Monetary Authority for Brunei
By Waleed PD Mahdini

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday announced the establishment of a new apex financial institution that will come into effect on January 1, 2011, which will be known as the Monetary Authority of Brunei Darussalam.

The monarch delivered his titah on the occasion of His Majesty's 64th birthday celebration from the Balai Singgahsana Indera Buana Hall, Istana Nurul Iman.

The ruler spelt out the motive behind the formation and scope of responsibilities that this new financial institution would be undertaking.

"In line with the international best practices, my government will achieve another new history on the financial front with the establishment of a monetary authority that will be called 'Authoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam' (AMBD) or the Monetary Authority of Brunei Darussalam. This body will be responsible for every monetary policy, monitoring of financial institutions and currency trading."

His Majesty, in his titah broadcast live nationwide, continued to underscore the importance of economic prosperity.

"In efforts to maintain prosperity, we can utilise the usual policies and ways. If others compete, we will also compete. If other people invest, we also invest. If others diversify their economy, we also diversify our economy. In short, we can pursue whatever way is appropriate to ensure prosperity."

However, the monarch cautioned: "But at the same time, avoid behaviours and tendencies that are unhealthy, such as tendencies that incline towards debt, without worrying about the risks of the burden of debt."

Framing the picture, His Majesty asked, "Are we aware that studies have shown that the global financial crisis is also seen as originating from the burden of debt?

"One phenomena that is shocking has also been identified, that it was not just individuals, families and commercial companies that were burdened by debt, but countries were also found to make enormous loans to the point that the economic and financial stability of that country was jeopardised, which in turn, affected the economic and financial stability of the world."

But the monarch was quick to point out that over the past few years, "realising early on the dangers of this, my government has exercised prudent and cost-saving policies towards spending by emphasising on 'value for money', as well as investing more of the government's incomes for the sake of ensuring that the prosperity that is prevalent now can continue to be enjoyed by generation upon generation".

To prove his point on financial prudence, His Majesty cited an "invigorating" news that was based on the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report of 2008-2009. "Our country is placed on the highest tier in terms of the management of government debt, by taking into account that our country does not have any public debt. At the same time, our country was also ranked second out of 134 countries from the aspect of our macroeconomic stability."

The reason for emphasising on financial stability had been spelt out earlier on in the monarch's titah when His Majesty gave praise for the blessings that Allah the Almighty has bestowed upon the country, its people and residents with various comforts, in the form of peace and prosperity.

"All this," the monarch pointed out, "requires us to cultivate and shape it with consistency". But how do we cultivate and shape it? His Majesty asked. "Obviously through hard work, for the sake of its continuity and stability."

Peace that has endured and sustained is everything. The same goes for sustained prosperity that becomes the ideal for everyone, the monarch remarked. "Both of these are the cornerstones that would determine the rise or fall of a country."

His Majesty explained that a peaceful country is a country that is content - content to develop and progress. "Furthermore, if it is prosperous, it would make it easier to generate progress."

And this is the secret to peace, the monarch pointed out. "As a result of this, it makes it the utmost obligation for relevant agencies to take on full responsibility, whilst the citizens must also give their unequivocal cooperation."

His Majesty then focused on international relations by maintaining that the Sultanate "will continue to practise the policy of mutual respect and understanding, as well as cooperation for the benefit of all parties".

At the regional Asean-level, His Majesty stressed, "Our commitment is being guided by the Asean Charter." Whilst on the international level, "Our memberships in other international organisations, including APEC, OIC, the Commonwealth and others, we will also maintain to develop our role in them.

Another topic that is no less important is the civil service, His Majesty said. "It requires improvements in terms of productivity, as well as work ethics," said the monarch, calling on the civil service, which employs some 13 per cent of the total population, to "monitor its strengths and weaknesses, based on the Key Performance Indicators that have been set".

Through this way, His Majesty added, "We weigh how far the civil service is able to carry out its responsibilities in fulfilling the hopes of the country and the public."

Another point that the monarch zeroed in on was the issue of housing. "My government has and continues to assess how to further expedite in laying out public housing that is appropriate."

The monarch then set about the focus for each ministry.

For the Ministry of Development, through the Housing Development Department, it "will set the targets and ways to meet the requirements, through effective measures, including plans to build houses that are being undertaken by the Brunei Economic Development Board" to which His Majesty spelt out his hope that the "allocation of houses can be further expedited".

For the Ministry of Home Affairs, the monarch took note of the progress that has been made with the preparations in the Bandar Seri Begawan Development Master Plan, as the country continues to progress towards development, which His Majesty reminded must be "more conducive for investment, by improving upon the state of the environment and standard of living".

In the health service sector, His Majesty called on it to ensure that it reinforces further its policies, monitor its health management systems, specifically the capacity and quality of its doctoring resources and other professionals. "We do not want our hospitals to be spectres that terrify, simply because doctors often fail to carry out their services," His Majesty warned.

On the issue of food and agriculture, which is under the purview of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, the monarch called on the organisation to "maximise its efforts to reach self-sufficiency that we have aimed for", whilst also reminding it not to forget about the issue of food security "either from internal or foreign sources".

His Majesty noted that monitoring and safeguarding measures must be finalised that encompasses every aspect - its Halalness, cleanliness and food safety. Even with ingredients normally considered safe, such as fish and vegetables, "we have also already heard of vegetables that were poisoned and seafood that was preserved with preservatives that had been compromised", which does not even include meat products that are not Halal that are either smuggled into the country or through other means.

But the monarch acknowledged that the biggest issue that is also the most challenging is education. His Majesty noted that the Ministry of Education, with its education system, would support teaching and learning with new techniques, but warned against "detracting from bigger national interests" as "core subjects and its contents must also be prioritised".

The monarch mentioned that this went hand-in-hand with religious education under the Ministry of Religious Affairs by underscoring the importance of religious primary schools as a requirement and demand of the day, which is to "make all Muslim children in this country open their eyes to religion" through a dominant religious education system that would take place at these religious schools themselves.

His Majesty spelt out that this would be for the long-term, "for the survival of the race" as without religion or being weak in it would "fling us towards disaster". The monarch cited examples of social problems that have infected many layers, especially youths and schoolchildren, which have led them astray towards crime and drugs.

"We cannot look at these individually. As enlightened people, we must remedy them and one of these remedies is religion," noted His Majesty, adding: "All this makes it our common responsibility to look into it."

To round off the titah, His Majesty thanked the citizens and residents of the country, including the civil service, security agencies and the private sector for their service and contributions to the government and the country. - Borneo Bulletin (16th July 2010)