Maintaining public welfare key focus of budget

Wani Roslan

Maintaining public welfare was one of the key focus areas highlighted in supporting the Financial Year 2020/2021 budget by 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 during the 16th Legislative Council session, yesterday.

Several initiatives and plans have been implemented by the government to ensure the well-being and social welfare of the people, including strengthening the private sector to enhance the economy and address unemployment, provision of socio economic infrastructure such as national housing; road and bridge infrastructure, as well as electricity and clean water services; the establishment of the Climate Change Executive Committee to address climate change issues; and further enhance the agricultural sector, one of the leading sectors in food security in the country.

Among the achievements were for 100 per cent of the country’s population having access to clean water, 99.9 per cent having access to electricity, 93 per cent having access to sewerage systems, 97 per cent having access to roads and 94 per cent had access to mobile Internet. Meanwhile, for health and education, 95 per cent of pregnant mothers receive pre-natal services, 95 per cent of children receive immunisation services and 96.6 per cent are provided literacy.

As for gender equality, the minister pointed out that Brunei Darussalam has shown great achievement where 41 per cent of the workforce in the country composes of women, of which 46 per cent of the workforce in the public sector is also women, over 50 per cent of MSMEs in the country are owned and run by women entrepreneurs and others.

The Human Development Index 2019 has also placed Brunei Darussalam at 43 out of 189 countries. The Environmental Performance Index for 2018, an index measuring environmental health and ecosystem vitality released by the World Economic Forum, placed Brunei Darussalam at 53 out of 180 countries, a high achievement especially for countries in the Asian region.

“These statistics show the country’s commitment to ensuring the well-being of all citizens and the people of the country and the government will continue to improve the achievement of its goals in other areas,” said the minister.

He shared several achievements made during the Financial Year 2018/2019 and the Financial Year 2019/2020 such as further increasing the production and level of subsidised rice supply in Brunei Darussalam, the commercial rice cultivation project undertaken in Kandol, Belait District and operated by Paddyco Sdn Bhd Company, a subsidiary of Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd.

Through the One Common Billing System (OCBS) system the public can pay for their home deduction online through the OCBS portal and through Internet banking where payment receipts will be sent by email or mobile phone. OCBS also strives to provide bill generation and assists the Housing Development Department to monitor outstanding bills by providing a complete and accurate report to facilitate the payment of unpaid or outstanding bills. In the next phase, it will be allocated to nine selected departments to use the OCBS system.

In addition, the agriculture sector output including Livestock, Crops and Agrifood-Process showed an increase of BND56.65 million, from BND379.65 million in 2017 to BND436.30 million in 2018, mainly due to the government’s initiative to open new agricultural sites, as well as increase vertical farming.

In terms of public welfare, 60 projects have been implemented to address the effects of natural disasters such as landslides, flood mitigation and coastal erosion control projects, which cost BND14.9 million from the approved BND30.7 million Planning Price.

Meanwhile, the home ownership rate also showed an increase of 65 per cent compared to 63 per cent in 2017.

Through the 11th National Development Plan (RKN 11), the government will continue to provide its infrastructure for the provision of approximately 2,700 housing units in RPN Kampong Lugu and RPN Kampong Tanah Jambu, with a Planning Price of BND250 million.

The minister underlined the allocation of BND507.30 million with a Planning Price of BND2.28 billion under the RKN 11 to support the fourth main focus, in which among others include the Brunei-Muara District Connection Project to Temburong District which was provided BND143.7 million with a BND1.04 billion Planning Price to finance the final phase of the project.

The RPN Kampong Lugu housing project – Phase 2 has been provided BND31.7 million with a BND150 million Planning Price to build 1,500 housing units while RPN Kampong Tanah Jambu housing- Phase 7 has been provided BND39.4 million with a BND100 million Planning Price to build 1,208 units of housing.

Projects for clean water supply, drainage and sewerage management projects totalled BND49.1 million with a Planning Price of BND200.3 million.

The Public Transportation System has been provided BND10.2 million with a Planning Price of BND21 million, while for infrastructure including upgrading and strengthening of electrical network systems, an allocation of BND45.2 million was provided under the RKN.

The National Welfare System was provided a BND1 million Planning Price, which is expected to be launched this year, in which the system enables applicants to obtain online welfare assistance, which improves and speeds the existing assistance application process, as well as reduces overlapping applications and provides fair and transparent welfare assistance through one database centre.

BND14 million was allocated to finance the construction of the new block of Jubli Perak Sengkurong Health Centre for basic healthcare, construction of the emergency service building for Suri Seri Begawan Hospital and the construction of Pandan Health Centre in the Belait District.

To support the development of Islamic law and towards making the country ‘Zikir Nation’, a total of BND10.87 million with a BND30 million Planning Price was allocated to construct mosques throughout the country; while to rebuild Kampong Ayer, BND11 million has been provided with a BND50 million Planning Price under the RKN of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The minister also highlighted that provisions are also provided under Ordinary Expenses to address the demographic shift and to reduce non-communicable diseases. BND100 million was provided to finance the purchase of medicines and medical services.

For ensuring the country’s electric power stations operate at a reliable and maintenance level, he said an allocation of BND43.8 million was provided under the Department of Electrical Services, Ministry of Energy to maintain transmission and distribution assets across the country.

An allocation of BND15 million for Natural Disaster and Disease Preparation are made to control and prevent disease outbreaks such as CoVid-19 and for flood mitigation plans such as flash floods, landfills and forest fires. Monthly welfare assistance of BND14 million under the Community Development Department, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports was provided and BND3 million has been prepared for sectional milling and resurfacing work of over 2.6 kilometres of Jalan Tutong, under the Ministry of Development.

“In addition to the provisions set out to support the four key focus areas, the Ministry of Finance and Economy is also providing a special provision under the Miscellaneous Service which is the Focus Project with an allocation of BND18 million to finance projects or expenditures that support the budget focus of Financial Year 2020/2021,” said the minister.