LegCo passes $4.98b budget for 2009/10

National 2 minutes, 47 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE State Legislative Council yesterday approved a proposed national budget of $4,985,785,600 for fiscal year 2009/2010, targeting increased efforts in poverty eradication and ensuring food security in the medium and long term.

The budget also aims to ensure a strong and competitive fiscal position, increase government revenues (which stood at $475.8 million in March 2008), revise rates for government services "without affecting lower income groups" and intensify competition within the country's investment environment to attract more foreign direct investment, the Minister of Finance II said.

About 18.8 per cent ($1,060,900,000) of the budget will go to human resource development and capacity building, said Finance Minister II Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Paduka Hj Abdul Rahman Hj Ibrahim. This is meant to increase research and development activities to assist in economic diversification efforts.

The budget for this fiscal year, which saw an increase of $200 million from the previous fiscal year, will be spent on four other areas: defence and homeland security, social harmony and poverty eradication, national food security, and the expansion and strengthening of the private sector.

The defence and security sector will receive 18.5 per cent ($1,046,000,000) of the budget this year, and an additional $10 million contingency fund has also been allocated to cover "unexpected expenses", said Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman.

In response to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam's titah during the opening of the legislative council last Thursday, another $30 million has been allocated to speed up repair, maintenance and improvement works for infrastructure and public facilities, such as drainage systems, water and electric supply and communication systems, he said.

Yesterday's Legislative Council meeting announced the establishment of two national committees to tackle poverty and social issues in the country the Special Committee for Poverty Issues and the National Committee for Tackling Social Problems. The government has a budget of $10 million to address poverty.

It allocated $270.3 million for socio-economic and public welfare. This is expected to result in an increase in job positions in the Community Development Department under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

It allocated $340.5 million for the improvement of the standards of medical and health services in the country, and $680.73 million for the construction sector and public facilities.

The government is aiming to achieve "cost-effective" targets for self-sufficiency in food, the minister said, noting a budget of $30 million for support strategies and plans.

It allocated $178.17 million for government agencies implementing plans and programmes to expand and strengthen the private sector. To achieve this, the minister said the government will provide basic infrastructure for business start-ups as well as skills training facilities and identify government services that can be outsourced to the private sector.

Corporate tax for fiscal year 2010 and the following years will also be reduced by two per cent to 23.5 per cent. To encourage the hiring of local workers, the amount that employers contribute to the Employees' Trust Fund (TAP) will be increased by another 100 per cent, Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman said.

The Department of Economic Planning and Development has forecasted a 1.2 to 3.1 per cent growth for Brunei's gross domestic product this year.

The minister said the economic growth will be spurred on by increased manpower in the civil service, implementation of projects under the National Development Plan, and business spin-off businesses from the methanol plant.

The Brunei Times