$35m fund to build houses for impoverished families

National 2 minutes, 44 seconds

BRUNEI-MUARA

THE government has allocated $35 million for the ongoing nationwide project to construct homes for fakir miskin (poor) in Brunei, Ministry of Development's Permanent Secretary (Administration and Finance) Hj Mohd Rozan Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos told The Brunei Times yesterday.

Eleven houses under the project's first phase have been handed over to beneficiaries. Forty-seven more are scheduled for completion by the middle of May next year, according to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), the agency overseeing the project.

Other agencies involved in the project are Ministry of Development, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. The project began last year with a focus group assessing the situation of the poor in Brunei.

Community Development Department (JAPEM) director Datin Hjh Adina Othman said that findings from the focus group suggest that a majority of the impoverished are facing housing-related problems.

"They might get $500 in welfare benefits for example, but (due to other commitments), they do not have enough to build a house for themselves," she said.

Some of them might have houses which they have inherited, but are dilapidated, she said.

The committee for the housing project has set a target of building at least 500 homes in three phases, said Hj Mohd Rozan, who is also the co-chairperson for the committee.

However, the project is likely to be extended as applications for housing assistance for the poor continue to roll in.

The permanent secretary said that the next step would be to address impoverished families who do not have land, such as those from Kg Ayer.

Datin Hjh Adina said that JAPEM is also looking into carrying a similar housing project for poor non-Muslim individuals in the country. Fakir miskin refers to the poor among the Muslim population.

Eligibility for the project was subject to assessment on a case-by-case basis. Applications would only be approved following recommendations from relevant authorities such as the district offices, the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) and the department itself.

Yesterday saw the handing-over of four more houses in Brunei-Muara district under the project.

Yunus Abd Lamit @ Hamid received a $69,000, three-bedroom house, which was officially handed over to him by Hj Mohd Rozan.

The construction of the house which is located in Kg Pancha Delima, Berakas, started in May 30 this year.

Earning a living as a security guard, Yunus has 10 children to support.

"Eight of us will be staying in our new home and the rest will living in our (former) house," he said.

Meanwhile, a tearful Hjh Mahal Hunus/Yunus expressed her appreciation for the assistance from the government.

Now that she has a new home in Jalan Madang, she expected her life to be much easier.

She said that the government had previously given her $530 per month through old-age pension and welfare benefits to the poor.

Recently, she had also received $7,000 when His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam presented about $90 million worth of zakat (tithes) to 4,084 impoverished families.

The $7,000 should support Hjh Mahal for the next 12 months.

"Thank you to His Majesty and His Majesty's government for seeing us through our hardship," she said. Her new $63,000 home as well as all the houses under the project are funded by the nation's zakat funds.

The Brunei Times