It has been an unprecedented year. With the spread of COVID-19 around the world, cross-border movements have been greatly affected, reducing to essential purposes only. This has resulted in businesses coming up with new ways to attract people to their establishments.
However, I believe that it should not solely be the responsibility of entrepreneurs to campaign for the populace to buy locally; the authorities should do their parts in ensuring that the areas that have been earmarked for the school holidays – as well as the duration of the coronavirus epidemic – are spruced up to make it easier for businesses to cater to visitors.
For example, the beautifying of the capital by inviting artists to paint murals depicting the local culture and heritage is a step in the right direction; so are the weekly Bandar Ku Ceria and the recent Robert Street Festival.
However, there are still a number of neglected zones in town that need attention. Among them is the Brunei Public Library, which has been largely overlooked and forgotten. While a number of calls have been made and campaigns held to promote a reading culture in the country, I believe that making a serious effort in reviving the national library is a better message to the masses, that learning is encouraged and revered.
Then, there is a proverbial elephant in the room – parking charges. While it’s not throat-cuttingly high compared to cities around the world, it can get expensive if the aim is to keep visitors in town longer. A friend of mine recently attended a convention in the capital. The parking fees were not waived. Had the event lasted the whole day, I can imagine a number of people leaving early or opting to skip it altogether.
Not to mention the cinema near the Brunei River. It would be good to see it being refurbished without losing the feel of yesteryear and turned into a centre for performing arts and screening of local productions and old movies.
With the pandemic affecting travels and the population being forced to find entertainment domestically, the authorities have the golden opportunity to go back to the drawing board and rethink what the capital stands for. While locally-designed murals are great at showcasing our heritage, there should also be places of interest within the town for visitors to learn more about our history and traditions.
Kacang Meet Butter