Crown Prince streamlines 10th NDP
By Azlan Othman

His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office in his 'sabda' underlined various issues - including the low economic growth in the past years not being in tandem with the targeted growth to achieve Brunei's Vision 2035 - and made a thorough assessment to identify failure; to give more appropriate percentage for R&D budget; to attain optimum utilisation of land and sharing of facilities found in schools; and to promote green growth for new buildings.

His Royal Highness also stressed the importance of examining and reviewing the achievements of the goals and objectives set in the previous 9th National Development Plan (NDP) as part of the process of planning and evaluation of the development projects under the 10th NDP.

His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, as Chairman of the National Committee of the 10th National Development Plan, stated this at the first meeting of the Executive Committee of the 10th NDP meeting yesterday, at the Prime Minister's Office at Jln Kumbang Pasang.

HRH also highlighted the need to review the requirements and priorities of unimplemented projects under the 9th NDP (2007-2012) in order to ensure that every project approved for the 10th NDP fulfils the requirement of necessity and supports the thrusts and objectives of the 10th NDP.

HRH further pointed out that the NDP planning needs to support concerted efforts that could encourage increase in productivity through innovation; use of technology; enhancement of human resource development capacity; increase in research and development activities that could be commercialised; and facilitation of domestic investment activities and exports.

HRH also stressed on the need to be prudent by taking into account the impact of development spending in government expenditure, particularly operation costs and maintenance.

HRH also touched on the aspects of economics and financial discipline, whereby priority should be given to projects that contribute to increase government revenue and that could help broaden the private sector, especially the non-oil and gas sector.

Apart from planning for the provision of physical infrastructure, HRH also said that the 10th NDP would also give emphasis on other aspects including projects that could lead to the improvement of the living and socio-economic standards of the citizens and residents of Brunei Darussalam.

This includes the implementation of the national housing scheme; human resource development; youth development; food security; research and development, SMEs; security; economy; and education, among other initiatives.

HRH in the sabda said the 10th NDP will start from the financial year 2012/2013 to the financial year 2017/2018, adding that it is the second NDP to be reviewed based on strategy and "the way forward" as stipulated in the long-term development plan, Brunei's Vision 2035.

The vision outlines the objective of turning Brunei into a country known for possessing successful, educated and highly skilled people, a high quality of life and a dynamic economy.

Touching on the country's economic growth in the past five years, HRH also said it grows at an average rate of 0.7 per cent annually. Such achievement is far lower from the targeted rate to achieve Vision 2035 of five to six per cent annually.

In this context, a thorough evaluation is required to identify the sources of failure in achieving such aspiration at this stage. The question is whether an implementation issue is the concern, be it in the aspect of capability or planning, or whether other alternatives should be sought to generate economic growth besides depending on oil and gas and on the government expenditure.

For instance, should the nation become more active in encouraging more private investment, be it internally or outside the country such as Foreign Direct Investment in sectors including those other than oil and gas? By Allah's Will, through such way, this matter could be improved whenever appropriate, HRH stated in his sabda.

To date, efforts to diversify the country's economy away from oil and gas are obviously dependent on and are led by the increase in government expenditure including the NDP budget, HRH added. Based on the economic data gathered at present there is no obvious impact through such strategies. This is because, even though the amount and government expenditure increases, the country's economic growth continues to be at a low level.

It is, therefore, necessary for such issue to be analysed thoroughly and for the committee to think of effective and sustainable ways in developing the private sector, especially the non-oil and gas sector.

One of the core elements in achieving the Vision is through the enhancement of the country's productivity in identified economic sectors, HRH said. To this end, the NDP should support integrated steps that could enhance increase in productivity, and incentives and assistance should be provided wherever appropriate.

Thus, in line with the special theme of 10th NDP, which stresses on the development of Research and Development, it is timely for R&D allocation to be provided in an appropriate percentage so that it is in line with the practice of developed countries.

HRH in his sabda said that such focus is in accordance with the aspiration of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam as highlighted in His Majesty's 'titah' at the opening of the 7th Legislative Council Meeting, whereby His Majesty stressed the need for the nation to enhance productivity, which is synonymous with capacity enhancement, to cope with the pace of globalisation and to fill up any needs as well as job and business opportunities.

In enhancing the capacity and in line with the Brunei's Vision 2035, said HRH, the main emphasis should be given in supporting the education sector, the core sector in innovation and productivity development, besides supporting His Majesty's aspiration of eradicating poverty.

HRH also said that in the event that a project has been carried out under the 10th NDP and there is still some "left over budget", such budget is considered as a saving for the government and should not be used as one wishes.

HRH added that every additional building constructed for government departmental use would certainly require extra staff as well as additional management and building maintenance costs. This obviously would increase the number of civil servants, which at present is already large.

Therefore, in the economic and financial discipline, it is also equally important that issues like dependence are taken into account by every government agency.

Meanwhile in building public facilities, the emphasis should be on a design that could control the budget for maintenance. In nurturing the culture of prudent spending and avoiding wastage, the focus should not on monetary matters alone, HRH said. In implementing the project, optimum utilisation of land should also be taken into account, judging by the limited land resources especially in prime areas.

In every new building proposed, the concept of green buildings should be emphasised to cut operational costs incurred by utilisation of energy and maintenance, among other factors.

HRH the Crown Prince also called for recreational facilities found in schools to be shared with the public, especially those residing in nearby areas, to ensure that existing facilities are fully utilised by citizens and residents.

Touching on the long waiting list for the National Housing Scheme leading to the longer waiting period, it is hoped that through the 10th NDP, such houses could be constructed soonest for the waiting time to be shortened.

Earlier, HRH the Crown Prince was greeted on arrival at the Prime Minister's Office building at Jln Kumbang Pasang by the Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office, Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Abdul Rahman bin Hj Ibrahim, who is Deputy Chairman of the National Committee of the 10th National Development Plan and other members of the national committee.

The objective of the first meeting of the National Committee of the 10th NDP was to discuss and set planning policies, implementation and proposed budget allocations for the 10th NDP. The 10th NDP is the continuation of the 9th NDP (2007-2012).

The members of the 10th NDP Executive National Committee are: Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Abdul Rahman bin Hj Ibrahim, Minister of Finance II at the Prime Minister's Office as Deputy Chairman; Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Suyoi bin Hj Osman, Minister of Development; Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources; Pehin Datu Singamanteri Col (Rtd) Dato Seri Paduka Awg Hj Mohammad Yasmin bin Hj Umar, Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister's Office; Dato Paduka Awg Hj Ali bin Hj Apong, Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister's Office; Dato Paduka Awg Hj Bahrin bin Abdullah, Deputy Minister of Finance; Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Yusoff bin Hj Ismail, Deputy Minister of Education; Awg Muhammad Lutfi bin Abdullah, Permanent Secretary (Economic, Finance, Research and Development) at the Prime Minister's Office; Awg Hj Hisham bin Hj Mohd Hanifah, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Dr Hjh May Faezah binti Hj Ahmad Ariffin, Acting Director-General of Economic Planning and Development at the Prime Minister's Office. - Borneo Bulletin (29th May 2011)