| Azlan Othman |
THE Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) has been allocated a budget of B$256.93 million for the Financial Year 2018/2019. In the previous fiscal, the allocated budget was B$259.97 million.
Deliberating on the proposed budget for the ministry at the 14th Legislative Council session yesterday, Minister of Religious Affairs YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Awang Othman said the budget comprises B$206,192,330 for employees’ salary disbursement; B$30,033,250 for recurring expenditure. An allocation of B$20,709,000 has been provided for development expenditure (B$23,977,000 in 2017-2018), taking the total budget to B$256,934,580 (in 2017-2018).
The allocation is to implement the programmes under the five main services of the Ministry of Religious Affairs:
For management and administration covering Haj management, asset management, maintenance of information technology systems and management of religious affairs at the district level, an allocation of B$19,928,830 has been made.
For the propagation of Dakwah and Islamic Syiar which include the celebrations to mark major Islamic calendar events, mosque Takmir and Dakwah propagation, B$24,875,325 is allocated.
An amount of B$6,109,990 is allocated for Islamic laws which includes the Brunei Islamic Religious Council, prosecution and enforcement.
For social security which covers Halal food and goods, family counselling services and collection and distribution of tithe, B$5,922,450 is allocated.
In the estimated development expenditure this year for Dakwah and Islamic teachings, B$400,000 is for construction of a new mosque in RPN Kampong Meragang.
An amount of B$20,309,000 is for Islamic education of which B$17 million is for completing the new building of Arabic religious school in RPN Kampong Rimba and B$1.8 million is for completing the construction of Jalan Bedil Religious School.
An allocation of B$119,000 is for upgrading the multipurpose hall, dormitory kitchen and teachers’ room of Hassanal Bolkiah Boys Arabic Secondary School.
Meanwhile, the plan to construct a covered multipurpose hall for Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Damit Girls Arabic Religious Secondary School, B$190,000 has been allocated. Meanwhile, B$1.2 million has been earmarked to meet miscellaneous expenses.
There are several projects under the main function of the Dakwah and Islamic teachings that are incorporated in the 11th National Development Plan (RKN) estimate. They include construction of six new mosques at a cost of B$30 million, one of which is building a new mosque at RPN Kampong Meragang at a cost of B$5 million and an initial allocation of B$400,000 has been earmarked for this purpose in this year’s budget.
The minister also said five more new mosques are planned under the 11th RKN with a plan cost of B$5 million each. They include new mosques at RPN Kampong Panchor Mengkubau, RPN Kampong Lugu, RPN Kampong Rimba, STKRJ Kampong Telisai area and RPN Kampong Lumut.
In addition, some education projects have been included in the RKN expenses even though they were not allocated funds in the 2018-2019 budget. They are: Batu Marang Religious School building at a cost of B$2 million, construction of new Islamic Religious Activity Centre/ Religious School in Kampong Senukoh with a cost of B$2 million, construction of a new block for the Tanah Jambu religious school at a cost of B$2.5 million, and Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB) with a plan cost of B$25 million.
For the construction of new buildings for Kampong Kiulap religious school and Kampong Bolkiah religious school, B$3.8 million and B$3 million respectively have been allocated.
Achievements in 2017
The minister also shared developments throughout the year 2017. He said KUPU SB has implemented over 100 intellectual and physical skills enhancement activities such as seminars, workshops and religious education and management dissemination compared to 73 activities in 2016. It also carries out community, religious and administrative activities to address the need to strengthen religious services, including religious education.
According to KUPU SB’s demographic statistics, in 2017, some 142 of its graduates upgraded their studies to higher levels, and 31 to local universities namely Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) and Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD). Currently, 34 of its students pursue their studies overseas.
YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin also said that a total of 130 out of 167 Arabic schools and religious schools (or 77.84 per cent) have achieved Level 3 (Good) based on the Brunei School Standard.
There is also an increase in the number of skilled huffaz Al-Quran in the field of Qira’at through the Diploma Programme of ‘Aliyah Qira’at at Institut Tahfiz Al-Quran Sultan Haji Hassanal Bokiah – from 25 to 49.
Meanwhile, the number of pilgrims last year has increased to 1,000 compared to 400, 600 and 800 in the previous three years, the minister said, adding that the waiting period for those who register each year has been reduced to two-three years.
Three new mosques have been completed and opened for prayers last year, namely, Pengiran Anak Haji Mohamed Alam Mosque in Kampong Sengkarai (April 7, 2017), Pehin Khatib Abdullah Mosque in Kampong Kulapis (May 19, 2017) and Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque in Kampong Mentiri (reconstruction – June 23, 2017).
The minister also said that the policy amendment of Halal Certificate and Halal Label, 2017 requires compulsory application for Halal Certificate and/or Halal Permit for food-related business owners in Brunei Darussalam effective May 26, 2017.
However, pursuant to Section 49b of the Halal Certificate and Halal Label (Amendment) 2017, exemption is granted to two types of business categories, namely non-Muslim businesses that provide or distribute food for non-Muslims only (restricted restaurants) and businesses that cannot meet the requirements and guarantees for Halal certification such as for business types under the three sub-categories only, namely food vendors (usually home-based), fixed stalls as well as short-term stalls.
Before any exceptions are made, food/beverage operators are required to apply for Halal Certificate or Halal Permit beforehand from the Halal Food Control Division which is to ensure the use of Halal ingredients.
So far, the number of Halal Certificates/Halal Labels provided are as follows: 1,572 Halal Certificates for public restaurants; 6,607 Halal Permits for domestic products; 344 Halal Permits for foreign products; 213 Halal Certificates for domestic factories; 22 Halal Certificates for overseas refineries.
The minister said that the Halal Permit cost has been revised and reviewed as follows:
For Micro Industry – businesses that employ one to four employees – the Halal Permit cost is B$5 per product.
For Small Industry – businesses that employ five-19 employees, the Halal Permit cost is B$50 for every 20 products.
For Medium Industry – businesses that employ 20-99 employees, the Halal Permit cost is B$300 for every 20 products.
For Macro Industry – businesses that employ over 100 employees the permit cost is B$700 for every 20 products.
For Multinationals, the Halal Permit cost is B$1,000 for every 20 products.
The Minister of Religious Affairs also said that the number of Zakat Fitrah (tithe) payers has continued to increase in the past three years.
In 2015, a total of 330,976 people contributed B$931,638.97 as tithe. Meanwhile in 2016, total of 332,660 people paid a total tithe of B$937,478.56. And in year 2017, Zakat Fitrah was B$940,123.80 from 350,069 people.
Collection of Zakat on property also increased over the past three years – 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2015, B$16,830,149.77 from 5,014 people was recorded while in 2016, a total of B$17,413,561.32 from 4,625 people was recorded. Meanwhile in 2017, B$17,485,505.54 was collected from 5,047 people.
Until the end of December 2017, a total of 2,794 poor and destitute family heads having a total of 5,505 dependents were listed as monthly beneficiaries for a two-year period. A total B$20,030,196.11 was deposited into their respective bank accounts.
They receive it in the middle of every month. The distribution does not include Al-Gharimin (debtors) and Muallaf (Muslim converts).
“I appreciate Zakat payers, especially property Zakat payers including Islamic financial institutions TAIB and BIBD that manage Zakat of their customers efficiently,” the minister said.
In efforts to provide Zakat recipients with skills training, the Youth Development Centre of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has launched the PROPAZ programme (Asnaf Zakat Enrichment Programme) to help them get out of the cycle of poverty or from the poor/destitute category.
The ministry will continue with the PROPAZ programme and work on other programmes.
Currently two teenage boys from two recipient families are undergoing training under the jurisdiction of JAKIM in Kuala Lumpur.
The purpose of the programme is to guide and encourage the youth to contribute to the advancement and enhancement of religious beliefs and practices.
Mosque Construction Fund
The minister also said that the Mosque Construction Fund which was launched more than two years ago has been well received.
As of December 2017, the total collection stood at B$7,503,965.27.
To utilise the accumulated funds, the Brunei Islamic Religious Council has approved the plan for the construction of two mosques with the consent from 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.
The mosques are: The B$3.6-million Kampong Tanjung Bunut Mosque which is expected to be completed by June 2018 while the Bukit Panggal Mosque has opened for tender and will be constructed soon.
The minister said his ministry is currently looking into a proposal to build several mosques within a five-year period with a fund mobilisation drive spanning five years (60-month) which is projected to raise B$18 million from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2023.
The proposal will be brought to the Brunei Islamic Religious Council meeting. People, especially those who contribute to the Mosque Construction Fund, including the 55,173 public servants and members of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and the Royal Brunei Police Force making monthly donations through salary deductions, will be made aware of the details of the plan from time to time, the minister said.