TAP recently celebrated its 15th Anniversary. I attended it as a former Managing Director but I was also one of its founders more than 15 years ago. I guess not many remember that now. In April 1992, Dato Metassan from the Prime Minister's Office, then plain Haji Metassan and I (I was then working in Telecoms as the Corporate Planning Manager - planning the corporatisation of Telecoms) were pulled out of our comfortable offices and placed in a tiny office at the Secretariat Building, given files from a working committee that had been in place for the previous two years and was instructed to set up TAP's operation. I think at that time both of us were a little 'bengang' if one may use the word and really had no idea what it is that we need to do.
Anyway, we set out doing what needs to be done which included spending sometime observing the CPF in Singapore and EPF in Malaysia. By November, we were already briefing changes to payroll systems and by January 1993, it was launched. We had a grand total of 7 staff including us - 4 officers and 3 support staff. There were about 16,000+ employees in our system by that January and that number climbed rapidly. By then we had started to grow too. We got the private sector employees into the TAP system in 1994. I think we were a little bit giddy of we had been able to achieve given the limited resources that we had then. We had no money in January 1993 but today's TAP have about $1.2 billion. We had 16,000 employees in January 1993 and today it is close to a 100,000.
My number one regret was and is the contribution rates. When Singapore and Malaysia launched their provident fund schemes in the 1950s, 5% + 5% was the introductory rate. It took Malaysia some 20+ years and Singapore about 10+ years before the rates was changed. We wanted the TAP introductory rate to be in place for at most 3 to 5 years before nudging it upwards. However when it was time to change it around 1997/1998, it was the financial and economic crisis that hit us and many employers were reluctant to pay a higher contribution rates and a number of employees were also made redundant. The Board had to shelve that idea and that basic introductory rates remained until today.
When I got back as the Acting MD in December 2004, I thought it was the right time to revisit the new rates. Little did I know, I wouldn't be spending much time in my new office. I was away in UBD for the compulsory Executive Management Program until May and by July I was moved again to MOF.
Anyway, the current TAP management is doing a lot of things. They got a great set of people. I love the imaginative financial planning theatre with the Seri Mulyani Sarjana School children. That was very impressive. Anyway, all the best to TAP's Management and hoped that they will be able to achieve a lot more for all the Brunei employees.