Brunei suffers from ‘relative poverty’

National 2 minutes, 14 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

WITH the rising cost of living, reviewing the salary scale of both public and private sectors can be a better way of reducing poverty in the country.

At yesterday's opening of the fourth State Legislative Council Meeting His Majesty the Sultan and Yang-Di Pertuan of Brunei called for aggressive efforts to reduce poverty.

A local economist, who does not want to be named, said Brunei faces what he termed as 'relative poverty'. According to him, 'relative poverty' is when a household earns less than 50 per cent of the average income.

He gave an example of an individual earning $1,000 to support a family of nine. All in all he has a financial responsibility of 10 persons including himself. This leaves $100 per person. But if the household's cost of necessities is $200 a month, an amount lesser than what is distributed, it can be classified as 'relative poverty'.

His example was based on a contributing factor to poverty in Brunei whereby even with employment, heavy financial responsibility causes constraints and difficulties.

"You would need to compare the expenditure of our poor people and their income to ensure financial sustainability, the cost of living as such disables the person to sustain and manage family monetary responsibilities," said the local economist.

Relative poverty is the opposite of absolute poverty, which is defined as the inability to purchase the very basic of daily necessities.

He did however take into account the increment of lower ranking government servants in 2006 noting the increasing living costs.

"Private institutions may consider reviewing salary scales as a form of social obligation while encouraging local employment," he said.

Datin Adina Othman the director of the Community Development Department under the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports, on the other hand has a different view on reviewing the pay scale as an effort to reduce poverty, rather raising the urgency to review policies.

"There needs increased efforts to develop them into self-sustainable individuals..a lot of policies, not all with our department, needs to be looked at with an integrated approach," she said, adding this is a 'cross-cutting' issue.

Both the local economist and Datin Adina acknowledged the increasing number of applicants for welfare benefits through the community development department and the Ministry of Religious Affairs where in any case, applicants are getting younger and younger.

"The (profile) of people applying is definitely getting younger. In the past it used to be the old and the sick, now you can see more younger ones applying," said Datin Adina.

The economist said another source of poverty is the lack of qualification to secure employment as well as possessing crime-related history.

The Brunei Times