MoD highlights three priority areas

|     Danial Norjidi     |

AMONG the priority areas of the Ministry of Development (MoD) highlighted during the 15th Legislative Council meeting on Monday were optimal land use and planning, the construction industry and flood mitigation.

Minister of Development Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Suhaimi bin Haji Gafar detailed the three areas while delivering remarks on the ministry’s proposed budget at the session.

Optimal Land Use and Planning

The minister said that a core priority for the Ministry of Development (MoD) is optimal land use and planning for long-term national socio-economic development requirements, with the implementation of various initiatives.

One of these initiatives is the review of land density for general housing in the country. “Potential areas for high density advancement, especially urban areas, have been identified and land density has increased to 28-40 units per acre.

“The main city centre will have the highest land density followed by areas around the centre of the city and areas at the edge of the moderate-density city centre.

“With this new land density change, more optimum land use will be achieved. In addition, it will prevent urban sprawl to unnecessary areas. Indirectly this change will achieve sustainable development as the country’s land resources are limited,” he said.

Another initiative pertained to Strata Titles, which he said aims to enable ownership of properties in the form of units inside buildings in the country, including the need for more structured building asset management through Strata Cooperation enforced in July 2009.

“To date, three plots of land have been registered with the ownership of Strata, which resulted in the issuing of 138 pieces of Strata ownership grants,” he said.

“As of January 2019, a total of 67 applications have been received for the issuance of Strata Properties where 32 applications have been considered for Strata grants.”

On his third point, the minister said “the establishment and appointment of members for two Boards, namely the Board of Valuers and Estate Agents (BoVEA) and the Board of Housing Developers, which have received the consent of 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”.

He explained that the Boards’ aim is to regulate real estate valuers and agents as well as real estate developers in the country for the benefit and protection of the public, especially property buyers.

Construction Industry

With regards to the construction industry sector, the minister said that a policy framework has been completed, outlining three focus areas.

The three focus areas are; improved governance through better regulation of activities and improving ongoing regulations and procedures; adopting construction industry best practices with several action plans to improve productivity, quality of work and more cost effectiveness; and capacity building of those involved in the construction industry from the perspective of skills and knowledge, financial capabilities and the potential to create more suitable employment and business opportunities for locals.

The minister shared a number of actions being and will be taken. One is to further enhance the effectiveness of legislation governing the construction industry such as the Building Control Order (2014) and the Architects, Professional Engineers and Quantity Surveyors Order (2011) with the enforcement of several new amendments, including process-streamlining for development permissions that contribute to Ease of Doing Business, specifically in ‘Dealing with Construction Permits’ for which Brunei ranked 55th in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019.

Another action is improving the registration process of contractors and suppliers by shortening the process from 30 working days to three working days to allow contractors to start their business in a short period and also to attract the interest of foreign contractors to invest in the country.

A third action he noted is the launch of the ‘Different Abilities Design Guidelines’ on November 7, 2018 to enhance safety, comfort and reduce environmental hazards, so as to ensure that differently-abled people can utilise the facilities provided in a building.

Fourth, to further improve the performance of the construction industry, particularly in quality construction and completion of works at designated times, all implementation of government building and infrastructure construction projects will be centralised under the implementation of the MoD, including the appointment of consultants if required for the implementation of these projects.

On his fifth point, the minister shared that the Ministry of Development continuously supports efforts to enhance employment and business opportunities for locals.

Alhamdulillah, the Temburong Bridge project has opened up employment opportunities for 146 locals in skilled and professional fields,” he said.

The minister added that the ministry is also looking at a Foreign Workers Replacement Programme in the construction sector, and the local to foreign ratio in the registration of companies, as well as registration and recognition requirements for skilled workers in appropriate fields for the construction industry.

Flood Mitigation

In 2018/2019, the ministry obtained a special allocation with a plan price of BND30 million to implement 60 projects dealing with the effects of natural disasters such as landslides and flood mitigation, currently being implemented.

“In the 11th National Development Plan (RKN 11) a plan price of BND82.8 million has been allocated for flood mitigation projects in identified areas in all four districts in the country,” said the minister.

He added that for coastal erosion control projects, focus will be given to Kampong Danau in Tutong, where construction commenced in February 2019 and is expected to be completed by February 2020, including sand renourishment which will continue for five years until 2025.