Poverty still rife in Kampong Ayer
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
POVERTY remains rife in Kg Ayer as its residents continue to grapple with unemployment and low levels of education.
An empirical study on poverty in the water village, conducted by a senior lecturer from Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA), found that 46 per cent earned below $1,000 and 43 per cent have no fixed income.
Ustazah Hjh Rose Abdullah said unemployment and low levels of education were the main factors contributing to poverty in Kg Ayer.
Her study revealed that the cycle of poverty was also perpetuated by problems that hinder their children’s education. Around 71 per cent claimed they have trouble sending their children to school due to lack of transport and finances.
Meanwhile, 15 per cent dropped out of high school citing reasons such as difficulty in coping with studies, unable to afford school expenses and working to help the family.
The majority of Kg Ayer residents interviewed for the study were self-employed as fishermen and water taxi operators, while others engaged in trading, food processing, carpentry, construction work and handicrafts for income.
However, Ustazah Hjh Rose’s study also found that more than 60 per cent owned their houses and were satisfied with their living conditions.
“Despite what might appear as shabby to other people, many of those residing in Kg Ayer believe their house is in good condition,” she said in a public lecture at UNISSA last Saturday, where she presented the findings of her 2012 study involving 100 respondents on poverty in Brunei’s water village.
About 65 per cent were considered healthy and 56 per cent spent less than or equal to what they earned, while 46 per cent were in debt.
Findings showed that 40 per cent waited over a year for government assistance, whereby most received old age pensions and monthly education allowances. Some residents were also provided with monthly welfare aid schemes and monthly subsistence allowances.
Although the recipients said the government helped to reduce their financial burdens, 75 per cent felt the assistance they received were insufficient.
A minority were also involved in income generating programmes such as the PERKASA programme under the Community Development Department (JAPEM) and the PROPAZ programme under the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB).
The study further highlighted the need for microfinance among Kg Ayer residents as 72 per cent were willing to take out loans.
More than half said they would use the loans to either set up a microenterprise or spend the money on food and daily needs, while others said they would undertake housing repairs. Some planned to use their loans for education.
“There needs to be a specific programme to overcome poverty in Kg Ayer,” said Ustazah Hjh Rose, noting the unique lifestyle of the water village.
Situated in the heart of the capital, buildings in Kg Ayer are constructed on stilts above the Brunei River and connected by wooden walkways. According to the study, there has been a huge decrease in the number of houses and people in the water village over the past 20 years.
The population has dropped from 2,593 houses and 24,745 people in 1991 to 1,736 houses and 11,662 people in 2010.
With the mass migration of residents to the mainland, Ustazah Hjh Rose pointed out that many who stayed in the water village could not afford to move elsewhere. “Those who were able to move to the mainland would then give their Kg Ayer house to underprivileged relatives,” she explained.
MUIB classified 1,457 water village residents, an estimated 12.5 per cent of the Kg Ayer population, as “asnaf fakir miskin” (poor, destitute and needy) in 2010.
The Brunei Times