Friday, October 24, 2014

Brunei's Affordable Public Housing Bungalows

AsiaOne, Singapore

Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014 - Unlike the high-rise public housing available in various parts of Asia, Brunei's public homes come in the form of landed houses the size of bungalows in Singapore.

Each of these two-storey houses reportedly measures over 330 sq m or 3,552 sq ft in land area. In Singapore, bungalows have a minimum land area of 400 sq m or 4,306 sq ft.

According to a report on Taiwan's Set TV news, the price tag on one of these government-subsidised homes and the land it is built on is around $84,000.

The two-storey homes come with spacious rooms and kitchens and are comfortable to live in.

Homeowners can sign up for interest-free loans of up to 30 years. There is even a 3-month trial stay period with no charge.

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This would seem like an extremely good deal to residents in other Asian countries where land and property are a lot more expensive.

Utilities in Brunei are also extremely affordable when compared to its neighbouring countries. One family Set TV news spoke to said that they kept their air-conditioner switched on all day, every day but spent just $8.40 on utilities that month.

In Brunei, most people used to live in kelong-like homes on the water. As a result of this, many were exposed to widespread communicable diseases like cholera and smallpox in the early 1950s. As a result, the government began to resettle these water village inhabitants inland.

To qualify for the National Housing Programme, applicants need to be first-time property owners, at least 18 years old and must have a salary between $ 445 and $ 3,030. The average waiting time for a house is less than 12 years, but the Brunei government aims to reduce this to just 5 years by 2021.

A 2013 ASEAN Conference paper on Brunei's public housing programme said that the Brunei Darussalam government had doubled its budget allocation for public housing from $550 million to $1.141 billion in the past 10 years.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

US State Department: US Government Agrees Syariah Law Consistent with Human Rights


BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Thursday, October 23, 2014 - BRUNEI must maintain its international human rights commitments as it rolls out the Syariah Penal Code, said a senior US official yesterday.

Shaarik Zafar, the US State Department’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities, said his government believes that Syariah and human rights are compatible, although Washington has expressed concerns about some of the punishments prescribed under the Code.

Zafar, who is in the Sultanate on a two-day visit, met with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and senior religious officials yesterday, to discuss US engagement with the Muslim world, including counter terrorism and Brunei’s introduction of the Syariah Penal Code.

“Brunei has made commitments to international religious freedom and other human rights. The US government is not in a position to say what Syariah law is and what it isn’t. What we do say is that governments that have made a commitment to uphold fundamental human rights have an obligation to do so regardless of what the particular penal code is,” he told local media yesterday.

“We were told that Islam and Syariah are fully consistent with human rights, and we fully agree with that. What we heard consistently today is there is no contradiction,” Zafar added.

The envoy said during his meetings he raised concerns about punishments prescribed under the Syariah Penal Code, such as amputation for theft, stoning for adultery and the death penalty for murder.

“What we’ve been told is the evidentiary standards that would apply are so high that in reality these penalties would never be carried out. This legislation took some time to be developed it’s still going to be taking time to be implemented,” he said, adding that the US will continue to monitor developments in Brunei. “We look forward to learning more and working with the government of Brunei.

The Brunei Times

Brunei's National Masterplan for a Sustainable Land Transport Masterplan

YB Pehin Abdudllah, Minister of Communications with Haji Mohd Rozan, PS PMO (left)
and YB Haji Zulkifli, Member of LEGCO and YM Haji Mutalib, PS MinComm

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, 21 OCTOBER 2013 - BASED on the findings in the National Master Plan for a Sustainable Land Transportation System For Brunei Darussalam conducted by the Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS), a MRT or LRT system is not feasible for the country because of low population density and high price tag of the system.

The conclusion was revealed by Dr Diana Cheong, Chief researcher of CSPS, who is also the principal researcher of the master plan, during an interview yesterday.

"We conducted a cost benefit analysis not only on the cost efficiency but also environment, social and political factors. Based on Wawasan 2035 projection of four to six per cent economic growth and future population growth, it was found that the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is more than sufficient to meet the needs of the people."

Regarding car dependency, insufficient public transportation and traffic congestion, she said, "The backbone of the strategies in the master plan is to improve public transportation through the BRT system which will be supported by park-and-ride facilities. There will be a big public transport interchange."

She added, "We will not see the end of normal buses. The current bus system will be enhanced and will work as a feeder system for BRT, which is centred around Bandar Seri Begawan. There will be four major BRT lines. We are also looking at demand responsive transport system using taxis.

The master plan took more than a year to complete and was funded by the Brunei Research Council. The master plan was carried out with support of consultants from SQW China Limited and Atkins China Limited.

The new transportation system is designed to meet the countryĆ¢€™s transportation needs, economic growth, urbanisation and improve the quality of life. It will also address environmental challenges of transportation.

Hj Mohd Rozan bin Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos, member of the CSPS Board of Director and Permanent Secretary (Media and Cabinet) at the Prime Minister's Office, in a speech said, "the purpose of the national land transportation master plan, white paper and related roadmaps, collectively called LTMP study, is to set out a strategic framework and actionable proposals for the development of an integrated, high-quality, rapid, efficient and safe transport network for Brunei Darussalam. In ensuring sustainable, equitable and efficient connectivity and mobility, we hope that the LTMP study will not only address the transportation challenges today but also address the transportation challenges of our future as underlined in the goals of Wawasan 2035."

Some 80 stakeholders gathered at the forum on National Master Plan For Sustainable Land Transportation System For Brunei Darussalam at The Empire Hotel & Country Club.

The guest of honour was Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdullah bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, Minister of Communications.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Asian Development Bank: Brunei's Economic Growth 2014-2015


BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - BRUNEI could see a further contraction in its gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate for this year and the next unless oil and gas production recovers, the Asian Development Bank said in its latest report.

In its recent Asian Development Outlook 2014 (ADO 2014), the ADB said the Sultanate is on track for a 1.1 to 1.2 per cent growth in GDP for 2014-2015 provided that the country manages to recover some of its declining hydrocarbon production.

Brunei’s oil and gas production declined in three consecutive quarters, falling by 10.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2014 from last year.

“Assuming some recovery in hydrocarbon production, forecasts are retained for slight economic growth this year and next,” the Manila-based lender said.

The ADB said that lower production in the oil and gas sector reduced GDP by 3.3 per cent in the first quarter, following a contraction by a revised 1.8 per cent in 2013.

The bank said shutdowns and maintenance of production facilities in the first half of the year squeezed production.

Meanwhile, the non-oil and gas economy comprising services, construction and manufacturing, expanded by 3.1 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

According to its earlier report in April, daily oil output has declined by nearly 40 per cent since 2006 due to managed production, facility maintenance and oilfield depletion.

Production of crude oil fell to 134,460 barrels per day in the second quarter of 2013 from 154,240 in 2012, it added.

The bank also said that Brunei’s GDP would be driven by a gradual expansion of the non-oil and gas sectors and some recovery in oil and gas production.

Growth in 2014-2015 will depend on the pace of infrastructure construction under the national development plan after seeing a decline in GDP by 1.4 per cent last year on the back of a contraction in the oil and gas sector.

The speed of growth in 2014-2015 will depend on the implementation of public projects under the plan for 2012 to 2017 which have sometimes lagged behind the schedule.

Some of the infrastructure projects the report cited were the oil refinery and aromatics crackers project at Pulau Muara Besar, airport expansion and development of three major bridges.

The Brunei Times


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sultan Brunei attends Indonesian President Joko Widodo's inauguration

HM Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah meets new Indonesian President Joko Widodo

HM Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah joined other world leaders at the inauguration ceremony of the new Indonesian President


JAKARTA, Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday attended the official inauguration ceremony of the new President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo.

Upon arrival at Gedung Nusantara 1, Kompleks Parlimen, the monarch was greeted by outgoing Indonesian President Dato Laila Utama Dr H Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

His Majesty then joined other invited world leaders at the Sidang Paripurna for the official inauguration ceremony.

The monarch also consented to be formally introduced to the assembly of the Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat of Indonesia.

His Majesty witnessed the swearing-in ceremony of Joko Widodo as the seventh President and Muhammad Jusuf Kalla as Vice-President, followed by the signing of their letters of appointment and the new President’s inaugural address.

Other regional leaders present at the ceremony were prime ministers Najib Razak of Malaysia, Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, and Tony Abbott of Australia.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also came to witness the inauguration.

After taking the oath in parliament, Widodo called for unity following the most bitterly fought election in Indonesian history.

Widodo also travelled through the streets of the capital Jakarta in a horse-drawn carriage, with tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters cheering and shouting his name.

His Majesty along with fellow heads of state attended a reception ceremony with the President and Vice-President after the official inauguration ceremony.

The monarch departed the Indonesian capital after the inauguration ceremony.

Prior to leaving the Grand Hyatt Jakarta Hotel, a Doa Selamat was read by State Mufti Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Hj Abd Aziz Juned.

Present at the Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport to bid farewell to the monarch were senior government officials of Indonesia.

Among those present were Bagas Hapsoro, Director-General of Staff Management at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Her Excellency Nurul Qomar, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Brunei; and His Excellency Brigadier General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Hj Mahmud Hj Saidin, Brunei’s Ambassador to Indonesia.

His Majesty was accompanied by Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abd Rahman Hj Ibrahim, Second Minister of Finance, and Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Brunei Times


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