Focus on efforts to tackle high unemployment

James Kon

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah gave a detailed explanation on the four focusses of the proposed budget for the Financial Year 2020/2021 with the theme “Investing in our Future”, during the morning session of the 16th Legislative Council meeting yesterday.

The four focusses are increasing investment activities, ease of doing business, generating competent and employable human resources and maintaining public welfare.

With regard to generating competent and employable human resources, the minister cited the need to work together to address the high unemployment issue.

“According to findings from Workforce Survey 2018, the total workforce in the country is at around 201,700 whereby 72 per cent comprised citizens of Brunei Darussalam and permanent residents and 28 per cent foreigners.

“The majority of the employment is concentrated in the service sector (79.5 per cent) especially in public administration (22.9 per cent) and wholesale and retail business (12.7 per cent). While the rate of unemployment is at 8.7 per cent which is a reduction from 9.3 per cent in 2017 which is 19,223 individuals whereby 49.7 per cent are aged 25 to 64 and 50.3 per cent are aged 15 to 24,” he said.

“Taking into consideration the high rate of unemployment in the country and in generating competent and employable human resource, collaboration between all stakeholders and the public is needed. 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 has given serious attention to the issue of unemployment whereby His Majesty has consented to the establishment of the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) under the Prime Minister’s Office to tackle the issue effectively. Initiatives currently carried out in the country to address the issue of unemployment can be summarised in three main aspects – supply, demand and enablers.”

“For the first aspect, several initiatives are currently being carried out to further strengthen the supply of local workforce to fulfil the needs of industries in terms of mindset and work ethics and improving skills and competency through upskilling and re-skilling. The upskilling and re-skilling programmes are in line with the demand of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the Brunei Darussalam Economic Blueprint to increase employment opportunities for locals.

“With regard to demand, initiatives are implemented to focus on job creations such as reviewing and formulating policies as well as workforce process and increase cooperation among ministries with the private sector, industrial sector and foreign direct companies to generate economic growth and increase the number of quality job in public and private sectors.”

Enablers involved activities of matching between supply and demand including one stop career centre, aligning, collection and verifying information of workforce for the use of human resource planning and infrastructure preparation.

Towards this, the minister said, “JobCentre Brunei has introduced several programmes including District Connect and Institution Outreach aimed to disseminate its services such as Curriculum Vitae writing and interview tips.

Up until February 29, a total of 2,484 graduates have participated in the i-Ready programme whereby 923 individuals have successfully obtained permanent employment.

A total of 892 apprentices are still active, while 669 apprentices have completed training. The BSJV companies have also set up the Talent and Bruneianisation Committee in the effort to monitor the potential development of locals to achieve competency needed to lead international companies including Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP), Brunei LNG, Brunei Shell Marketing (BSM) and Brunei Gas Carrier Sdn Bhd (BGC).

Until January 31, the percentage of locals working in BSP is 87, 92 at BMLG, 95 at BSM and 98 at BGC.”

The minister said, “Citizens of the country also play a vital role as a contributor to the development of the economy either by working in public, private sector or individually. Those who are capable to work and willing to start business will continue to be given entrepreneurship guidance and assistance to be independent without having to rely on government assistance.

“For example, the Youth Development Centre has given a grant to a local company, Cerita Fabrikku Sdn Bhd to assist the company to penetrate into the apparels market for Walt Disney World, Hard Rock Café, Universal and Sea World. The company is led by five graduates of i-Ready and 24 graduates from Centre for Capacity Building.

“A total of BND2.1 million were allocated for 41 English Native Speaker teachers in the Ministry of Education to appoint as CfBT teachers to bring the total number of overall CfBT teachers to 240 in schools. A total of BND2 million has been allocated for the need of laboratory equipment and major engineering studies under Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) and Politeknik Brunei as well as BND1.3 million to finance the needs of learning requirement and increase of student intake in Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE).”

Meanwhile to increase the wellbeing of students in and outside the country, the allocation for scholarship and allowance of students will continue with BND48.8 million for the total scholarships under MoE and Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) as well as Ministry of Defence, and BND55.5 million for the total student allowance under MoE and MoRA.

Meanwhile, the allocation for food amounted to BND17.4 million where BND10.4 million allocated to the MoE including BND1.5 million to finance the contract of Harapan Programme for 26 selected schools.

The programme aimed to provide food and drinks for students to boost motivation.

Another BND7 million will be allocated to MoRA. The allocation for renting of school busses in all four districts and boat is at BND7.1 million.

A number of allocations will continue to be provided to make sure youth in the country are ‘future-ready’, the minister added. The National Service Programme (PKBN) will be provided with BND1.5 million under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports with the target of 450 trainees for the ninth intake for 2020, while BND510,000 is allocated to finance courses at the Youth Development Centre.

BND1.4 million will be allocated to assist youth groups and NGOs including grant, youth entrepreneurship, sport development, youth development courses, Outward Bound Brunei Darussalam and financial assistance to increase employability and marketability of youth.

A total of BND92.4 million will be allocated to generate competent and employable human resources under the 11th National Development Plan where BND33.4 million with the project cost of BND129.6 million is provided for construction, renovation, expansion of government school building nationwide including primary schools, secondary schools, religious schools and higher education institutions.

BND26.1 million with the project cost of BND76.3 million will be provided for the i-Ready programme and a total of BND18.5 million with the project cost of BND136.1 million will be provided for Capacity Development under National Development Plan Prime Minister’s Office.

Meanwhile, BND8.5 million will be provided for the construction of the new building for Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) in Temburong District and BND600,000 for the Civil Service Leadership Pipeline under the National Development Plan of Public Service Department, Prime Minister’s Office.