Debt payment priority for most receivers

, , National 4 minutes, 36 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

-Gov't pays Cost of Living Allowance or 'Elaun Sara Hidup'

SETTLING debts and spending for Hari Raya necessities become priority for civil servants who just received their Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) or 'Elaun Sara Hidup'. Banks and ATM machines in the capital yesterday saw long queues of members of the civil service wanting to check if their COLA allowance has been paid or not.

People also seen thronging malls and department stores in connection with the allowance payment.

Most people interviewed by The Brunei Times said that settling debt first before anything else is important.

Rosmah Hj Othman, a teacher from Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah School, whose husband received his COLA yesterday, said that for them settling debt is a priority.

She said she agreed to deducting part of COLA in order to pay outstanding debt owed to the government.

Her husband, Pg Mohd Saleh Pg Hj Yunus, an engineer at the Ministry of Defence (MinDef), had part of his COLA deducted to settle off the money owed.

"It is good to pay it off first because it is a good feeling once it is settled. Then after that, we can enjoy," she said.

"A number of people had commented in Facebook that all of their COLA were deducted but we do not know if this is real. But I do not think the government would do that and leaves people with nothing," said Rosmah.

Jamail Hj Rabaha, who also works at MinDef, echoed similar sentiment, saying any outstanding debt should be paid off first.

"If the debt is not paid, people may neglect to pay it back. This may affect the development of the country," he said.

"This is also a good timing for the Elaun Sara Hidup to be released because Hari Raya is here and it can be used to buy things," said Jamal.

Whereas for Rosmah, the next priority with the money received will go towards her children's needs. "The rest we will use for Hari Raya but not much, depending on the needs. Most important is for the children," she said.

For Amoi Norafizah, 26, an employee of MinDef, the money will be used for her children's future and savings.

"We are trying not to spend it first, because like I said, we want to save it for the future.

"If possible, people must keep the money for the future even if they had received a lot," Amoi said in her word of advice.

Jamail also said that more than half of the money he received will go towards his savings.

"The remaining will be spent for daily use and for Hari Raya needs. We will use it to pay off our debts too," said Jamail.

Among people in the queue at the ATM Centre at The Mall was Hj Dahlan Hj Hidup, who told The Brunei Times that he did not wait that long... "just 20 minutes," he said.

"I guessed they (the government) have deducted a little from my cost of living allowance when I checked my BIBD account," he said.

The 40-year-old shared that he plans to use the rest of his allowance to buy things for Hari Raya and to undertake his home repair, like replacing the old lights and broken toilet to repainting the walls. "I also want to use some of it to pay for my MasterCard bills," he said.

Meanwhile, Hj Zaini Hj Ibrahim, who works for the Port Department, said receiving or not receiving his cost of living allowance would have little effect in how he managed his finance.

"If I get mine, I will feel grateful and I will use it the way I use my salary to pay my monthly bills," he said as he waited for his turn at the ATM.

"This allowance is a gift from His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam," he said.

A women, who wished to be known as Florindah HAR, said that people receiving the allowance should place priority in paying their debt to the government, which include previous electricity and water bills.

"In the end, it falls on the individual," she said, "but it is better to use some to pay one's debt."

"The rest of it would be for personal use," she said.

For her part, she said that she plans to use some of her allowance to prepare for Hari Raya, to provide for her children's education needs and for her family's Haj fund.

"InsyaAllah, we will also use it to visit our son, who is currently working overseas," she added.

The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) had earlier announced in a circular that 25 per cent of the COLA of civil servants, held by the government, would be paid in July.

According to the memo, which came into effect on March 7, the savings balance is calculated on the accumulated savings amount at the end of each year, and not on the total savings credited on a certain year only.

Monthly-paid employees were paid yesterday, while daily wage staff will receive their pay on July 30.

However, the savings from the cost of living allowance was released only on the condition that any outstanding debts owed to the government must be settled prior to any payment of the allowance savings.

The Brunei Times