now possibly scale up investments in data harmonization and the modernization of its real property registration and cadastre systems.

Camille Bourguignon-Roger, the World Bank’s task team leader for the Real Estate Registration Project, said that the additional financing will help develop new e-services and link the property registration and cadastre systems to key government systems, such as civil registers, address registers and business registers.

By taking these measures, the country is setting a course for economic growth and development and for more informed policies and regulations related to land, property rights and natural resources.

Photo credit Ramizez-Dedakovic - unsplash (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)