Positive growth despite COVID-19 challenge

Azlan Othman

Despite the uncertain world economic situation, and with the Sultanate bearing a deficit, in addition to facing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, Brunei Darussalam, with the permission of Allah the Almighty and under the wise leadership 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, was able to record a favourable growth rate, while enjoying some significant reforms in terms of infrastructure to preserve the peace and well-being of the people of the country.

This was said by Minister of Home Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong at the final day of the 17th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday, during which the issues of job opportunities among locals, stray dog population and cleanliness were also brought under the microscope.

“On the issue of unemployment, we have witnessed success in efforts and plans implemented by ministries and agencies responsible for providing employment opportunities, improving the marketability and employability of locals, and thereby lowering the unemployment rate.

“Similarly, there has been a change in mindset among the youth and job seekers. Based on Brunei JobCentre details, 65 per cent or 4,304 vacancies were filled. Graduates too are exploring the field of entrepreneurship, reflecting an innovative and creative attitude.

“I believe with whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approaches, we will achieve one of the national aspirations of having educated, highly skilled and successful people before 2035.

“On increasing the country’s productivity to diversify the economy, we are grateful to the appointed LegCo members for putting forward suggestions to help reduce dependence on oil and gas, and on ways to control the deficit, either by increasing revenue or reduce expenses.

Minister of Home Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

“We listen to the input presented by ministries to jointly diversify the economy and strengthen the socio-economic resilience of the country. The government will continue to work with the private sector – including government-linked companies (GLCs) and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) – in providing facilities and incentives, as well as utilising the latest technology for products to be more competitive and to penetrate foreign markets through trade exports,” Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar said.

These include the preparation of the Brunei Darussalam Economic Blueprint; Towards a Dynamic and Sustainable Economy, Digital Economy Masterplan, National Welfare System (SKN); Green Protocol Policy and Brunei Darussalam National Climate Change Policy; and National Youth Policy and Strategy 2020-2035. These efforts will stimulate economic growth and ensure the welfare of the people is always guaranteed.

“In the digital era and with the world entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0), we have also heard of ongoing ministerial efforts to increase initiatives towards digitalisation, including preparing a platform to strengthen the country’s digital economy.

“These include Government Employee Management System (GEMS), SKN, Immigration and National Registration System (INRS) Project, Labour Management Information System (LMIS) Project, One Common Billing System (OCBS), Treasury Accounting Financial Information System (TAFIS 2.0) and others. These systems hope to improve the quality of work and provide stable, effective facilities to the public,” he said.

On the subject of domestic maid recruitment, the minister said that since the pandemic broke out here in March 2020, the government has only given consideration to bringing in foreign workers for essential matters and absolutely needed fields as a precautionary measure in curbing the spread of the virus.

Assessing the COVID-19 situation in neighbouring countries, the government has allowed the return of domestic helpers and private drivers who had left for home on holiday.

For those allowed to return to the Sultanate, they must comply with current regulations, including undergoing a swab test and mandatory isolation. The government will continue to monitor the situation to alleviate the problem of bringing in maids and private drivers from abroad.

The issue of stray dogs was also raised, with the minister extending gratitude to NGO Sejahtera Community for helping to manage the situation. The minister hopes the community will extend support and assistance to Sejahtera Community for the charitable effort.

On the subject of cleanliness, the minister said, various agencies have implemented efforts to address hygiene issues and problems.

“We are, however, still not satisfied with the level of cleanliness. We need to examine the extent to which we are effective through task forces and through the whole-of-nation approach to overcome the problems of garbage disposal, and maintaining overall cleanliness,” Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar said.