Focus on public safety, social welfare

National 2 minutes, 28 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

BRUNEI'S State Legislative Council yesterday approved the proposed budget of $4.7 billion, of which more than half will be focused on public safety and social welfare for the financial year 2008/2009.

The 25 members of the council made no objections to the total budget after the Second Minister of Finance spelt out the four main areas that will be targeted, including the development and strengthening of the private sector, increase in productivity and efficiency, and increase in diversifying sources of income.

Expenditure for public safety and social welfare includes focus on the environment, which is the main area to ensure the standard of living of the country's citizens and residents, said Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdul Rahman Hj Ibrahim during his presentation of the budget at the Dewan Majlis.

"It is also an important basis for the development of the country, especially in providing a conducive environment to attract foreign direct investment into the country," he said.

The new budget was an increase from the total budget of $4.6 billion allocated in the previous fiscal year of 2006/2007.

Some 50.75 per cent or $2.7 billion have been prepared to cover projects related to public safety and social welfare, including infrastructure, public housing, health and development of citizens' socio-economic health.

He said that the government, under the control of the Ministry of Finance's Public Safety and Security, is also allocating a total of $10 million to handle issues related to disease outbreaks and natural disasters.

"The involvement of the private sector in driving the country's economy is very important, so that it will not continue to depend on government activities and expenditure,"he said.

The minister said efforts in developing the private sector include encouraging foreign direct invesments, especially multinational corporations, developing the ability of small and medium enterprises and encouraging public-private partnership in providing services.

A total of $315 million will be allocated to fund projects to strengthen the private sector, including $18.4 million for the agriculture sector.

The focus on the increase of productivity and efficiency, is aimed at preparing human resources who will be the country's assets to ensure that the country will continue to move forward and compete in the international arena, Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman explained.

He said continuous efforts were neded to build capacity in terms of knowledge and innovation, especially through capacity building and awareness programmes.

Research and development should be focused, especially on renewable energy resources, agriculture, aquaculture, communities and ICT, he added.

The minister also noted the various forms of government support, such as subsidies that also coveredwater and electric expenses, which were the lowest in the region.

Local fuel subsidies for vehicles was estimated at about $210 million for 2006 compared to $153 million at the end last year's third quarter.

"All parties must be ready to help decrease the government's burden by practising conservation in their usage, so that such facilities can continue to be enjoyed in the future," he said.

The Brunei Times