Izah Azahari, James Kon & Hakim Hayat
The Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) has reduced the country’s unemployment rate, especially in providing equal opportunities to vulnerable groups, said Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Yang Berhormat Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin on the second day of the 17th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday.
A total of 873 people from several groups including persons with different abilities (OKU), aid recipients and low-income groups have gained employment throughout last year, highlighting the commitment put forward by the Community Development Department (JAPEM) in working with MPEC and JobCentre Brunei through the Employment Plan Programme.
“More importantly, the long-term impact is also being given through continuous empowerment and engagement,” he said. “This is in line with the Poverty Eradication Action Plan and the OKU Action Plan under the National Social Issues Council towards forming an independent target group.”
Similar commitment was made by Minister of Development Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Ir Awang Haji Suhaimi bin Haji Gafar, who said the Ministry of Development (MoD) is determined in generating opportunities in the construction industry. He also called on unemployed locals to acquire marketable skills through skills training programmes such as architecture, mechanical and engineering, civil and structural (ARMECS) bridging programme.
LegCo member Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty binti Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Abdul Rahman, meanwhile, commended the MPEC for reducing the rate of unemployment through a whole-of-nation approach covering five clusters – energy, IT, construction, hospitality and tourism, and maritime – through a tripartite in supervising industry and education.
“The COVID-19 pandemic did not severely impact the economic planning for a sustainable economy. This can be seen through the launch and dissemination of various core strategic plans and the latest working framework by the ministries in planning for better changes such as the Brunei Darussalam Economic Blueprint and the Digital Economy Master Plan, in accordance with the Brunei Vision of 2035,” she said.
Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty also urged for various sectors to be covered in future dialogue involving stakeholders, for a productive outcome on emerging issues especially national development and cooperation from ministries on issues that need cross-cutting areas.
Yang Berhormat Pengiran Haji Ali bin Pengiran Maon also lauded MPEC’s work in generating employment opportunities for locals but suggested that the issue of “overqualified” candidates in any government sector vacancies should be evaluated and ironed out.
“This policy or the job requirements should be changed, and the overqualified candidates should not be seen as a problem but an opportunity for locals to compete for government sector jobs,” he said during the afternoon session yesterday.
Tutong District representative Yang Berhormat Ramli bin Haji Lahit, meanwhile, mooted for the construction of a technical and vocational school in Tutong District, as part of the government’s proactive plan in ensuring skills and entrepreneurship are inculcated for all.
Yang Berhormat Ramli also called on support from all parties in affording locals more opportunities to be employed in blue-collar work, such as construction and operation of machinery, through education institutions that can provide relevant training.
“They don’t necessarily need to have a high level of education to enter the courses, as long as they are hardworking and driven,” he said.
He added that many industries in the country are dominated by foreigners but can be filled by locals. Thus, he suggested that a levy be introduced in the employment of foreign workers to ensure more locals in the private sector.
Yang Berhormat Hanapi bin Mohd Siput, representing Belait District, believed there should be a new plan to help communities in rural areas to spruce up local economies.
He proposed that housing be built in rural areas to bring various industries, such as agriculture, light manufacturing and labour, to help generate employment for the rural communities.
“All these facilities provided by the government would not be valuable if the rural population is declining due to the lack of development,” he said, adding that relevant parties and the community should work together to generate a safe and high-quality rural housing environment.