Public owes govt $226m in unpaid utility bills
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
BRUNEI residents owe the government a staggering $226 million in unpaid public utility bills, the Second Minister of Finance said yesterday.
Of the total, $106 million represents unpaid electricity bills, while unpaid water supply bills amounted to $44 million, said Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdul Rahman Hj Ibrahim.
"Such debts should be settled by the public and be used to renovate schools, construct roads, buy hospital equipment, which was raised by members here," he said during the State Legislative Council meeting.
He stressed the need to raise public awareness in complying with rules and regulations, which are geared towards increasing government revenues.
"The Ministry of Finance has already chased several companies, who do not provide return on tax and this will be expanded so that the public will pay what they are supposed to pay," the minister said.
Also, Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman noted that there is a total of $4 million of unresolved debts under the Microcredit Financing Scheme for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Figures show that 398 firms have been granted $7.6 million worth of assistance under the Microcredit Financing Scheme. As of October 31, 2007, a total of 83 entrepreneurs have received $28.38 million worth of loans through the Enterprise Facilitation Scheme. This includes 29 entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector with $9.4 million, fisheries and manufacturing, $11.6 million and $5.6 million, respectively, he added.
A total of $29.2 million has also been channelled to two local banks to provide loans to applicants, the minister said.
The objective of these financing schemes was to help entrepreneurs start and develop their businesses and become exporters, he said.
Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman was replying to appointed member Dato Paduka Hj Puasa Orang Kaya Seri Pahlawan Tudin's speculation that the SME financing schemes were only granted to business projects in the agriculture sector.
Dato Hj Puasa said that there are a total of 162 SMEs and cooperatives who are currently registered with the Brunei Industrial Development Authority.
Some of the cooperatives are facing problems getting financing from banks and no explanation was given as to why their applications for financial assistance was not approved, he said.
He proposed a special budget allocation for SMEs and cooperatives, which can fall under the control of an authority body in the form of an SME and cooperative bank.
The Brunei Times