Brunei sets three objectives amid COVID-19 outbreak

Izah Azahari

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 consented to the implementation of a number of additional steps that prioritise three objectives.

This was revealed by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah following further assessments of the business and labour market situations made by the Ministry of Finance and Economy in cooperation with the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC), Prime Minister’s Office and DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three objectives are to support the private sector affected by the COVID-19; to continue generate jobs; and to maintain job security to protect the well-being of the locals, especially in the private sector.

The minister noted that first is to support the life-long learning initiative, especially in upskilling and reskilling locals towards supporting the growth of the private sector. As business activities are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, companies are being called upon to take up opportunities to enhance their skills including upskilling or reskilling workers made up of locals, and accordingly, MPEC has provided specific training such as online training, as well as hands-on training, whether in the form of current needs or as a step towards human resource capacity building.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said this includes partnering with Information Technology (IT) companies to provide programmes such as programming, analytic data and the like, that will assist the country towards Industrial Revolution 4.0; providing training such as reskilling and upskilling local tour guides registered with the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism; and providing training for those interested in the food and beverage sector.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah at the press conference. PHOTO: JAMES KON

Those interested in accessing this facility can apply to the MPEC Permanent Secretariat, Prime Minister’s Office by emailing to [email protected]

The minister also announced that DARe has increased the provision of DARe’s fully sponsored Industry Business Academy online training starting March 28, 2020, through Coursera – a platform run by international business experts who also handle courses at top universities around the world, which can be accessed through the www.dare.gov.bn website.

The platform, said the minister, provides more than 300 courses related to business affairs such as marketing and sales, finance and accounting, innovation and design, as well as analytic data.

Secondly, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew explained on help for micro, small and medium Enterprises (MSMEs) through joining an e-commerce platform for more effective business matching, which will be open to business owners on April 1, 2020. This can be accessed through the www.dare.gov.bn and www.aiti.gov.bn websites.

The platform aims to give an alternative to businesses to advertise their products online, including online payments and logistic providers for the shipment of goods. Businesses can email [email protected] or by calling 8363442 (during office hours) for information.

Thirdly is to provide a Co-Matching Grant for e-Commerce and logistics services, where DARe will also increase the amount of the grant to further expand the Co-Matching Grant initiative to aid businesses improve and prepare for current and future situations.

The fourth provision, said the minister, is a 25 per cent payroll subsidy to local workers in MSMEs with 100 employees and below for three months. This subsidy is intended to help ease the burden on MSMEs especially for local workers who receive a monthly salary of BND1,500 and below; and contribute to the Employees Trust Fund (TAP).

In line with the government’s objective of providing assistance to those who are in dire need of assistance, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said it is hoped that companies submit completed application forms via email to [email protected] The form can be downloaded through the www.tap.com.bn website beginning April 1, 2020.

The fifth provision is bench rent for tamu, markets and stalls provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs for a period of six months starting March 2020, where the rent set by the Ministry of Home Affairs will be omitted to ease the financial burden on businesses.

The sixth is to expand the i-Ready Apprenticeship Programme to Diploma level based on Brunei Darussalam Qualification Framework (BDQF) Level 5 (HND or Advanced Diploma) or equivalent, and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), BDQF Level 2 to 4, from a period of 18 months only to the current 36 months.

“With this change, it will open up many opportunities for qualified locals to participate in the programme,” said the minister.

While undergoing the programme, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew explained that the government will finance the apprenticeship allowance for a period of 18 months at a fixed rate of BND800 per month for Bachelor’s Degree and above, BND600 per month for Diploma (Level 5), and BND400 per month for TVET, as well as the funding of TAP and SCP contributions on behalf of the companies concerned.

Furthermore, private companies intending to participate in the i-Ready Apprenticeship Programme for these three levels of education are required to fund top-ups with a minimum rate of BND400 per month for Bachelor and above, BND300 per month for Diploma (Level 5) and TVET beginning the 11th month of the apprenticeship period.

The minister added that upgrades to the JobCentre Brunei (JCB) portal will also be made to improve the effectiveness of the job vacancies advertised including some new functions such as automatic job matching for local jobseekers where they can receive notifications of new job positions being advertised in accordance with their suitability and interest; receiving application status in real time where they can follow up with the company; provide reports on compatibility based on criteria of the job through algorithms and probability scanning that can be used by the government and private sector; and comprehensive Talent Profile information for companies.

All facilities provided through this portal will be free of charge. Local employers and jobseekers who are not registered with JCB are encouraged to do so via the website www.jobcentrebrunei.gov.bn.

Moreover, MPEC will continue to work with companies to learn more about projected human resource needs, specific to the types of businesses identified that will require additional workforce such as e-Commerce or online business, security services, cleaning services, manufacturing and delivering, where JCB will assist in facilitating the fulfilment of any human resource needs by providing services such as sending SMS to local jobseekers, providing talent pools for companies to use and providing a virtual interview platform.

For information, local jobseekers and companies can contact JCB at +673 8239933, email [email protected], or check the www.jobcentrebrunei.gov.bn website.

The minister urged the private sector to play its part in helping the government achieve the efforts outlined, and reminded companies to not let go of locals and to not delay their pay. Local jobseekers are also encouraged to seize the job opportunities available.

The initiatives mentioned, excluding the provision of bench rent, will take place on April 1, 2020.