With a future of ‘zero poverty’ in sight

Lyna Mohamad

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 has set zero poverty as a top goal for the nation to achieve.

The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), with its expertise in dealing with issues of poverty, implemented profiling for its welfare programme, with the aim of identifying the demographics of recipients to the right assistance is offered.

The Special Committee on Poverty Issues, under the National Council on Social Issues, has also increased its efforts by implementing the Poverty Action Plan to get the underprivileged out of the circle of poverty.

High-risk groups include youth that are not academically inclined, senior citizens, special needs and handicapped individuals, heads of large families and single mothers.

Last year, His Majesty consented to the establishment of the National Welfare System (SKN), administered by the MCYS and Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) Zakat Fund for the Asnaf (Poor and Destitute) for citizens and residents who wish to apply for the Monthly Welfare Assistance (BKB) scheme under the Community Development Department (JAPEM) or MUIB.

The SKN offers a centralised database for those in need to file their application for welfare assistance online. The database is then used to improve the effectiveness of other assistance programmes, in line with the government’s efforts to get welfare recipients above the poverty line.

The system also helps the government to conduct assessments with transparency and make use of the national criteria as a baseline to ascertain the eligibility of applicants, which includes aligning the use and calculation of the ‘Minimum Cost of Basic Needs’ to determine each applicant’s poverty level.

The MCYS, as the ministry entrusted to handle the SKN, has also established a taskforce to administer all applications and ensure only accurate information is stored in the system before channelling the applications to JAPEM or MUIB for further assessment.

Put forward by the MCYS in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MoE), the Community Empowerment Programme is another initiative that aims to promote independence among welfare recipients.

Meanwhile, JAPEM’s Plan of Action on Poverty Eradication covers education, health, employment, capacity building, housing, transportation, entrepreneurship, strengthening mechanisms, financial assistance, and policy and legislation.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) has also stepped up its efforts in reducing poverty by implementing the Asnaf Zakat Empowerment Programme (PROPAZ).

It serves to eradicate poverty through innovative means with the objectives of enhancing knowledge and skills to help underprivileged youth secure employment or gain enough confidence to venture into entrepreneurship.

Initiated by MUIB to empower the poor and the less fortunate, the programme has shown positive results since its inception in 2007, with past participants progressing well and earning a decent living through entrepreneurship or permanent employment.

PROPAZ is normally a six-month training programme. However, in September 2020, an offshoot of the programme was introduced to provide agricultural training for the asnaf (the poor and the destitute), who qualify for Zakat or tithe.

During a pilot programme, participants underwent a 15-month course that covered planting of vegetables and fruits, pest control and common crop diseases, post-harvest management and business matching.

Through the expansion of PROPAZ, by working closely with grassroots community councils to help empower the underprivileged, the goal of eradicating poverty certainly looks within reach.