What would Superman do?

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.


Anonymous said…
thats nice picture Mr. Br.

This kind of issues should not be left unattended. Proper research should be conducted on seriousness of this kind of issue. The govt should introduce policy that encourage its people to not totally depending on them. For example, housing or land scheme.. at the moment the cost benefit of waiting and buying house or land are far too big. To make it clear.. example my case, I am entitle for a land (officer level) if I just wait for my turn surely will receive one and just pay only a small amount of money compare to the market value. But I decided not to wait and buy a house with the land and use govt loan instead.. if compare financially.. the different is quite big..

The policy maker should handle this issue. Its because the cost of waiting for heavily subsidised housing or land scheme is far cheaper than buying house or land at the market value thus people rather wait and wait for their turn..

But in my case.. I look it as investment and I value time very much. Why should people put forward to have a house at a later stage of their life when they can afford to have it now.

Furthermore, who are we to tell how long we are going to live in this world.

Also, the number of years waiting for each person turn is not easily predicatable..

I hope the relevant department under your Ministry look at this matter, introduce some incentive for people to buy their own house / land...

Anonymous said…
Perhaps, Pehin Minister is right about the whole problem being a moral issue or moral hazard as he put it. The poor woman in question is not the only one faced with such a basic needs problem in Brunei. Hundreds more Bruneians are facing similar complexities in their daily lives, sir.

As a Chief Executive Officer of a governmental ministry, more and more complicated cases like this will keep coming into your in-trays. And it will bog you down on top of other more important priorities in your portfolio.

One could only hope that appointed legislators would highlight these sort of cases of human misery during the coming Legislative Council Meeting on March 4 2008. But then again other bigger picture issues are at stake which need to be debated and passed for legislation for the benefits of the larger masses and as matters of national interest.

A Bruneian man in his early 40s who used to earn 6k monthly is now unemployed without any salary and he has 6 mouths to feed... And again he is not the only one in Brunei struggling to make ends meet. Another unemployed Bruneian guy, almost reaching 50 years old, complained to me in the Masjid last Friday that employers are reluctant to offer him a job.

In a way, they are to blame themselves. But I tend to blame myself because here I am having a job and salary but also not enough to fend for my family... what more to help others in need, I mean the real needy people of Brunei:(
Yes exactly! It is really sad that for a country who has just celebrated its 24th independence day, the nation's mentality is still not liberated.
My blood pressure shoots up everytime I think of this.But it is ironic if you think about it, that this pathetic 3rd world mentality adopted by our people is actually the product of a caring government.

But if I may offer my opinion regarding the Housing/Land scheme,what would be the consequences if the government freezes the B2/B3 Land Scheme? Instead utilize the Government Housing Loan scheme - if I am not mistaken the Loan scheme is only for the sole purpose of buying a house and not land - so change this and others terms and conditions!
The point is I think it IS time for our people to WORK FOR their lives and understand that NOTHING comes free in this world.

And I think your Ministry can concentrate/prioritize in providing for the needs of those in the lower income brackets.

There are probably issues related to this, but seriously..the government I think should really stop being caring to the point of being abused.
I will probably echo this topic in my blog.
Nonnie King said…
Good write-up Mr.BR!

I can relate to it as I'm of the shell-less snail with parents not far from retirement.

Despite of "Enjoying life to the fullest" at my young age, I caught myself worrying about the problem you mentioned.

I agree with "Rogue Economist". I guess most citizens of Brunei are used to being "Spoon-feed" by the government, making them have really low sense of risk, or none at all.

Education is free. Medical is free. And now everyone is hoping shelters can be free too.

I think it is the people who need to be educated.
Change isn't something people open up to with open arms, but what if it's done in a win-win deal e.g. free education with some kind of national service requirement attached to it. now now, I'm not talking about the ever familiar 'bond' for govt scholars or military services like in the neighbouring countries. It could be anything catering to the increasing needs for social welfare really. And trust me, not everyone who can't afford to own a house opted for the free education and medical either. Hence, more study n research should be carried out to understand the root of the problem instead of the hurtful spoon-feeding allegation. Wassalam.
G-`FerRo said…
.. I bet .. even Superman can't handle such situation... :)

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