Gov’t to cut public welfare spending

National 3 minutes, 19 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE government has proposed to cut public welfare spending in the budget for the 2016/2017 fiscal year, including health services, national housing and aid for the needy.

Spelling out the proposed budget for improving public welfare, Second Finance Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdul Rahman Hj Ibrahim said the government will spend $47.6 million on health services and purchase of medicines.

The figure represents a decrease as the government had proposed to spend $57.3 million on medicines in the 2015/2016 financial year budget.

During the 12th Legislative Council session yesterday, the minister yesterday announced the proposed budget of $5.6 billion focusing on four areas including ease of doing business, improve the country’s productivity and capacity building for human capital.

Improving public welfare is the fourth focus area of the proposed budget.

In addition, the government is expected to spend $8.3 million on sending patients for overseas medical treatment.

A total of $53.3 million has also been allocated for national housing under the National Development Plan, down from $78.7 million in the previous fiscal year.

The minister said $56.2 million has been earmarked for the maintenance of public facilities. In the previous fiscal year, the government had proposed to spend $70 million on maintenance of public infrastructure.

To address poverty, YB Pehin Dato Hj Abd Rahman said $2 million has been set aside for assistance programmes under the Ministry of Education. A total of $2.5 million was allocated in the previous financial year.

Financing rental fees to transport students is expected to cost the government $10 million.

Under the capacity building focus area, YB Pehin Dato Hj Abd Rahman said an excellent education will provide opportunities for youth to improve their quality of life and contribute to the country’s development at the same time.

“Among the priorities and objectives are efforts to improve the academic achievements of students in primary and secondary schools throughout the country,” he said.

The government has allocated $54.3 million for education services, and $15 million to bring in experts in literacy and numeracy.

The allocation is hoped to achieve at least 90 per cent of students obtaining grades A to C in the Primary School Assessment (PSR) examinations, while 60 per cent of students are targeted to achieve at least five O-levels by 2017.

He said the Ministry of Education has launched various programmes, such as the Brunei Darussalam School Leadership Standard and the National Entrepreneurship Agenda to foster an entrepreneurial mindset among youth.

The minister said students will also be given opportunities to further their education locally or abroad.

A total of $35.2 million has been allocated for Ministry of Education scholarships in the 2016/2017 fiscal year.

“Through the opportunities for education and training provided, _InsyaAllah, it will help to address social issues, such as unemployment and poverty,” he said._

YB Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman went on to say that the government also encourages youth to become independent.

He said the ministry will continue to operate youth development programmes as 74 per cent of the 1,067 youths have been employed or continued to further their studies.

The minister added that the implementation of youth entrepreneurship skills programmes has resulted in Youth Development Centre graduates establishing 70 startups.

Government planning and measures in improving the welfare of the people have proven effective as the United Nations Human Development Report 2015 ranked Brunei in the ‘very high human Development’ category, he continued.

He said the increasing population meant that the cost of providing facilities and basic needs is also rising each year.

The government’s ability to provide facilities and basic needs may not be sustainable in the medium and long term if reforms are not implemented immediately, he added.

YB Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman said it is essential that steps are taken at all levels to re-assess the need and effectiveness of the assistance or subsidies to ensure the needy are the beneficiaries.

“This will also educate the recipients to economise and make an effort to become self-reliant,” he added.

The Brunei Times

Updated at 11.07am