The Welfare Trap in Brunei

Sometimes my mind wanders. The other day, one of my officers was telling me a story about one of his relatives having 4 wives and 25 children - all living in the same house. I thought that was an extreme example of tolerance about people being able to stay together especially the spouses under one roof. Unfortunately we were talking about poverty, about his relative's children who had difficulty in daily sustainance. Despite our $42,000 GDP per capita, there are people in Brunei who are in the unfortunate category and the Brunei authorities have done their utmost through whatever schemes under the Community Development Department to provide them with financial assistance. However financial assistance can only do so much - they cannot live on financial assistance forever and neither does the authority want to support them forever.

However, I was told that according to one study (unpublished) done by the Religious Ministry which also provided financial assistance through Baitul Mal indicated that if a recipient of a financial assistance is currently receiving assistance, it is very likely that his or her parents received assistance too before that and it is also likely that his or her grandparents received assistance too before that. Is there a poverty trap? One is unable to move out of it. Or is there a welfare trap? One can get out of it but one does not want to do so as it is much easier to remain on welfare.

I have not seen the research neither have I conducted any of my own. But what I do know is that for most of us Bruneians, we were not born of rich parents. In the early days, I know my parents were not well to do and even though we are living fairly comfortably now, I would not consider us in the wealthy category - at most middle-middle class, if there is such a term. I know families who are so wealthy that make us look impoverished and I also know of families who of course would love to be where we are. The question becomes how does one move out of poverty trap?

In the old days, I thought the answer was education. Despite being uneducated, my grandparents knew enough to ensure that my parents were educated and in turn my parents ensured that I too was educated and plus due to some stroke of luck, divine intervention most likely, in providing me the extra brain cells, I was able to be better educated than them. But today, most of our children go for tuition classes that if you don’t send your children to one, you feel as if your children will be left behind. During my time, there was no tuition class for me neither was there any extra class provided at school. All I had was the normal schooling. Nowadays such an education track would leave one floundering behind. My wife was telling me about my son's classmate who attended tuition class at the age of 6. Imagine the cost for a large family. How much would it be? Imagine if you can't afford it – will your children be left behind?

If you are born of normal intelligence and your parents are not well to do enough to send you for that extra tuition classes to make you more competitive - what do you do? Supposing you don't do well in life - do you blame it on nature's poor selection in not providing you with more mental capability for not doing well? Or do you blame bad luck for being born to an under privileged family? But then can you yourself study really hard, regardless of tuition classes or mental prowess to improve yourself and move out? In other words can you overcome nature and be a better person. The whole argument over nature versus nurture is an eternal one. Sir Francis Galton (cousin to Charles Darwin) published a study as far back as 1869 based on responses from 190 Fellows of the Royal Society about their families and abilities. The book provided among the first argument about 'nature versus nurture'.

Is our intelligence engrained in us before we were born? Or can it be developed and nurtured over time? Researchers so far on both sides of the nature versus nurture debate agree that while a gene may increase the likelihood that you'll behave in a particular way, it does not make you do things. That means that we still get to choose who we'll be when we grow up. If that's the case, can we now blame those Bruneians who stayed in the poverty/welfare trap for being unable/unwilling to move out?

Comments

Anonymous said…
I really disagree about sending kids to tuition. As a child my parents tutored me at home and made sure I did my homework etc.. basically spent time with me! However I did attend tution when we decided to speed up my education process and take my Olevels early and it was hard! Going to school in the morning and having to go to tuition in the afternoon till early evening!If you teach your children from an early age to get work done and research as well as revise constantly I really do not see the need for tuition. Thats what i'm doing with my kids but I guess not all parents have the patience, time or know how to do this with their kids. Ok so you may need tuition in those important years but at the age of 6 you just want to play outside all the time!!!Tuition I feel is a the easy way out for some parents and sadly its becoming the trend!
Anonymous said…
Is it just me or is today's blog looks like something from Carrie Bradshaw's column of the Sex and the City fame?

Anyway, I do not think students not going for tuition will be left behind and I do not think too that tuitions will greatly improve those students. It all boils down to the students' initiatives, discipline and hard-work. I'd also like to dispel some thought that you only become a good student if you to rpivate schools. From the point I started school till I left to further my studies overseas, I had always been in government school. Despite some early setbacks, Alhamdullillah now I am working for a major company in Brunei and, sorry I had to blow my own trumpet, I have been ientified as a hi-potential local staff and now undergoing some fast-track training.
So kids, tuition can help you, but it can only help you for so much. At the end of the day, it is all upto you to see what you want to be in the future.
Absolutely no connection to Carrie Bradshaw's column. I don't even know who Carrie Bradshaw as I have never watch Sex and the City.

If you have been reading my posts regularly, I have visited this subject a number of times in the past - nature versus nurture is a favourite topic as well as the welfare problems in Brunei. I wrote this one while on the way to the office remembering my conversation the day before when one of my officers mentioned the children and I toned down the word he actually used to describe them which is scavenging.
metallichick said…
I had home tutoring back during primary school and only went for tuition during Primary Six. Then had a tuition when I was in Form 3 and Form 5 only.

And I couldnt find a tutorial for A levels. And that was about 10 years ago.

Students today should realise how blessed they are with the many options they have :)
Hard-knocks student said…
metallichick, on one hand you are spot on when you said that today's students are blessed but on the other hand, given the bigger student population and the brainier young Bruneians get, it can be tough going, what with having to compete against 652 students with 8 'O' Levels!

I just spoke to a concerned parent whose son scored a 'zilch' in the recently released BCGCE 'O' level results, and both father and son are at their wits' ends as to where his son is gonna go and what will become of the son's future...

Not to mention, the fact that most Bruneian parents can't afford to send their kids with below average IQ/EQ for further studies, even locally, what more overseas...:(

Hence, not employable and may lead to all sort of societal negativity including the gloomy poverty level.
anak ksl said…
it's a chicken and egg situation...

my experience in headhunting and not-so-clinical studies indicate the importance of nurturing nature, unnurtured nature will wilt, and nurtured nature will bloom, assuming one is using the right nutrients...

birth order seem to have a big impact in one's outlook and station in life...

eldest tend to be born to lead, or rather bred to lead! middle born are left to their devices, and become creative etc, whilst youngest tend to be the black sheep or lost flock? born to bleed?

bottom-line: very few leaders are born, most are 'self'-made!

latest in genetics indicate that the brainy cells are inherited from mums! so what's dad's contribution?

born and bred in ksl
Anonymous said…
Just because one is not educated to graduate level doesnt mean he or she cannot succeed in life. Its all about determination and hard work. Sometimes, what we study is NOT what we do. Wisdom and experience in the real world counts more than specialised knowledge. Specialised knowledge only allows you to earn money from an employer. Wisdom and knowledge allows you to earn from everyone.

What we become in life is part influenced by our surroundings and part by our commitment to succeed. We are not born with all-knowing information in our brains but instead with basic instincts. Honing our instincts to adapt ourselves to the realities of life and overcoming those realities are the best tools to success.

Most of our youth 'flunk' not because they are stupid.. its because they are lazy. Many have had the good life just because we live in a society protected and sheltered by His Majesty by the grace of Allah SWT. Also many of us were forced to learn without much explanation on why we must do so. We were put in schools with the mindset that it was compulsory and that we had to pass these exams. We learnt because we had to without knowing why. Once we passed that stage of seemingly unending exams and experienced the realities of life, only then did we understand why we had to study then and only to regret that we didn't.

The right education at home is the first step towards success in life and the ending of so called poverty. Poverty does not exist if the impoverish had the knowledge AND determination to generate income.
G-`FerRo said…
Education do helps ...

It is a matter of prioritisation... knowing what is your needs and what is your wants ...

Some thinga are nice to have, but do we really need it...

With due respect, sorry to say, kalau orang dari negeri lain boleh hidup & berjaya di negeri ani, napa plang orang kitani sendiri inda dapat...

Balik ke Agama, Islam menyatakan, Allah tidak akan mengubah nasib seseorang hambanya kecuali jika dirinya sendiri yang mahu berubah ... Wallahuaklam bisawaf ....
Anonymous said…
I really don't think that GDP figure is accurate at all, since salaries are over inflated at the top and miniscule at the bottom. Too few people earn the median between zero and 40,000K - that figure is a giant lie.
Anonymous said…
"...that GDP figure is accurate at all, since salaries are over inflated at the top and miniscule at the bottom. Too few people earn the median between zero and 40,000K - that figure is a giant lie..."

Unfortunately, this is one of the problems with statistics.. however, normal distribution curves apply here as with all GDP figures. Its just that our sampling population is very small and thus the differential is quite high.

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