| Azlan Othman |
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 announced his ministry’s proposed budget amounting BND814,132,967.
He said the provision covers ‘Employees Salary’ totalling BND63,003,490 – an increase from the financial year 2018/2019.
This is due to the Ministry of Finance and Economy’s (MoFE) absorption of the Department of Economic Planning and Development (JPKE) from the Prime Minister’s Office and of the Department of Trade from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on September 20, 2018.
For ‘Recurring Expenses’, the minister said a provision has been set at BND729,180,767.
Of these, 81 per cent (about BND591 million) is available under the ‘Miscellaneous Service’ such as an allocation of BND33 million for authorised projects and BND30 million for medical services at Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC).
Meanwhile, an allocation of BND28 million has been set aside for the ‘Education Allowance’, including BND10 million for those pursuing tertiary education in the country (specifically whose parents or guardians are working in the private sector and members of the TAP or Employees Trust Fund).
Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew added that BND18 million has been allocated for four ‘focus projects’ this year, BND15.7 million for ‘natural disaster and epidemic’, and BND10.8 million for ‘experts and skilled teachers’ in the fields of literacy and numeracy.
Additionally, an allocation of BND4 million has been provided to finance ‘repair works’ or to replace the ‘chiller system’ of several ministries and government departments.
A total of BND3.7 million is for the ‘Special Housing Fund Scheme’ under the TAP.
Under the ‘Development Expenditure’ category, an allocation of BND21,948,710 is proposed at the plan price of BND414,723,750 to finance the establishment of the Brunei Darussalam Stock Exchange project (which is under implementation), the Census and Socio-Economic Studies, the Cluster Development, and the Science, Technological and Innovation Studies.
The minister said with this provision, the MoFE will continue to work with other ministries and agencies concerned to improve productivity and services, and to ensure the effectiveness of revenue collections.
Strategies include strengthening the fiscal and economic position of the country through the implementation of the Fiscal Consolidation Plan – a more efficient use of allocation and a greater focus on productive sectors and activities.
It also includes examining opportunities to increase collection and expanding the government’s revenue source base from non-oil and gas sectors.
The strategy entails continuing research and studies prior to the implementation of projects in the public-private partnerships (PPP) as well as the implementation of corporatisation or privatisation of appropriate government agencies.
Other measures include facilitating trade and increasing investment activities, joint-venture partnerships or PPP, and enhancing service delivery to the public (through a computerised information system).
Developing human capital will also be implemented through various programmes of the MoFE and the departments under it.
The ministry will continue to implement initiatives to support prudent government spending via extending the payment period for all purchases and services that have been implemented before the end of the applicable financial year to three months after the end of the applicable financial year.
This aims to reduce the amount of repayment in arrears which has become a burden to companies and enterprises as well as to not affect the provisions provided in the subsequent financial year.
The prudent spending also include paying all electricity and water bills arrears by the ministries and departments in order not to affect the allocation of the ministry or department’s utilities in the next financial year.
Finally, the initiative entails providing a central contract for the repair and renovation of chillers in government buildings that have been identified to save on the cost of implementation.
At present, some maintenance of government assets is undertaken by private companies.
Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd is currently conducting research and analysis on the best structure to assist the government in better maintenance of government-owned assets, taking into account the involvement of the private sector and the upgrading of facility management.
The minister said that the involvement of the private sector will reduce cost to the government.
For example, the private sector’s involvement since January 2017 in the maintenance and operation of the Brunei Darussalam International Defence Exhibition and Conference (BRIDEX) has been successful in improving the performance of the building and reducing overall operating cost.
Earlier, the minister presented the initiatives taken during the financial year 2018/2019 to enhance control, enforcement and productivity activities.
These included enforcing the Amendment of Customs Order Chapter 136 (Compounding of Offences) which provides for compound fines to be increased from BND1,000 to not more than BND5,000 on March 26, 2018; and introducing the Vehicle Entry/Exit System (VES) on April 29, 2018.
VES is one of the initiatives of the Royal Customs and Excise Department in order to facilitate vehicle registration.
The minister also highlighted on upgrading the Brunei Darussalam National Single Window (BDNSW) system involving 20 government agencies that control various types of import and export goods aimed at improving efficiency and accelerating cargo clearance.
Other initiatives included enforcing the use of the e-invoice portal system from August 1, 2018 to facilitate suppliers to know the status of invoices or claims made to the government; and introducing the Insolvency (Winding Up) Rules and Insolvency (Insolvency Practitioners) Rules in September 2018 to further strengthen the insolvency legislation.
The signing of the Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) with the Cambodian Government effective April 26, 2018, and the Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEA) with India on February 28, 2019, were also implemented during the financial year 2018/2019.