Don't Be Selfish

Yesterday, we were at this ceremony in Danau. It was the laying of the pillar for a house for the 'daif' or the very poor and those who cannot afford to build a house. Together with my colleague at PMO, we chair this working committee building houses for the very poor paid for by the Baitul Mal fund of the Brunei Islamic Religious Council. Baitul Mal has funded a number of welfare projects but this is the first time that the fund is going on an institutionalised house buildings for the poor. The houses are built by our Public Works Department through private contractors tendering for the jobs.

A working group identifies those who belong to the 'daif' category. Most actually have their own houses and own land but can't afford to better their dilapidated houses. We try to repair these houses but where the repair costs are too expensive, then that house is demolished and a new one was built in its place. The newly built houses are made of concrete and cost around $40,000. Since the houses are built singly in various places throughout Brunei, the prices actually differ for the same type of house designs. For those without lands but have been identified as 'daif', their houses will be built in empty government lots throughout the country.

This first group targets around 60+ families throughout Brunei.

Now, comes the hard bit. Everyone wants a free house, who wouldn't? Even though, the houses are basic but it is still a house. A free house is so much better. The hard bit is drawing a line. Since the news came out that we are building free houses, the number of applicants have increased like crazy. Up to yesterday, we were looking at about 500 applicants. No doubt with the publicity last night on television, we probably would be inundated with applications, perhaps easily doubling by another 500 today. Remember the time when it was announced that debtors can get assistance from Baitul Mal? They ran out of application forms and had to be moved to the stadium just to get the forms.

There is a criteria for applying. Many of those who applied would not be eligible. But every single one now has to be processed and has to be investigated. Those who are eligible would get their houses much slower simply because everyone especially those who are in the for free ride think why not apply? They think they might get lucky, they got nothing to lose. It is just an application form. The Singaporeans and Malaysians called it the kiasu mentality. We haven't called it anything just yet but I am sure we will come up with a word for it. For them it is true they got nothing to lose but those who are eligible and entitled to be help are held back and slowed because of these 'free riders'. We are trying to help the truly poor to have a better life. Think of them. Don't be selfish. Please.


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