Public-private sector perk parity will cost $250m

National 2 minutes, 33 seconds


IT COULD cost the government $250 million a year to extend to private sector workers the same benefits given to their counterparts in the public sector, the Minister of Finance II said during the Legislative Council meeting yesterday.

Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdul Rahman Hj Ibrahim was addressing suggestions that were brought up earlier to encourage more locals to take up private sector employment. The suggestions included extending benefits like cost of living allowance.

“It is a good idea, if the private sector employers were to provide these benefits to their employees,” said the minister. “This is because their employees contribute to the development of their businesses.”

However, the minister said that the government pays out about $250 million a year already in public sector allowances. “If this was to be extended to the private sector, which is more than 50 per cent of the workforce, it could double this expense.”

He added that any decision to extend such benefits to the private sector would require a deep level of examination, including the government’s financial capacity in the long term.

The minister also highlighted existing benefits the government provides for local private sector workers, including the Employee Trust Fund, a retirement fund set up by the government for the private sector, and extended maternity leave that is subsidised by the government.

He also pointed out the burden of encouraging more locals to take up private sector jobs should not fall on the government alone. He called on companies to offer attractive salary and benefit packages, to create better working environments and to give benefits that reflect appreciation for their workers.

Last week, Dr Hj Abdul Latif Chuchu, president of the Federation of Brunei Malay Entrepreneurs, called on Legislative Council representatives to bring up giving employees in the private sector cost of living allowance.

“For many years now, I have been suggesting that cost of living allowance be extended to private sector employees. This would automatically encourage our local people to work in the sector,” he said.

Cost of living allowance released to state employees is dependent on salary, with those at the lower end of the scale receiving a bigger allowance. For example, civil servants who earn between $1,550 and $2,290 a month typically receive $120, while those in the $1,105-$1,825 salary bracket would receive an allowance of $170. The issue of cost of living allowance had also been previously brought up in the previous Legislative Council session.

For the 10th Legislative Council Session, Brunei-Muara District Representative Yang Berhormat Hj Jumat Akim brought this up on Saturday, calling for more benefits for locals working in the private sector “to make those working in the private sector feel more secure about their future”.

Tutong LegCo Representative Yang Berhormat Hj Ramli Hj Lahit supported the sentiment, and also called for equal facilities and incentives to be given to private sector employees. “It is hoped that any facilities and incentives provided to government staff would also be given to those in the private sector,” he said

The Brunei Times