Minister of Development outlines plans for the year

|     Danial Norjidi     |

TOWARDS ensuring the quality of life for the people of the country, a key priority area of the Ministry of Development (MoD) is to ensure that public facilities are at an appropriate level, and the MoD will give considerable attention to ensuring that public infrastructure such as road networks, clean water supply, drainage, sewerage and environmental conditions are managed and maintained in an organised manner.

These were among the points put forward by Minister of Development Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suhaimi bin Haji Gafar at the 15th Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting yesterday while delivering remarks on the MoD’s budget proposal.

He shared that, under this priority, the sectors that remain the main focusses of the ministry are housing, water supply, cleanliness issues and road networks.

Housing

The minister shared that the MoD will continue to work to provide suitable housing for people who need assistance in owning homes through the National Housing Scheme, and in supporting the target Home Ownership Rate of 85 per cent by 2035.

Alhamdulillah, with the BND39.24 million allocation provided under the 11th National Development Plan (RKN11) for the financial year 2019/2020 and with an overall plan price of BND265 million, two major projects for the provision of more than 2,000 housing units at the Kampong Lugu and Kampong Tanah Jambu housing schemes will be implemented.”

Minister of Development Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suhaimi bin Haji Gafar

“Additionally, the Ministry of Development and Ministry of Finance and Economy are also collaborating in reviewing alternative financing mechanisms including public-private partnership (PPP) for the provision of more housing to meet current and future housing needs.” He explained that these alternative mechanisms also aim to reduce the cost of financing the National Housing Scheme programme in the long term.

He went on to share that three major reform initiatives are being planned through the Housing Focus Group Committee.

One such initiative is a study for the transition of the Housing Development Department to become a statutory board with the aim to equip the department with mechanism reforms for housing production with private sector involvement and investment through PPP and housing estate planning with a township concept.

Another is the alignment of housing assistance programmes provided by various government agencies for the provision of inclusive assistance programmes for those who need it and to avoid duplication. The third is to study and review the requirements for the eligibility to participate in the National Housing Scheme to ensure that it will benefit groups of people who truly need housing assistance.

Water Supply

Moving onto the topic of water supply, the minister noted that people are able to enjoy clean water supply through the water infrastructure and networks provided throughout the country.

“The consumption of clean water in Brunei Darussalam is still the highest among ASEAN member countries at 380 litres per person, per day. The MoD would like to advise all parties to work together in an effort to avoid water wastage, which will directly reduce water consumption and costs for clean water production.”

He said that towards this, the ministry will implement initiatives that are expected to assist in an effort to reduce wastage of water.

One is the introduction of the ‘Unified Smart Metering Solution’, a bill management system for water and electricity consumption, using a pre-pay method which is expected to be introduced this year in stages. Another initiative is a water tariff change, which he said will be implemented at an appropriate time. This new tariff will not cause unreasonable difficulties or burdens for the general public, especially those with low income, and will focus on reducing water wastage, he shared.

Continuing, he said that in the financial year 2019/2020, a total of BND26 million is allocated to finance water supply infrastructure management and maintenance programmes under recurring expenses. Additionally, a total of BND19.8 million has also been allocated for the implementation of projects under RKN11 with an overall plan place of BND125 million.

Meanwhile, the Agis-Agis Water Treatment Plant in the Belait District will also be upgraded where the allocation under RKN 11 has been approved with a BND30 million plan price, for an additional 35 million litres of water per day, bringing the total amount of water produced at the plant to 70 million litres a day to cater for the increasing needs of nearby areas.

A programme for replacing old water pipes and repair works on pipelines that often experience leaks is continued, and an allocation of BND35 million under RKN11 and an allocation for the financial year 2019/2020 of BND11.7 million have been approved.

A programme to increase the water storage capacity to ensure that water storage tankers are resilient to meet requirements has also been provided an allocation of BND5.25 million in financial year 2019/2020 with a BND30-million plan price under RKN11. This is for the construction of several water storage tanks including upgrading of pumps and equipment.

In addition to addressing issues of water disruption and ageing assets, the Department of Water Services has found cases of theft of water supply system equipment increasing. “This is alarming, as it not only causes the continuous water supply problems to the public but is also a huge loss to the government and requires substantial spending for repairs,” he said.

He also shared that the Ministry of Development (MoD) has set up several strategies for sustainable water supply for domestic use as well as to accommodate industrial and economic growth, including: continuous system monitoring and coordination; conducting water supply and demand studies up to the year 2035 onwards; and implement Non-Water Revenue (NWR) reduction programmes.

He said that the long-term plan to meet the requirements of the clean water production capacity of the Tutong and Brunei-Muara districts is to build another Phase 8 Water Treatment Plant in Bukit Barun which is expected to produce 120 million litres of water a day. This project Insya Allah is planned to be implemented in this RKN11 period, added the minister.

Cleanliness and Environment

Speaking on sustainable development and the environment, the minister highlighted that the effort to protect and preserve the environment is not merely dependent on the government alone, and affirmed that participation from various parties and sectors plays an important role in together supporting the goals of Vision 2035.

To ensure environmental protection from land, water and air aspects, it is a requirement to implement Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for projects that have the potential to impact environmental quality as listed under Schedule 1 (Prescribed Activities) of the Environmental Protection and Management Order 2016. He shared that from March 2018 to February 2019, a total of 65 written notices of various scheduled activities to be implemented have been submitted for department assessment and approval.

In addition, to ensure that environmental protection in the country is controlled, among the efforts undertaken include: monitoring of river water quality in all areas; as well as continuously monitoring air quality in each district and providing online Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) readings as a measure and guidance for the public on air quality in the country.

Touching on cleanliness, the minister said that it is closely related to the growing issue of waste or garbage, which requires effective action not to jeopardise the quality of the environment of the country. He noted that the joint efforts of the Cleanliness Issues Committee, which involves three ministries (Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health and MoD), will continue to create awareness and instil a sense of concern among the public on the importance of maintaining the environmental cleanliness in the country.

Adding on, he said that, in order to ensure that the environment is free of plastic waste materials especially plastic bags, various efforts have been carried out, including the No Plastic Bag Everyday initiative.

Road Network

For the financial year 2019/2020, BND11 million has been allocated under recurring expenses for road management programmes, while under RKN11 BND27 million has been allocated with a plan price of BND127.5 million for road and flyover construction projects, including road and bridge upgrade and repair programmes.