I was in Temburong yesterday. My minister was away and I was his representative together with two ministers and a deputy minister visiting two houses which the PWD has repaired. Currently we are undertaking repairs to houses belonging to the daif or the really poor throughout the country. The repairs are undertaken by PWD and paid for by the Islamic Religious Council.
The really dilapidated houses are usually torn down and we will build new ones for them. We are currently undertaking the building of about 60+ houses throughout Brunei Darussalam. But those that can be repaired are repaired like these two which we visited in Temburong. We also visited several other houses owned by the daif identified by the District Office whether these can be repaired as well.
This project started a few months ago and time passes because all the applications needed to be assessed. The houses were visited individually to verify that they meet the criteria. Interestingly enough there is no formal committee for this project, just 4 ministers coordinating their efforts - the Minister of Energy at the PMO who is the defacto coordinating minister, the Minister of Religious Affairs as the Chairman of the Islamic Religious Council, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports as the Minister who looks after welfare and the Minister of Development as the Minister responsible for the construction and repair works. The PMO PS and me co-chairs the implementation committee.
The repaired houses yesterday was part of a few houses throughout Brunei which was repaired by PWD and funded through the Religious Council as assistance to the very poor. The houses were identified by various people such as through the Ketua Kampongs and the owners' own appeals. These ones in Temburong belong to a widow and to an orphans' family. The orphans house was very sad. The house was quite dilapidated. Three siblings stayed there, their mother passed away the year before and the father passed away several years ago. The eldest of the three is unemployed and the other two have just finished school but with no paper qualification. Their house was repaired and most importantly the District Office is trying to get the eldest a job as a labourer in the District Office. The widow's case is not as bad as hers was only the kitchen and a toilet to be repaired.
My minister wanted the repair work to be done before Hari Raya so we were all scrambling trying to get the repairs done before then. We failed on only one count, a house in Kampong Ayer whose stilts have tilted and may collapse. Contractors estimated the work can be done but at a cost of more than $100,000. Rather than repair, we have shifted his case to building or buying another house in Kampong Ayer.
After the fasting month, we will embark on building new houses for the very poor. So if you do know of any very poor people living in dilapidated housing condition and unable to build a new house or improve the ones they are staying in, ask them to write through their Ketua Kampongs to the Religious Council or to the Community Development Department. Remember, the criteria is DAIF or very poor. The decision to provide assistance will be through assessment by a working group which will visit the houses.
Also importantly, repairing or building a new house is only part of the solution. Most of the times, the occupants are unemployed and very unlikely to obtain gainful employment. At the moment, most of them receive assistance from the government or from the Religious Council or from Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. It becomes a vicious circle. These people and their descendants are unable to move out of the poverty trap. But if there are companies out there who are willing to provide jobs, that will be a more effective way for these people to upgrade themselves. Even providing free tuitions to the children would help a lot. For the youths, the government and the Religious Council is already providing job training programs at the Pusat Bimbingan Belia in Tanah Jambu. Any additional assistance is certainly most welcome.
It is our duty after all to help the daif especially in this holy month of Ramadan.