LegCo passes $5.6b budget

National 3 minutes, 10 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE Legislative Council (LegCo) yesterday passed the national budget of $5.6 billion for the 2016/2017 fiscal year, a reduction of $100 million or 1.78 per cent from the previous year’s budget.

The national budget for 2016/2017 takes effect on April 1, 2016.

The allocation of this budget remains the same as the initial proposed budget for the fiscal year.

According to Minister of Finance II Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdul Rahman Hj Ibrahim on March 8 at the Legislative Council (LegCo) sitting, the budget will focus on four areas including ease of doing business, improve the country’s productivity and capacity building for human capital.

He added improving public welfare is the fourth focus area for this financial year.

At the same sitting, YB Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman, who is also Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, said government revenue for 2016/2017 is projected to reach $1.76 billion.

This means Brunei’s fiscal deficit this year stands at nearly about $3.84 billion.

The deficit for the 2016/2017 fiscal year is 68.4 per cent higher than the $2.28 billion deficit projected for the 2015/2016 year which ends on March 31, 2016.

YB Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman urged both the public and private sector to maximise productivity, minimise wastage and avoid unnecessary spending.

He said all parties need to change their mindset and must work hard to explore opportunities that can sustain Brunei’s economy, and at the same time urged the need to diversify the economy.

The budget for the following fiscal year includes $700 million that will be used to fund projects under the 10th National Development Plan (RKN).

Within that allocation, Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Mohammad Yasmin Hj Umar, on March 19 at LegCo, said $172 million was allocated under the 10th National Development Plan through the Brunei Research Council (BRC) to improve the implementation of research projects.

This year, infrastructure projects that are seen to help improve the ease of doing business in the country will receive a total allocation of $523.56 million.

The provision is to provide a secure and efficient integrated transport service network in the country, as well as projects that are hoped to spark economic activity and boost tourism by making it convenient to invest in Brunei, said YB Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman.

Topping the budget with $1.02 billion is the Ministry of Finance (MoF), followed by the Ministry of Education with $726.65 million.

The Prime Minister’s Office received the third largest sum of the total budget, with $566 million.

The only ministry with an increase in budget compared to last year was the Ministry of Defence, with $564 million for the 2016/2017 fiscal year – an increase of 4.7 per cent or $27 million from the previous year.

Meanwhile, three ministries received the biggest cuts in their respective budgets for the incoming fiscal year.

The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) received a budget of $57.14 million, a 30.5 per cent decrease from the previous year.

The MPRT was previously known as the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, however, since the cabinet reshuffle in October 2015, several portfolios under the former ministry have been transferred to the now Energy and Industry Department at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Development’s budget is down nearly 21 per cent from the previous fiscal year, with a budget of $234 million.

Minister of Development Yang Berhormat Dato Paduka Hj Bahrin Abdullah, on March 15, explained his ministry’s $62 million cut in expenses was due to the need for prudent spending amid the economic downturn.

While the Prime Minister’s Office received the third largest sum in the budget, this has also decreased by 20.8 per cent compared to its budget last year of $634 million. — Additional reporting by Rabiatul Kamit, Waqiuddin Rajak and Julius Hong

The Brunei Times