Bonus Day: All roads lead to ATMs

National 5 minutes, 20 seconds

BRUNEI-MUARA

AS EARLY as dawn yesterday, queues had already formed at the front doors of ATM booths around the country as the sun rose to greet what Bruneians have come to call "Bonus Day", when civil servants receive their remunerative reward for a year of hard work and dedication to their profession.

Traffic jams plagued key commercial areas throughout the day, particularly in Serusop, Bandar Seri Begawan and Kiulap, causing minor gridlocks at some intersections and testing the patience of motorists in search of parking spaces at already full car parks.

An officer at the Fisheries Department who asked to be named only as Jafri said he had a hard time looking for a parking spot. He had to park two blocks away from the TAIB branch in Kiulap and walk, only to end up at the wrong end of a long line of people stretching all the way out of the building.

"I came all the way here from Muara as the ATM machines in my area were out of order. It was difficult to find a parking spot earlier and it didn't occur to me that Kiulap was going to be jammed," he said.

Asked what he will be spending his hard-earned bonus on, Jafri replied, "The new school term is just around the corner and, like every other year, my wife and I will prioritise buying books, stationery, uniforms and other school supplies for our four children."

Mohd Asri, a father of two, said that he had been waiting outside the bank since before it opened for business.

He explained that he chose to make his withdraw at the counter because the queue at the ATM spilled out all the way to the next shop unit.

He added that the ATMs had preset limits on the amount that could be withdrawn by the same person within 24 hours, and that since it was Bonus Day, he wanted to withdraw more.

"I promised my eldest son I would get him his first video game console as he had passed his PSR exams this year with flying colours," he said when asked what he was going to spend his bonus on.

"Other than that, I have some loans to settle, and the remaining will go into my emergency fund," he added.

Mohd Khairul, a security guard at the TAIB branch in Kiulap, said that he saw a long line of people even before the doors were open, and more people kept pouring in throughout the busy morning.

"It took less than two hours for our ticket counter to reach 200. On normal days we usually reach that figure at the end of the day," Mohd Khairul said.

He added that additional security guard was posted for the day to ensure the safety and smooth serving of customers. "So far everything is under control. Everyone is cooperating in queues," he said.

Some people were willing to spend more than an hour in the long queue, even in the hot sun, to withdraw their hard-earned money.

Fendi, who lives at Sungai Akar, came all the way to BIBD's Kiulap branch to withdraw his salary from the counter. He had been waiting for his number for almost an hour when he was interviewed by The Brunei Times.

"It is something we all expect. Whether people came early or late, they still have to wait in line. I prefer withdrawing from the counter instead of from the ATM because, in my past experience, the machines ran out of money too quickly," he said.

"Though I have to wait longer for the counter service, it's good for me as it keeps me from the temptation of entering figures on the machine higher than I really need."

Over the years, he has learned from past mistakes and learned to practise smart spending and budgeting, Fendi explained.

"I don't really owe anyone or the bank much and I'm always thrifty, so I will definitely be able to save more this year. I'm only going to spend some on basic necessities," he added.

"It is an unusual sight for me," said Dayanti, a fresh graduate who just started her career in the government early this year.

It was the first time in her life she had received a bonus, said the 25-year-old, adding that she became more and more anxious the longer she spent in the long queue for the Standard Chartered Bank ATM at Hua Ho Manggis Mall.

"The excitement is there as I'm about to receive my first bonus. Now, I finally understand the thrill experienced by my friends and family on Bonus Day," she said ecstatically.

"I've been advised by my parents for many years not to splurge my hard-earned pay, so I've decided to give both my parents half of my bonus as a way of giving back to them after all the sacrifices they've made in raising me and getting me to where I am now," she said.

However, she added, "Though a little treat wouldn't hurt. I know I've been working hard for the past few months, so I'm still going to use my money to go shopping, but I'm just going it to spend here in the country as I want to support the economy, too.

"Besides, new year is coming, doesn't that call for a little celebration?" she added.

A government teacher who declined to be named said that he saw all the cars heading to the banks and that traffic was congested, but that didn't stop him from coming for a quick withdrawal at BIBD headquarters' ATM.

"My obligations drove me to the bank today. Paying the bills and the car loan as well as spending for my children's new school year are what got me on my feet this morning.

"There is no time to lose. The school holiday is nearly over and we will be very busy by the time the new year kicks in," he said.

"I did enjoy the previous years when we received our salaries and our bonuses four days earlier, as it gave us more time to check bookshops for better offers and buy school items such as stationery for the children," he said.

The Brunei Times