Minister tells private sector to appreciate government’s help

Izah Azahari

In addition to the people’s health, the government is also concerned about the health of the country’s economy and job security. The government has been working very hard to ensure job protection, 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 said.

He made these comments during the joint press conference at the Al-‘Afiah Hall of the Ministry of Health (MoH) yesterday.

The minister was replying to the questions on measures to safeguard jobs and the economy.

“What we must understand is that the funds set aside in many other countries to help their business and the people, came from the tax payers themselves,” Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said.

“The money offered to help the businesses came from the taxes that businesses and individuals pay to the government, and during a crisis some of these funds can be put to better use to help the businesses.”

Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said in the case of Brunei, people don’t pay taxes be it income tax, property tax and the like, while not many corporations pay the corporate tax as well.

He said, “With over 9,000 companies in the Sultanate only a small number of companies pay corporate tax as many don’t even file their annual returns. Companies also need to provide and submit their annual returns to the Registry of Companies and Business Names (ROCBN) on time so that the ministry will be able to identify companies in real need during a crisis.”

The minister said that on top of this, the government also subsidises rice, sugar, healthcare and education, which cost the government more than BND100 million annually.

“We must understand that all along, even before the COVID-19 crisis, the government has been helping businesses reduce costs of doing business,” Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew added.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, the minister said that a number of fiscal and monetary policy measures have been introduced to aid the economy and population, as well as to support the Ministry of Health in their combat against the virus, which has been more than what is adequate.

He also outlined the investment in the Artificial Intelligence system, a new isolation centre scheduled for completion in about two to three weeks, and more than BND10 million spent on test kits and to prepare the Ministry of Health to combat the crisis, as well as the announcement of the first set of monetary policy measures to aid the private sector, especially micro, small and medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the tourism sector through the Ministry of Finance and Economy, and consecutively the announcement of another set of fiscal policy measures.

“When we try to help our businesses, we must always remember we are managing the government’s fund and we need to be responsible in the way we manage the government’s fund,” said the minister. “To help the companies affected by COVID-19, we really need to make sure that the fund goes to the companies that are really in need of help, not a blanket distribution of funds to anybody.”

Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew also spoke on the lack of information on many companies in Brunei that has contributed to the difficulty in targetting those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as not many companies file their annual returns.

However, the government is still willing to help during this crisis, he said, reiterating his point through announcements made on March 19 and 21 to try to continue aiding businesses and the people as well as protect jobs, and find ways to create more jobs.

“We must also remember that every dollar we spend today is the future generation’s money. So the more we use, the more we deprive the future generation of the money that they could have to build a better future for them, and that’s why the government needs to be very careful,” he added.

The minister also said that the people must appreciate what the government has done, not just for the businesses, but also for the individuals.