Don't be left behind with 'wait & watch' attitude
By Azlan Othman

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam urged the nation to step up economic diversification activities and not be left behind or lose the opportunity as a result of our 'wait and watch' attitude.

His Majesty in his titah at the opening of the first meeting of the seventh session of the State Legislative Council yesterday, further stressed the obligation that enforcement agencies have in tackling smuggling of subsidised commodities and called on the urgency to wipe out and erase bad attitude of wasting subsidised utilities and facilities.

Also attending the first meeting were His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and HRH Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah.

His Majesty began his titah by congratulating the new speaker, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Diraja Dato Laila Utama Hj Awg Isa bin Pehin Datu Perdana Menteri Dato Laila Utama Haji Ibrahim on his appointment as the new Speaker of the Legislative Council and hoped that the new speaker would give his best in executing the position and responsibility in enhancing the prestige of the Legislative Council as an institution that also plays a role for the interest of the nation.

The monarch also expressed his appreciation to YB Pengiran Indera Mahkota Pengiran Anak (Dr) Kemaludin Al-Haj ibni Al-Marhum Pg Bendahara Pg Anak Hj Mohd. Yassin for his services, energy and ideas that he had contributed when he was the speaker.

His Majesty lauded the council for "successfully performing its role in discussing and deliberating current developments", but pointed out: "However, we are yet to be satisfied as we still continue to face various changes and challenges on a daily basis that test our efficiency and vigilance."

The monarch used the example of the global economy, which had just recovered from the grips of crisis, as the rise in inflation has placed a burden on the livelihoods of the world community until it jeorpadised the harmony and stability of several countries in the world.

The monarch added, "Praise to Allah, Brunei is still cushioned from the pressures of inflation, largely through the continued efforts and policies of the government to support the people and residents with subsidies on several basic necessities.

"We are only required to be thankful and avoid any wastage and misuse of these subsidies," His Majesty added. The monarch reminded that the smuggling of such items is "Haram" and a crime. "This is why, all enforcement agencies have an obligation to prevent it."

The ruler also pointed to the issue of non-payment for these subsidised facilities and utilities. "The amount is not small, but amounts to several hundred millions of dollars," the monarch said and added that the negative behaviour should be changed and erased.

His Majesty recalled the recent natural disasters that have happened over the past few months around the world that resulted in widespread damage, misery, as well as loss of lives. The monarch noted the floods that happened in the country at several low-lying areas, particularly affecting rural communities. His Majesty lauded the collaborative efforts and the spirit showed by government agencies and the public in overcoming these natural disasters.

His Majesty

said there are plans by concerned agencies to reduce the likelihood of repeated flooding.

Turning to economy and finance, His Majesty said, "Although there is surplus revenue, it is no guarantee for financial stability or consolidation if it is not managed wisely and prudently."

His Majesty said that this lesson could be learnt from the debt crisis that was experienced by some countries in the world due to soaring expenditure beyond their means, wastage, corruption and more.

His Majesty also called to step up the nation's productivity, which is synonymous with enhancing capacity. "In this respect, my government continues to prioritise on capacity building in realising the tremendous competition brought about by the rapid pace of globalisation. It is also crucial to meet other demands and provide employment and commerce."

The monarch pointed out the continuous allocation of appropriate provisions to ministries and departments to enhance the capabilities of their respective workforce, which could also be an opportunity for youths seeking employment in the public and private sectors.

The monarch noted his pleasure on the "integrated training given to youths in upgrading their business acumen", which His Majesty called "timely" with the Ministry of Education's emphasis on improving technical and vocational education.

"The government is also generating a more conducive business environment. For instance, I recently consented for the formation of a steering committee on the 'Ease of Doing Business' to facilitate business in the country and to improve the country's ranking and achievement in the Ease of Doing Business index," said His Majesty.

"I hope that all levels of society, especially youths and the private sector, could be more progressive and active in diversifying the economic activities. We should not be left behind or lose an opportunity as a result of our 'wait and watch' attitude," the monarch urged.

In concluding his royal address, His Majesty urged all the members to continue intensifying their efforts in caring for the problems of the people in Brunei, be they in rural or urban areas. "Whatever problems we face, it should be solved wisely and properly through consultation and openness in this noble hall." - Borneo Bulletin (2nd March 2011)