Sultan calls for new welfare initiatives
By Azaraimy HH

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam lauded various efforts towards improving the welfare of his subjects such as the Supplementary Contributory Pension Scheme (SCP) and steps towards improving the nation's rice sufficiency in a New Year titah, while welcoming further efforts to introduce new alternative schemes for other basic needs, such as housing, for the people.

His Majesty also urged the nation to improve its standing on the ease of doing business, and easing the way for people to kick-start their own business ventures.

He also asked his subjects to continue to maintain friendly relationships with others, which should be shown in deeds while also making an effort not to offend the feelings of people from other races.

As the country enters the New Year of 2010, it is blessed with happiness, because the people had overcome 2009 with confidence, despite experiencing disasters like floods and landslides, and then the H1N1 influenza pandemic.

These challenges, His Majesty said, should be taken in the right spirit for the people to always be vigilant and well prepared.

His Majesty lauded the government for initiating national programmes, even though these were based on worst case scenarios, as it is the only way the country could become more prepared to face the challenges.

Despite these tough tests, the country did achieve many things throughout 2009.

Among these, His Majesty said, the nation has put in place programmes to raise its level of self-sufficiency in local rice production towards guaranteeing our food security.

The monarch was happy to note that the government's initiatives have sown interest among the populace to become active in agriculture.

"I have heard there are many now who like to be referred to as farmers attending to their farmlands that in the past were neglected," the ruler said.

His Majesty said that this (change) is no doubt a heartening development for Brunei Darussalam.

His Majesty also lauded people who are actively involved in other areas in the food supply chain. And this encouraging development, His Majesty said, augurs well for the country as Bruneians are now taking part in regional as well as international expos to promote their respective products.

"These are roads to prosperity and harmony," His Majesty added.

Touching on harmony, His Majesty touched on the much publicised SCP - a scheme that ensures a secure post-retirement life for the employees of both the public and private sectors.

"Starting tomorrow (January 1, 2010), we will be enforcing the SCP for both government and private sector employees, especially for people already under the Employees Trust Fund (TAP), which coincides to the extension of the retirement age to 60 years," His Majesty stated.

"My government is fully committed to studying whatever policies that will be needed for the welfare of the people," His Majesty said.

In this regard, His Majesty believes that there is still room for the country to examine and introduce either an additional or alternative "funding" scheme to cover other basic needs, for example the housing.

His Majesty assured that all these would be looked into in the future development efforts.

His Majesty welcomed improvements to speed up and make it easier for the people in their day-to-day affairs, especially those related to starting up businesses.

Improvements such as these, His Majesty said, will improve the country's standing in the "Ease of Doing Business".

His Majesty pointed out that according to the World Bank, our country occupies the 96th position out of 183 countries in the "Ease of Doing Business".

The ruler also touched on the importance of delivering public service with good ethics as a way to receive blessings from Allah the Almighty.

His Majesty added that if the country provides public services sincerely without favouritism, by Allah's will, all the efforts that we undertake will be blessed.

His Majesty warned, "Integrity should be the corner stone of public services. Without it, any country can collapse, or at best, lose its will (ability) to develop."

Touching on regional and international developments, His Majesty said, "We cannot shy away but to join others in facing the trials and tribulations."

The most important policy for us, His Majesty said, is to continue maintaining friendly relationships with others.

"We must hold on to this principle in line with the teaching of our religion that requires its followers to always be friendly with all races and people in the world," His Majesty stressed.

His Majesty added that this principle is a "pre-requisite" to mutual respect, in other words, His Majesty said, "When we respect our friend, our friend will respect us."

In concluding his New Year titah, His Majesty thanked all - officers and staff of the government, uniformed personnel and those who are in the private sector - for their efforts in carrying out their duties.

His Majesty wished all a happy New Year. - Borneo Bulletin (1st January 2010)