‘Benchmark needed in fight against poverty’

National 3 minutes, 17 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

THE lack of an established poverty line in Brunei makes it difficult to identify those who really needs support, a local non-government organisation said.

Last October, it was reported that the Department of Economic Development and Planning (JPKE) was conducting a study on Minimum Cost of Basic Needs (KMKA), a method that is normally used to define poverty line.

A statistics officer from JPKE said the data from the KMKA can be used as a building block to establish a poverty line.

Speaking to The Brunei Times on the sidelines of the “Youth Against Poverty” workshop yesterday, Nurul Wadaah Mohd Noor, vice president of the Society for Community Outreach and Training (SCOT), said it is currently very confusing for them because they do not really know who actually deserves help or aid.

“We need to know what are the type of conditions the family also lives in to determine if they need help. For example, some families do not have refrigerators although they need to store their medication in it. So does that classify them as being in poverty because they cannot afford it?”, Nurul Wadaah Mohd Noor asked.

She said there needs to be some kind of structure or guidelines to help them determine who are those in poverty and need help.

“It is important so we know who to help. We cannot help everyone because with the current economic situation, it is not easy for us to gather funds,” she said.

Based on her experience over the last five years working with charity and underprivileged families, she said families need to be analysed in terms of their total monthly income to determine if they are categorised as underprivileged.

“Some of the families receive fixed monthly welfare from the government, such as $300 a month. However, the number of people under a family unit need to be considered. I think $300 may be enough for two persons in a family, but not for a family with eight children,” she said, adding the government should come up with guidelines to establish what being underprivileged means.

She said one area SCOT has discovered that can classify a family “being in poverty is when their residence lacks attention to cleanliness”.

“When we asked some of the underprivileged families we work with why their house was dirty, they said it was expensive to purchase household cleaning items like mops. So we are starting to understand that basic necessities are not just in terms of food and the need for electricity and water, but also cleaning aids,” she said.

“I think there needs to be a benchmark on the family’s monthly income to determine whether they are underprivileged. If a family of five has a total income of $1,000 a month, is that enough for them to afford all the basic necessities?”, she said.

SCOT’s priorities also include making sure all underprivileged children continuously attend school, and that they have proper living conditions.

“We have a SCOT education programme where we have volunteers teach underprivileged students every Friday and Sunday. This year, we collaborated with the Rimba II Secondary School to teach the students there,” she said.

On house conditions, she said if the family’s house does not have a proper toilet for example, SCOT will seek partners in the private sector such as engineers, to sponsor and build a toilet for them.

In January this year, the president of the Brunei Council on Social Welfare (MKM) called on the government to establish a poverty line “as failure to do so might worsen the poverty situation”.

Datin Paduka Hjh Intan Hj Md Kassim said a poverty line will enable authorities to collect accurate data on those living in poverty.

She said in a previous report that the establishment of the poverty line should also be accompanied with studies on the root causes of poverty, and the breakdown of the age group of population under this poverty line.

The Brunei Times