Top priority for social welfare, says minister

Wani Roslan

The Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, will continue to ensure the social welfare of the people of Brunei Darussalam to be the highest priority in line with the objective of the ASEAN Social Security Association (ASSA).

The commitment is clearly reflected in the universal provision of basic necessities such as free education and medical services, as well subsidies for basic needs such as rice, fuel and housing.

This was highlighted by Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin (pic below), in his capacity as the Chairman of the Employees Trust Fund (TAP) Board of Directors during the opening ceremony of the 36th ASSA Board Meeting at The Rizqun International Hotel in Gadong yesterday.

The minister shared that the government also provides two types of retirement benefits in Brunei Darussalam. One type is the defined-contribution retirement benefit known as the Employees Trust Fund scheme and the Supplemental Contributory Pension scheme regulated by the Employee Trust Act of 1992 (amended in 2016) and Supplemental Contributory Pension Trust Order of 2009 (amended in 2016).

The second type is the Old Age Pension as regulated by Old Age and Disability Pensions Act of 1955 as amended in 1984. This is a non-means tested benefit scheme where every citizen will receive financial assistance of BND250 upon reaching the age of 60. The minister said, “In order to overcome the ever-changing challenges in the field of social security, it is important to continuously improve our benefits. This is where ASSA serves a valuable platform for Brunei’s TAP and all of us to collaborate and learn best practices from each other.”

He was glad to see that ASSA also focussed at the challenges and opportunities of the ASEAN Social Security institutions in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Free Flow of Labour in the meeting in Vietnam last year, where several lessons were learnt from the session including a better understanding of its impact to the labour market and how it affects the goal of social security administrator of ensuring social security for workers.

“Towards this, it is important for us to keep up with the fast-changing digital world, as it is our duty as social security providers to protect and serve our members the best way possible,” said the minister.

“The big challenge for social security is not the technology itself. The biggest difficulty is knowing how to manage the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution properly, and how to make the most of the new opportunities it offers.”

With the theme ‘Information and Communications Technology (ICT): Empowering Innovative Social Security’, the minister believes the discussion will greatly benefit in enhancing the development of social security in the region as well as in the common effort to tackle the current challenges by adapting and evolving innovatively with current and future technologies.

The opening ceremony saw a keynote speech by Vice Minister, Director General Vietnam Social Security (VSS) Dr Nguyen Thi Minh, in her capacity as the Chairperson of the 36th ASSA Board Meeting.

It continued with the plenary session focussing on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in giving impact towards empowering innovative social security. Among the topics covered were ‘The Future of Work and Social Protection’, ‘Emerging Technologies in Social Security: International Trends and Perspective’, ‘Harnessing Big Data for Social Security’ and ‘Re-Imagineering Social Security in the Cognitive Era’.

Permanent secretaries from the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE); permanent secretaries and deputy permanent secretaries from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports; TAP Board members and committee members were also present at the opening ceremony.

In the afternoon session, the event continued with presentations on good practices by member countries. The first session shared topics related to ICT Innovations by ASSA members countries Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia.

This was followed with the second session focussing on areas related to social security, delivered by the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and host country Brunei Darussalam. The two-day event of the 36th ASSA Board Meeting hosted by TAP ends today.