| Azlan Othman |
BRUNEI Darussalam has a relatively lower poverty rate than other countries due to government assistance and welfare benefits such as free education and healthcare, pension schemes, allowances and subsidies.
Poverty is not severe in the country, said Hajah Rose binti Abdullah, Senior Lecturer at the Business and Management Sciences Faculty of Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) in her talk titled ‘Poverty in Muslim Countries with Special Reference to Brunei Darussalam’ held in conjunction with UNISSA’s 4th upcoming Mahrajan Hafl Al-Takharruj (convocation).
A total of 5,472 families consisting of 27,360 persons were living in poverty, according to statistics revealed in 2011 by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS).
Data from the Community Development Department (JAPEM) and the Brunei Darussalam Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) showed 20,790 persons living in poverty in 2012. MUIB revealed that last year, 4,692 new applicants received approval to get tithe money.
Hajah Rose highlighted the findings of a 2012 study on poverty which involved 100 respondents in Kampung Ayer where many of the poor are reportedly living. Based on MUIB data, 1,457 poor people were living in Kg Ayer, which is about 12.5 per cent of the water village’s population.
The study found that poverty is caused by low level of education and unemployment, with many of the unemployed being secondary school-leavers.
A total of 46 per cent earned below $1,000 and 43 per cent had no fixed income.
However, more than 60 per cent owned a house, lived in good conditions and were healthy, the study found.
The study also found that more than half received welfare benefits and assistance from the government and non-government organisations (NGOs).
However, 75 per cent claimed that the assistance was insufficient. More than 70 per cent are willing to take loans with 36 per cent wanting to do micro-enterprise.
Hajah Rose said the government is concerned that poverty still exists in Brunei Darussalam although the country is considered rich and has a high development index.
She said various measures are in place, including the formation of a special committee to study poverty in 2012, to alleviate the problem.
Other efforts to reduce poverty include a micro credit business scheme, a business incubator programme; increasing welfare assistance through the MCYS and MUIB, the provision of social safety nets such as pension, Employees Trust Fund (TAP) and Supplementary Contributory Pension (SCP) and the extension of retirement age from 55 to 60.
Other measures are a programme to help the poor to work and generate their own income, Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah’s Education Intervention Programme, Social Care Project for the Elderly, Emergency and Social Welfare Aid Project, the Pengiran Muda Mahkota Al-Muhtadee Billah for Orphans Fund, motivational seminars and business/job mentoring programmes.
MUIB also provides six types of assistance to the poor and the Empowerment of Zakat Recipients Programme (PROPAZ). NGOs too regularly donate to the poor.
Dr Kamaru Salam Yusof, Deputy Dean of Faculty Business and Management Sciences spoke on ‘Islamic Financial Literacy and Its Relations to Poverty in Brunei Darussalam’.
He said efforts to build Islamic financial literacy is crucial in view of the need to have Halal finance for Muslims.