Sunday, March 3, 2024
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Brunei Town

Local socio-economy to the fore

James Kon

The foreign workforce in the Sultanate has been reduced to 56,216 workers in 2021, as compared to 72,713 in 2019.

From the aspect of enforcement, both the Labour Department and the Immigration and National Registration Department (INRD) will continue to conduct operations to monitor the presence of foreign workers and take legal action against violators of the country’s laws and regulations.

Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong said this at the muzakarah session between the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) and Legislative Council (LegCo) members at the Brunei-Muara District Office yesterday.

LegCo member Yang Berhormat Haji Abdul Hamid @ Sabli bin Haji Arsad led the LegCo delegation.

The minister said the Labour Department and the INRD have repatriated foreign workers found guilty of breaking the law, back to their country of origin. From 2019 to 2021, some 1,637 foreign workers from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Indonesia were repatriated.

On cleanliness and hygiene, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar said, “We hope the wisdom behind COVID-19 of maintaining cleanliness will become the living culture of the country’s citizens and residents. However, cleanliness violations continue to occur. Up until November 2021, 599 offences on throwing rubbish were taken action on. This is an increase as compared to 504 offences in 2019.

Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong. PHOTOS: JAMES KON
Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Awang Haji Abdul Hamid @ Sabli bin Haji Arsad delivers a speech
The session in progress at the Brunei-Muara District Office

“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 amendment for the Minor Offences Act 2021 to introduce a heftier compound fine to individuals and corporate bodies found to have thrown rubbish indiscriminately. We hope that the compound fine will help maintain cleanliness in the Sultanate.”

In an effort to further develop the socio–economy, he shared that municipal boards and district offices will continue to explore plans that can provide assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). In addition to the plan of providing space to do business that has been issued with request for proposal (RFP), several places have been identified for development.

Food truck-based business activities “started since January 2022 in Bandar Seri Begawan were given an opportunity to help entrepreneurs. The initiative is also an effort to enliven Bandar Seri Begawan especially at night time”, he added.

At the mukim and village levels, he said the economic sector was impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. It can be seen from the income of One Village One Product (1K1P) initiative from BND802,260 in 2019 to BND710,172 in 2020 and BND556,842 in 2021. However, the average income of 19 entrepreneurs involved in the 1K1P transformation project in 2021 increased over 106 per cent with some earning as much as BND5,000 to BND7,000 a month.

In efforts to increase community unity, he said, “The ministry continues to implement initiatives to strengthen the institution of penghulus and village heads. In facing COVID-19 since March 2020, it impacted minor plans of filling up the positions of penghulus and village heads.”

With the challenge related to capacity limit and health protocols during COVID-19, the minister said, “The idea to explore alternative approaches as additional to the available voting methods to help smoothen the voting and selection processes of pengulus and village heads, the E-Undi application was developed and launched on October 2, 2021 and was utilised for voting and election of Kampong Kapok village head on December 12, 2021. The application made it easier for village residents to vote online and view the candidate’s information, description and manifesto.”

He added, “We found that the application had a positive impact, with the increase in the number of participating youth who voted through the application from 30 per cent that use ballot paper to 54 per cent using E-Undi. We believe that the number will continue to increase.”

Meanwhile, based on current data, the minister said, “From the lists of candidates for selected penghulus and village heads, candidates recommended for election and candidates in the process of recommendation show that 53-73 per cent are under the age of 50 and 38 are graduates from higher learning institutions. With the increase in the profile of candidates, we hope that penghulus and village heads can lead with more efficiency and continue to develop the socio-economy of their mukims and villages to nurture and create an integrated living community that cares about residents’ well-being.”

For the financial year 2022/2023, he revealed that the MoHA’s initiatives and programmes will focus on strengthening the institution of mukims and villages, enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement to improve public safety and well-being and increase infrastructure to support the socio-economy.

Before the Muzakarah session, the LegCo members viewed an exhibition set up by the MoHA and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – Sejahtera Community, Care and Action For Strays, Love Paw Sanctuary and Paws Up – to share their roles in assisting the government and the community in addressing stray animal issues and initiatives to protect them.

Permanent Secretary (Security, Welfare and Law) at the MoHA Mohd Amir Hairil bin Haji Mahmud, Permanent Secretary (Municipal and District) at the MoHA Salminan bin Haji Burut, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Municipal and District) at the MoHA Abdul Walid bin Haji Matassan, Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary (Safety and Welfare) at the MoHA Azmi bin Haji Hafneh, heads of departments and senior officials were also present.