Sometimes I wish I am Superman or the most powerful man in the world so that I can solve everyone's problem. One sample of letters in my tray - from a lady whose family lives in a government barrack with 2 bedroom with 6 kids, the eldest is married and is staying with her with her own 2 kids. The husband, a non-Bruneian, will retire very soon (by the time the letter arrived, he would have retired). She is pleading to be given a house under the national housing scheme.
The more sympathetic among us would say she deserve it. The less sympathetic would say, why should she get a house first when there are many other people with similar problems who do not get houses. Some might continue to say she should have known better and be prepared for it.
If you think this housing problem only affects those in the lower income group, think again. I know of cases of senior colleagues who retire without houses and pleaded with the government for them to stay on their government rented houses after their retirement while they sort out what they want to do next. These people ought to know better. They ought to have settled their housing problem much earlier. But they know they could get away with it because it has been done before. The lady in the earlier story thinks she can get away with it. She probably has been told that sob cases might be given priority.
This is worrying. Why? We, Bruneians are so dependent on the government that we stopped taking care of ourselves. If the debts get too much, the debtor will try to go to Treasury and see if they can reduce their government housing loans or their government car loans. They don't go to the banks to see if they can reduce their bank loans because they know the banks will not give it to them. The debtor will not want to build a house or prepare for one because they know the government will eventually give them a house. Even if they don't pay for it in the end, they know we can't kick them out of the house. This behaviour goes on and on. We don't worry about our health that much because the government gives our medication for free. We don't save for our education because the government gives university education for free. We don't pay for our rubbish collection because we expect the government to pick up the rubbish for free. We don't pay for people to cut the grass outside our house because we expect the government to cut them for us for free. We don't pay for our water or our electrcity because we expect the government to provide them for free. In the end, we stopped saving and we stopped caring.
Economists (and my minister) call this moral hazard. Moral hazard arises because we do not have to bear the full consequences of our actions, therefore we have a tendency to act less carefully than we otherwise would, leaving someone else to bear responsibility for the consequences of our actions. But it is not just us. The depressed global economy is a result of moral hazard - the subprime crisis.
I really wish I am Superman.