Agriculture panacea for poverty
By James Kon

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has pointed to agriculture as an effective method to tackle or overcome poverty in the country.

His Majesty said this in a titah during the Hari Raya celebration of Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah yesterday at the ICC.

The ruler said various groups of community in Brunei, too, need attention.

These groups include the needy people, youth who have become victims of drug abuse, victims of natural disasters and so on.

"We are thankful to those in Brunei who care and are always ready to contribute their services to help those in need. Among the signs that show the exemplary character is the payment of zakat by Muslims," said the monarch.

The Hari Raya celebration organised by Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah this year brought together volunteers and strategic partners of Yayasan who are glad to provide assistance and implement welfare works.

His Majesty expressed his congratulations and appreciated the deeds of these people.

The ruler called for youths and teenagers to be exposed to volunteering help for the needy as this will instil awareness among them to be more attentive to the fate of the people who need assistance, as well as to rid them of selfishness.

"The moulding of such volunteerism is crucial especially in the era of rapid progress. We don't want such development to weaken our culture of helping each other and togetherness."

This culture, His Majesty said, must be strengthened and continued to be practised and not to let it weaken and be replaced by a carefree attitude.

The monarch also touched on the establishment of the National Social Issues Council to tackle the worrying problem of social issues. The council will facilitate programmes planned by involved agencies to be more effective and organised. His Majesty welcomed the initiative by the Yayasan foundation in setting up a volunteer unit in 2005.

The unit now has 564 people comprising youth from various educational backgrounds and fields and has seen or is in the process of successfully implementing programmes.

"As a social institution, Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah is aware that it cannot move forward without the support of government and private agencies, as well as other non government bodies," said His Majesty.

The monarch said that Yayasan needs the cooperation through short-term strategic alliance with agencies and bodies especially to ensure its effectiveness in the management and distribution of social assistance to the community.

"To date, I have seen Yayasan enjoy such cooperation," His Majesty said.

"What we have done has fulfilled the tradition of most social institutions around the world. These institutions have employed their community programme through strategic alliances. And with this approach, expertise, human and financial resources will be utilised to the maximum for effective development."

His Majesty also said there is no shortage of agencies and bodies in Brunei who are involved with the community programme.

Touching on community issues, His Majesty said that the most common issue highlighted in the mass media is poverty.

In tackling the issue, the related agencies have come up with their own different programmes but with the main focus on easing the burden of the needy.

"In my opinion, the issue of poverty in the country is not as critical as in other places abroad.

"It can be tackled more effectively through practical methods which are appropriate with the situation of the country," said the ruler.

One of the methods highlighted by His Majesty is the utilisation of natural resources by mankind, which was mentioned in an article in the World Bank's World Development Report 2007.

The monarch quoted the article as saying that agriculture can reduce the poverty rate effectively by as much as four times compared to other sectors of the economy.

"This can surely open our minds as one of the methods to be developed to overcome the problem of poverty. It's up to us whether we want to do it or not," His Majesty said. - Borneo Bulletin (14th Oct 2008)