BND450 million spent so far on COVID fight

James Kon

BND450 million dollars had been spent in addressing the impact of COVID-19, said 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, yesterday during his deliberation of the 2021/2020 budget at the 17th Legislative Council (LegCo) session.

The expense focussed on three main themes: Preserving Public Welfare, Preserving Existing Jobs and Providing Support to Individuals, and Supporting as well as Assisting the
Business Sector.

The minister outlined the initiatives that were implemented to assist local businesses and people to cushion the impact of COVID-19.

This includes providing for BruHealth Application; the payment of special allowance to frontliners include volunteers working with the Ministry of Health, National Isolation Centre in Tutong and quarantine centres assigned by the government; bringing home students in overseas countries that are adversely affected at that time; and bringing in medical items for the use of National Isolation Centre like ventilator, beds for the use in the centre.

He said that as a result of the concerted efforts of the involved parties as well as the cooperation of all citizens and residents in helping to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the ‘COVID-19 Relief Fund’ has managed to collect a total of BND14.6 million. A majority of the collection was used for the construction of the National Isolation Centre (NIC) while the remaining collection for the purchase of much needed medical equipment.

To increase capacity and speed up the laboratory testing process for COVID-19 in the country, the minister said an additional building for the National Virology Laboratory was built in Kampung Sumbiling, Bandar Seri Begawan and started operation last April.

Another measure introduced was the Deferment of payment of Supplemental Contributory Pension (SCP) and Employees Trust Fund (TAP) for six months from last April for local workers earning below BND1,500 per month for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) from targetted sectors such as Tourism, Hospitality, Restaurant and Café as well as Air and Water passenger transportation.

The government also introduced a subsidy of 25 per cent for the payment of salary to local workers of MSME companies that have 100 or less employees from March to April 2021.

In addition, the government also introduced a 30 per cent discount for rental under government buildings, 50 per cent discount on corporate income tax and 15 per cent discount for water and electricity bills to MSME companies according to the targetted sectors with effect for a period of six months from last April.

In support of the virtual market platforms used by private parties such as ‘Community for Brunei’ and ‘eKadaiBrunei’, to assist MSME companies to sell their goods online following the closure of Ramadhan stalls and restaurants.

The availability of Co-Matching grant from DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) also was extended to businesses of e-Commerce businesses and logistic services. There was also the temporary exemption of customs duty and excise duty for a period of six months from last April on some health products such as hand sanitiser, surgical face mask and others in addressing COVID-19 intended to assist businesses and consumer following the increase demand of the said products.

The minister said that to ensure the national rice stock was adequate for the daily needs of residents of this country, the government has made additional purchases with appointed suppliers’ company.

To assist MSME and private businesses who are involved in making and selling cakes that use glutinous rice as the basic ingredient and toward the sustainability of the businesses, the government, in April, provided a 50 per cent discount for the sale of glutinous rice for
three months.

In addition to fiscal policy, government efforts to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on individuals and businesses have been supported by monetary policies from Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam.