Friday, July 31, 2009

A Time to Reflect

Apologies to the few faithful readers that I have left of this blog. I have not been able to update this blogspot and thoughts of closing it down completely have crossed my mind. Work as usual is very hectic but at the same time family commitment too.

We lost a young junior colleague a couple of months back. Last week my aunty Hajah Maimunah too was called. The last I saw of her was during my sister's wedding when she came over to my parents' house despite being on wheel chair. Mudah-mudahan roh mereka di cucuri rahmat dan diampunkan dosa-dosa.

I heard yesterday too, my uncle Dato Chua Pheng Siong had passed away. He was a good man. I worked under him for a few years when I was at MOF and I learnt a lot from him. I remembered attending an IMF and World Bank Governors Board meeting with him in Washington DC. We also stopped over in London on the way back together and nobody waited for us at London Heathrow because everyone thought that our flight was delayed. A time for sadness.

The Strata Title Roadshow will begin tomorrow at our Ministry. Many have already heard about it. I have explained it too and I won't go explain what it is. Suffice to say Brunei has finally moved forward from owning land to owning spaces. Many have rightly raised issues about it and we hoped to cover all of them in the roadshow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Quote of the Week



"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

John Calvin Coolidge

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What is SCP? Part 2

I remembered when I helped launched TAP in 1993, one wisecracker came up to me and asked me 'do you know what TAP stands for?' So I asked him and he said that 'TAP' stands for Tidak Ada Pencen. I thought to myself when I heard that SCP was announced by His Majesty that it won't be long before someone comes up with something interesting. I heard it today, the Brunei wisecracker has done it again, SCP stands for Simpanan Cara Paksaan. I rest my case.

BUT, whether secara paksaan or not, it is good for everyone's future. In fact, everyone's future rely on the SCP. The SCP marked a return to a monthly paid pension after retirement for government civil servants but not only that everyone including those in the private sector also gets the benefit of having monthly paid pensions. What is important to remember is that, when you retire, you get the TAP savings as a lump sum and the SCP savings as your monthly pensions.

I know that there were still a number of questions that people wanted to ask about the scheme and I will try to answer them as much as I can. Remember I am not the expert on this matter but I am just regurgitating what I gather from yesterday's briefing at MOF. MOF briefed the State Legislative Council members, Perm Secs and Heads and Deputy Heads of Government Departments.

A number of people asked the following questions in the comment boxes. My answers are as follows:

Q1. How many years the annuity will cover after the pension? until they passed away? what if they passed away the year after the pension? it's not really clear.. if the person earns more than 2800 per month (ie. $98 per month), how much he/she will earn after the pension? I don't see/know how to calculate them.

Q2. hw does the Scp spread aftr retirement age? Up to 70 yrs of age?

Q3. how is the monthly SCP calculated? is it over a spread of 15 years as per the previous pension scheme?

Q4. until what age do we received our annuity and what will happen if someoen live beyond certain age


Answer:
Technically, the pension is paid monthly for a period of 15 years from the age of 60. But if you are still alive after 15 years, the scheme will continue to pay you.

However if you died before completing 15 years, your wife and children (under 21) will benefit for the remainder of that 15 years.

The amount of annuity to be paid varied depending on three factors. One, is how much you are earning, the more you earn, the higher your annuity. Second, is how long you will be saving, the longer you saved up, the higher your annuity. Third, the amount of return you get from the investment of your savings, the higher the returns SCP can pay you, the higher your annuity. What the government is guaranteeing is no matter what, you will receive a minimum of $150 per month (for those earning $500 a month now and saved for 35 years). It will be a bit difficult to calculate what your actual annuity will be but if you earn more than $500 a month, your annuity will be higher than $150 a month.

Q5. mcmna dgn org bujang nda kwin? What happn to thier survivorship portion.

Answer:
Someone from MOF answered this on the comment box. "Insya Allah, SCP will be provided till the demise of the receiver. For singles, it will based on the probate letter."

Q6. Are there different for those dailypaid workers who retire at 65? wiil their annuity be paid on reaching 60?

Answer:
I don't have an answer to this and hopefully someone from MOF will correct me if I am wrong. However, logically (and based on existing TAP and pension practices), annuity should be paid out at age 60 and if a person continues working, he should be receiving his monthly annuity as well as his pay.

Q7. I may be mistaken but the circular doesnt seem to outline what happens to the 1% survivorship fund if a person DOESN'T die prior to retirement, is it integrated into d mthly SCP?

Answer:
I don't have an answer to this and hopefully someone from MOF will correct me if I am wrong. However, logically that 1% is only activated if you died. Otherwise it will form part of your monthly SCP.

I hope I have been able to cover everything. I know my ex-MOF colleagues will correct me and if that happens, I will give the amended response. If you have any more questions, they can be posted in the comment boxes.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What is Strata Title?

[The following entry is extracted from the Press Release issued by Ministry of Development on Thursday, 16th July 2009]

Pada menjunjung titah perkenan Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan dan Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam, Kementerian Pembangunan sukacita memaklumkan bahawa Baginda telah memperkenankan supaya Kanun Tanah Strata (Penggal 189), Negara Brunei Darussalam dikuatkuasakan bermula 1hb. Julai 2009 bersamaan 8hb. Rejab 1430 Hijrah.

2. Sehubungan dengan penguatkuasaan ini, Baginda juga telah memperkenankan supaya pemilikan hak milik strata ini adalah tertakluk jua kepada peraturan-peraturan mengenainya.

3. Adapun antaralain tujuan perlaksanaan Akta Kanun Tanah Strata (Penggal 189) ini digubal adalah bagi:

* Memberikan dorongan dan galakan kepada Rakyat dan Penduduk Tetap Negara Brunei Darussalam untuk memiliki rumah kediaman dan tempat tinggal di negara ini dengan selesa;

* Memberikan galakan kepada pemilik-pemilik tanah bagi mengoptimakan penggunaan tanah yang sedia ada melalui kaedah 'vertical development';

* Menarik minat pelabur sama ada dalam dan luar negara untuk melabur dalam sektor hartanah;

* Menjana peluang pekerjaan melalui kaedah pengurusan Perbadanan Strata (Management Corporation) di dalam sesuatu bangunan;

* Menjana perkembangan ekonomi Negara Brunei Darussalam melalui perkembangan di bidang hartanah.

4. Akta Kanun Tanan Strata (Penggal 189), Negara Brunei Darussalam ini akan membolehkan pemilikan hak milik strata di dalam sesebuah bangunan yang mempunyai lebih daripada dua unit utama (2 tingkat), di mana kebenaran bagi memecah bahagi bangunan tersebut telah diluluskan. Geran-geran berasingan akan dikeluarkan kepada setia petak di dalam bangunan dan ianya dipanggil sebagai Geran Strata atau geran subsidiari. Pemilik-pemilik geran strata ini boleh menjual, memberi atau mewariskan petak-petak yang dimiliki kepada sesiapa sahaja. Geran strata ini juga boleh dijadikan sebagai jaminan pinjaman kewangan kolateral (collateral).

5. Dalam melaksanakan Akta Kanun Tanan Strata (Penggal 189), Negara Brunei Darussalam, Baginda juga telah memperkenankan supaya agen-agen penaksir dan agen-agen hartanah di negara ini yang sedang atau menjalankan tugas dan khidmat sebagai 'managing agent' bagi setiap unit strata berkenaan ini dapat dikawalselia pengurusannya. Sehubungan dengan itu, Perintah Penilai dan Agen Harta Tanah 2009 (Valuers and Estate Agents Order, 2009) telah diperkenankan untuk dikuatkuasakan bermula 1hb Julai 2009 bersamaan dengan 8hb Rejab 1430 Hijrah.

6. Kementerian Pembangunan melalui Jabatan Tanah akan mengadakan jerayawara untuk memberigakan butir-butir mengenai dengan peraturan-peraturan strata kepada semmua pemegang taruhan (stakeholders) bermula daripada 1hb Ogos 2009 nanti.

7. Bagi sebarang pertanyaan berhubung dengan peraturan, cara-cara memohon dan mendapatkan kebenaran memecah bahagi bangunan, orang ramai bolehlah berhubung terus ke Jabatan Tanah dan Jabatan Ukur bagi mendapatkan penerangan lanjut mengenainya.

Kementerian Pembangunan
Tarikh Dikeluarkan: 16 Julai 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

What is the SCP?

The details of the Supplemental Contributory Pension (SCP) announced by His Majesty during His Birthday's Titah was released by Ministry of Finance yesterday. I have made available the 5 pages document scanned as jpg files in the last posting. You can click on each one and print that page out. It is not as clear as I would have liked, the original scans are clear, but this one is reduced resolution otherwise it will take you sometime to download. But it is legible and readable.

Based on the circular, this is what I understand SCP is all about.

What is SCP?
The SCP is supplemental to the current TAP scheme. The main objective is to ensure that everyone will be able to retire at the compulsory age of 60 with a minimum pension of $150 a month. This added to the $250 Old Age Pension will mean that everyone has $400 a month to live on for the rest of their life. The SCP also has a 'survivorship' component which means that your wife and children can benefit even after your death.

Who is in the SCP?
SCP is compulsory for everyone either on the TAP scheme or in the informal sector (self-employed).

How does the plan work?
You and your employer has to contribute. You must contribute 3.5% of your salary and your employer pays an equivalent amount. Out of that 7%, 6% goes into your SCP account and 1% goes into your survivorship account.

The minimum contribution is $17.50 a month which is based on $500 salary. If your salary is lower than $500 a month, the government will top up your contribution to bring it up to $17.50 a month. But your employer still pays a minimum of $17.50 a month.

But there is a maximum that the company has to pay. If your salary is more than $2,800, the company only needs to pay up to the salary of $2,800 a month which is equivalent to $98 a month. But you can opt to pay more so that you get a higher monthly annuity when you retire.

If you are self-employed, you have to pay $17.50 and the government in place of your non-existent employer will pay the other $17.50. You can opt to contribute more so that you also get a higher monthly annuity when you retire.

What are the qualifying rules?
You must contribute for at least 35 years starting from the day you start working.

For the transition period, that means practically everyone who are working now, the government will help you 'catch up', that is the government will pay for whatever shortage to make up up in your saving up to a maximum of $30 per month.

Whatever it is, the government will top up your contribution even if your 7% monthly payment is still insufficient to allow you to enjoy $150 annuity.

What are the survivorship rules?
If you die before reaching retirement, your wife or your husband and/or your children under 21 will get $400 a month for a period of 15 years. But if your wife or rather your widow remarries, payment will be made to your children only. If your wife dies, payment will also be transferred to your children.

If you die after your retirement, you children will benefit under a special SCP pension subject to the amount left in your account.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What is SCP?





On 15th July 2009, His Majesty says

Alhamdulillah, syukur kehadhrat Allah Subhanahu Wata'ala, diatas limpah rahmat-Nya mengizinkan kita sama-sama menyambut Hari Keputeraan Beta yang Ke-63 tahun.

Walaupun semua majlis, kecuali Majlis Membaca Do'a Kesyukuran Di Masjid-Masjid, telah ditangguhkan, namun Beta dapat merasakan, semangat 15 Julai adalah tetap hangat dan segar, sebagaimana juga biasanya pada setiap tahun.

Beta tidaklah lupa menghargai semangat ini dan mengucapkan rasa penghargaan yang amat tinggi kepada semua lapisan rakyat dan penduduk diatas dokongan mereka itu, Beta juga dengan sukacita merakamkan penghargaan yang sama kepada semua pihak yang telah menghantar perutusan ucap selamat mereka kepada Beta dan keluarga bersempena dengan sambutan ini.

Kita di Brunei, sayugia bersyukur, kerana negara terus menikmati suasana aman dan tenteram.

lni hendaknya menjadikan kita lebih beriltizam lagi untuk meningkatkan usaha memelihara kesejahteraan dan keselamatan yang berterusan dengan izin Allah.

Walaupun kesan dari krisis kewangan global masih dirasakan oleh kebanyakan negara, tidak terkecuali juga negara kita sendiri, namun alhamdulillah, dalam keadaan yang demikian itu, ekonomi negara masih sahaja mampu bertahan, kerana adanya usaha-usaha kita yang konsisten dalam mengukuh dan mengembangkan asas ekonomi yang dilakukan dari sejak krisis kewangan pada tahun 1997 lagi.

lni disokong oleh lapuran positif IMF baru-baru ini yang menyatakan negara telah mengamalkan dasar makroekonomi yang mantap, serta pengurusan sumber-sumber minyak dan gas yang berkesan dan bijak

Beta amatlah menghargai penglibatan semua pihak, khasnya mereka yang sama-sama menghulurkan bantuan, termasuk sumbangan tenaga dalam menangani pemulihan.

Dengan semangat ini, Beta yakin, akan menambah lagi kebajikan dan keutuhan negara.

Selain kita telah mengalami ujian bencana alam, banjir dan tanah susur, negara juga sekarang turut dilanda pandemik Influenza A H1Nl.

Sebagai bangsa yang bertauhid, kita.tidak hanya menanganinya dengan cara biasa sahaja, malahan juga menambah dengan membaca do’a, qunut nazilah dan sembahyang hajat.

Apapun yang berlaku, negara insya Allah, akan terus bergerak kepada pembangunan.

Rancangan Kemajuan Negara, RKN 2007 - 2012 adalah merupakan satu pakej yang membolehkan ekonomi negara berkembang, infrastruktur dibina dan pembangunan sosial ditingkatkan.

Maka berbangkit dari itu, RKN 2007 - 2012 telah menyediakan 9.5 billion ringgit Brunei untuk melaksanakan projek-projek pembangunan.

Melalui RKN, Kerajaan mengambil langkah untuk mempelbagaikan lagi ekonomi negara.

Sebanyak 1.1 billion ringgit Brunei disediakan untuk kemajuan perindustrian dan perdagangan.

Tumpuan juga diberikan untuk memudahkan lagi kegiatan-kegiatan perindustrian serta untuk melahirkan pengusaha-pengusaha tempatan yang dinamik lagi progresif.

Manakala dalam sektor perniagaan, Beta mengambil maklum bahawa usaha­usaha sedang dibuat oleh pihak-pihak tertentu Kerajaan bagi memudahcara proses memulakan perniagaan yang lebih efisen serta setanding dengan 'standard' di negara-negara lain.

Baru-baru ini Kerajaan Beta telah meluluskan beberapa inisiatif, seperti 'land strata title', penurunan kadar yuran tawaran negara dan terus meneroka kemampuan teknologi infokomunikasi (lCT), bagi memudah dan memajukan lagi perindustrian dan perniagaan.

Sejak beberapa tahun lalu, Beta telah menekankan betapa pentingnya meningkatkan tahap jaminan sekuriti makanan.

Maka sehubungan itu, baru-baru ini, telahpun dilancarkan satu inisiatif bagi mencapai tahap sara diri dalam pengeluaran beras kepada 20% pada tahun 2010, dan 60% menjelang tahun 2015.

Alhamdulillah, pada bulan April yang lalu, penanaman padi yang boleh dilakukan sekurang-kurangnya dua kali setahun dengan menggunakan padi berhasil tinggi, telahpun dimulakan.

Insya Allah, rakyat akan mula berpeluang untuk menikmati hasilnya dimusim menuai pada bulan depan nanti.

Seiring itu, lebih banyak kawasan baru akan ditawarkan kepada sektor swasta, dari dalam dan luar negara, bagi penanaman padi secara komersial, dan menjadikannya sebagai satu perusahaan yang 'viable'.

Berhubung isu kemiskinan pula, Kerajaan Beta akan terus meningkatkan usaha, sejajar dengan masa dan keadaan.

Sebagai contoh ialah pelaksanaan projek bantuan perumahan bagi golongan dha'if, fakir dan miskin.

Projek ini melibatkan usahasama dan kerjasama beberapa agensi Kerajaan, badan korporat dan orang ramai iaitu selaku penyumbang dana melalui penunaian kewajipan zakat.

Menyebut tentang zakat, Beta masih menunggu apa yang dibuat oleh pihak berkenaan mengenai beberapa perkara yang telah Beta timbulkan di dalam Persidangan Majlis Ugama Islam enam bulan yang lalu.

Salah satu dasar pengukuhan ekonomi ialah amalan jimat cermat dan budaya suka menabung.

Kerajaan amatlah menggalakkan perkara ini.

Kerana itu, Beta berharap supaya institusi-institusi kewangan akan dapat menyediakan banyak lagi peluang dan cara, untuk orang ramai boleh menabung dengan pulangan yang baik.

Selain itu, undang-undang atau peraturan juga perlu diperkukuhkan bagi mengelakkan rakyat dari diperdayakan oleh kegiatan-kegiatan yang salah, seperti skim cepat kaya.

Diantara komitmen penting Kerajaan Beta untuk menjamin kemakmuran dan keselamatan rakyat, Beta bersama dengan bekas Perdana Menteri Malaysia pada awal tahun ini, telah menandatangani 'Exchange of Letters' mengenai dengan penghadan sempadan laut negara ini dengan Malaysia.

Melalui persetujuan tersebut, Negara Brunei Darussalam akan mempunyai hak kedaulatan ke atas pentas benua dan 200 batu nautikal zon eksklusif ekonomi.

Beta percaya negara akan menikmati hasil, yang nantinya dapat diperolehi daripada eksploitasi 'hydrocarbon' dan sumber-sumber maritim yang lain.

Peluang-peluang bemanafaat akan terbuka luas termasuk pelaburan, perniagaan dan pekerjaan, terutama yang memerlukan kepakaran.

Dari sudut tenaga, Negara Brunei Darussalam patutlah bersyukur kerana menjadi pengeluar minyak dan gas.

Namun begitu, kita tidaklah lalai dari memberikan perhatian, agar sumber tenaga itu digunakan secara efisen, sambil mengelak pembaziran.

Beta berpendapat, masanya juga sudah tiba untuk agensi-agensi Kerajaan menggubal dasar dan mengemukakan langkah-langkah bagi mencapai matlamat penggunaan tenaga secara efisen dan mengelakkan pembaziran.

Misalnya, pada setiap tahun agensi­agensi Kerajaan menggunakan kuasa elektrik sehingga $68 juta setahun.

Kalau pembaziran 10 peratus dapat dielakkan, bererti kita boleh menjimatkan sehingga $6.8 juta setahun.

Pendekatan negara-negara tertentu seperti Jepun, selaku pengguna tenaga yang sangat efisen, amatlah elok ditauladani.

Satu lagi isu ekonomi yang lumrah ialah pengangguran.

Beta sungguh menghargai sumbangan syarikat-syarikat swasta yang turut memenuhi tanggungjawab mewujudkan peluang­peluang pekerjaan di negara ini.

Beta difahamkan, proses untuk mengisi jawatan di sektor Kerajaan pada tahun lepas telah mengambil masa diantara enam ke lapan bulan, sehingga menyebabkan kekosongan jawatan-jawatan baru dan persaraan meningkat kepada lima ribu jawatan.

Pada hemat Beta, jika proses ini dapat dipendekkan, maka jumlah itu dengan sendirinya akan berkurangan, serta pemohon-pemohon tidaklah perlu menunggu begitu lama.

Mengenai kebajikan untuk tenaga manusia dalam perkhidmatan, Kerajaan Beta tidaklah memandang ringan terhadap hari-hari persaraan, terutamanya mereka yang berpendapatan rendah.

Maka untuk itu, sukacita diumumkan, bahawa Kerajaan Beta akan memperkenalkan satu skim persaraan tambahan yang digelar "Skim Persaraan Caruman Tambahan" atau Supplemental Contributory Pension (SCP).

Skim ini dihasratkan sebagai tambahan kepada Skim Tabung Amanah Pekerja (TAP) yang ada sekarang.

Dengan Skim ini, insya Allah, para pesara yang memenuhi syarat-syarat yang ditetapkan, akan menerima pendapatan tetap minimum bulanan
(annuity) sesudah mereka mencapai umur persaraan mandatori kelak.

Skim (SCP) ini juga dilengkapkan dengan perlindungan 'survivorship' bagi menjamin tanggungan peserta, sekiranya mereka meninggal dunia sebelum persaraan mandatori.

Seperti Skim TAP, Skim SCP ini juga akan meliputi untuk semua Rakyat dan Penduduk Tetap yang bekerja di sektor awam dan swasta.

Malah juga akan dilaratkan kepada sektor informal. Setiap peserta dan majikan, mereka masing-masing akan dimestikan secara undang-undang untuk membuat caruman bulanan yang ditentukan, dan sebahagian caruman pula akan digunakan sebagai bayaran sumbangan perlindungan, survivorship.

Bagaimanapun, untuk tidak membebankan pihak majikan, terutama syarikat-syarikat perniagaan, perkiraan jumlah caruman yang ditanggung oleh mereka, akan dihadkan kepada jumlah yang berpatutan.

Bagi peserta Skim TAP yang tidak sempat membuat caruman yang mencukupi sebelum bersara mandatori, juga akan menerima manfaat daripada Skim SCP ini.

Untuk itu, Beta telahpun memperkenankan supaya Kerajaan memberikan bantuan tambahan kepada kumpulan ini dalam bentuk 'catch-up' atau caruman secara kebelakangan yang ditetapkan.

Insya Allah, Skim ini akan mula dikuatkuasakan pada 1 Januari 2010.

Satu akta akan digubal bagi maksud pelaksanaannya.

Sehubungan itu, Beta juga sukacita mengambil peluang mengisytiharkan bahawa mulai 1 Januari 2010, umur persaraan mandatori bagi Rakyat dan Penduduk Tetap negara ini, yang
menyertai Skim TAP dan SCP ialah genap 60 tahun.

Beralih kepada arena antarabangsa, kita akan terus menerus mengeratkan hubungan dua hala dan kerjasama dengan negara-negara luar.

Keahlian Negara Brunei Darussalam dalam pertubuhan­pertubuhan serantau dan antarabangsa, merupakan usaha sama kita dalam mendukung komitmen-komitmen antarabangsa.

Kita juga memainkan peranan membina dalam hal ehwal keselamatan serantau mahupun antarabangsa, seperti penyertaan kita dalam misi-misi pengaman di Selatan Filipina, Lubnan dan Aceh, dan juga menghulurkan bantuan-bantuan kemanusiaan kepada pihak-pihak yang dilanda malapetaka bencana-bencana alam.

Selaras dengan kemampuan negara, penyertaan melalui misi-misi seperti ini akan sentiasa dipertimbangkan dari masa kesemasa.

Akhirnya, Beta dengan tulus ikhlas ingin mengambil kesempatan merakamkan setinggi-tinggi penghargaan dan ucapan terima kasih kepada seluruh lapisan rakyat dan penduduk, meliputi warga Perkhidmatan Awam, Pasukan-Pasukan Keselamatan dan mereka yang berkhidmat di sektor swasta, atas sokongan dan sumbangan serta khidmat bakti mereka kepada Kerajaan Beta.

Begitu juga Beta tidak lupa merakamkan ucapan yang sama kepada seluruh Ahli Jawatankuasa Sambutan, sama ada diperingkat daerah atau kebangsaan, atas usaha mereka yang gigih pada menjayakan sambutan Hari Ulang Tahun Beta ke-63 tahun ini.

Semoga Allah jua yang akan membalas dengan limpah rahmat-Nya kepada mereka.

Sekian, Wabillahit Taufeq Wal-hidayah, Wassalamu ' Alaikum Warahmatullaahi Wabarakaatuh.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

His Majesty's Speech and Strata Title

As always His Majesty's Birthday Speech contained enough to satisfy everyone. His touch in knowing what the issues are and how to solve them is something which we have always admired in him.

Some have asked me to comment on His Majesty's speech but I think that would be better be left to the people out there. Of the issues which concern the public the most is always financial. By the comments I read in the newspapers, in Facebook and even in Twitter, many are happy that there will be a monthly pension to both the public and private sectors, many are also happy that the retirement age has been increased. If I was still in MOF, I would have been happy to include all the details here as I did before but in this particular case, we have to wait for MOF to give us all the details today.

Of the many issues that His Majesty touched on, one in particular is something we in MOD is responsible for. That is the enforcement of the strata title. The Strata Title legislation is a law which has been enacted quite sometime ago but was never enforced. What is the legislation concerning strata title?

Strata Title refers to the title of ownership of a particular unit in a building. For instance, if you own land, you own a title deed to the land or in Brunei term - "geran tanah". This title deed says you are the owner and you can do more or less what you want to do with the land subject to the regulations governing the use of the land. But most importantly you can sell it or you can buy another piece of land from someone else and get the 'geran tanah' for that land.

If you build a house on the land, you can sell the house together with the land. What happens if you happen to own a building with 20 apartments? Can you sell one apartment and keep the rest? Technically you can. But if I was the buyer I would want the title deed to that one apartment you sold to me. I want the 'geran tanah' for that apartment. You the seller cannot give it to me because you don't have the official 'geran tanah' for the apartment. What the public has done is to go into various legal ways such as having powers of attorney and trust deeds to secure the ownership of that apartment. What happens when I want to sell the apartment I bought? The next person who buys it from me have to go through those legal hoops again.

So, the strata title act now allows you the building owner to apply for 'geran tanah' or title deeds to all those apartments in the building that you have just built. You can now easily sell those units because each has a title deed and selling each apartment would be just as easy as it is to sell land. It is just a matter of transferring the title deeds from you as the seller to me as the buyer. The Strata title is the 'geran' or title for each apartment.

What about the land where the building is sitting on? That land will belong to the owner of the land. While the building is up there with all those apartments, the owner cannot sell the land. Every single owner of the apartments have legal rights and this is covered in the legislation. The legislation covers many other aspects but in a nutshell, the strata title act will allow people to own 'spaces' and have title deeds to those spaces.

How would this benefit the country? First of all, it would benefit land owners. Land owners will now be able to develop their land and build high rise apartments as they can now sell those apartments. Everyone can buy those apartments. If the price is right, many people will be able to afford to buy apartments. Previously they have to buy houses and land together but now they can just buy apartments, making the price cheaper. There is no restriction who can buy the apartments including foreigners. With this strata title legislation, there is expected to be a boom in construction industry. Booms in construction industries will lead to booms in other sectors of the economy.

The Strata Title legislation or the proper name is the Land Code (Strata) Cap 189 of the Brunei Laws is available for purchase from the Law library at the Law Building in Jalan Tutong for $20. You can download a free pdf from the AGC website. There is one amendment which is to this published law, the strata title can be as long as 99 years. In the original law, it is 60 years.

Geocentric Datum Brunei Darussalam 2009

I launched the Brunei Darussalam Geocentric Datum 2009 yesterday. My speech was about how useful it would be etc. The Surveyor General's speech outlined what Geocentric Datum Brunei Darussalam is all about (if you still don't understand it, then go down to the very last paragraph for my very short non-technical summary):-

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The continuing development of global communication and information technologies makes the emergence of global geographic data infrastructure inevitable. Brunei Darussalam is moving towards this global infrastructure by introducing a geocentric datum. This is a new era in geodesy for Brunei Darussalam.

A global geocentric datum is supported and adopted by a growing number of international organizations like the International Federation of Surveyors FIG and the International Hydrographic Organisation IHO.

In many countries, the use of common geocentric datum will facilitate reliable joint survey commission of Land demarcation of neighboring countries and allied forces.

So what is geocentric datum? As the words imply, “geocentric datum” has its origin at the centre of the earth. The key advantages of the GDBD over Brunei Darussalam’s current datum (RSO Rectified Skew Ortmorphic) are that GDBD 2009 is totally compatible with satellite-based navigation systems such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) and with major international geographic systems. In fact, the GDBD 2009 will provide very significant and substantial benefits to those using satellite positioning and/or operating nationally or internationally.

What are the benefits of geocentric datum and the GDA?

Adopting a geocentric datum allows for a single standard for collecting, storing and using geographic data. This will ensure compatibility across various geographic systems at the local, regional, national and global level. This is the main reason that the GDBD will form the basis for the Brunei Darussalam Spatial Data Infrastructure (BSDI) – the infrastructure to manage Brunei Darussalam’s key spatial data sets.

A geocentric datum will also:

• provide direct compatibility with Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements and mapping or Geographic Information Systems (GIS) which are based on the geocentric datum;

• minimize the need for causes users to understand datum transformations;

• allow more efficient use of organisations’ spatial data resources by reducing need for duplication and unnecessary translations;

• help promote wider use of spatial data through one user friendly data environment;

• reduce the risk of confusion as GPS, GIS and navigation systems become more widely used in business and recreational activities.

Why is Brunei Darussalam adopting GDBD?

The current Brunei Darussalam Datum – Brunei Rectified Skew Orthomorphic RSO is based on a mathematical surface of the earth designed to fit the Brunei Darussalamn region.

Continuing to work with RSO coordinates in an international environment where positioning, navigation and information systems relate to a global earth model is becoming increasingly inefficient and difficult.
The use of a globally compatible coordinate systems within Brunei Darussalam is now inevitable and the longer we remain with RSO , the more difficult and expensive it will be to convert to GDBD.

The adoption of a geocentric datum allows for a single standard for the collection, storage and use of geographic data. This will ensure compatibility across various geographic information systems at the local, regional, national and global level.

In implementing a geocentric datum, Brunei Darussalam will achieve maximum benefit in the application of the Global Positioning System (GPS).

This important step has vast economical and practical benefits for Brunei Darussalam. With a geocentric datum as Brunei Darussalam’s geodetic reference system, an integrated national geographic data infrastructure can be established. This national resource will support economic, social and environmental decision making.

Many countries are already developing a national spatial (geographic) data infrastructure NSDI in a global context. Brunei Darussalam’s move to a geocentric datum will enable us to advance in this direction.

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Surveyors rely on one major point to do their surveys and from that major point, build more points throughout the area. Brunei all this while has been using the Borneo point which is at Tembalai in Labuan since 1948. Why Tembalai? Easy, the British. Anyway since then, Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei had been using that. However over time, we found out that this is getting skewered and not very accurate. So the need to move to a digital one and using satellites. Now, our survey points are fixed to the satellite and measuring it from the centre of the earth. Don't ask me how. But suffice to say, the Geocentric Datum makes all survey calculations more accurate.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tale of an Envelope


These stamps on this cover were the first truly official Brunei stamps. In 1895, Brunei had the first private but officially sanctioned stamps. In 1906 when the British Resident first appeared in Brunei, there was a postal service but the stamps were Labuan stamps overprinted Brunei. So these stamps were the first officially used stamps in Brunei to be used by the Postal Authorities. In fact these designs stayed on until 1951, 47 years later.

The stamps on this envelope and this envelope tells an interesting story. This letter was addressed to someone in Moudon, Switzerland. We don't who it is in Brunei who wanted to send a letter to Switzerland way back in 1907.

The stamps in front of the envelope was postmarked 25th July 1907 and this was the 516th letter to be registered in Brunei. But the postmarks at the back tell an interesting story.

The letter did not leave Brunei until 29 July 2009. It arrived in Labuan on 30 July 1907. Labuan, the year before was absorbed as part of the Straits Settlement Government and therefore served as a postal clearing house for the regions nearby. From Labuan it ended in Singapore on 5 August 1907, a journey of about 5 days by ship. Singapore as the centre of the Straits Settlement Government processed the letter and forwarded it to London.

It arrrived in London on 30 August 1907, a journey of 25 days from Singapore. Europe must have an established postal network but extremely slowly network as the next postmark was Moudon itself on 31 August 1907. The recepient must have received it in the next few days which would be in September 1907 which is about 6 weeks after it left the sender in Brunei on 25 July 1907. Not bad for the postal service in 1907. Letters from USA took about 3 to 4 weeks nowadays!

This envelope was on offer for $850 before I bargained. I managed to get it for a lower price but packaged together with the stamps which I blogged the last few days.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

H1N1

Yesterday, Reuters reported the following:-

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - People who are obese but otherwise healthy may be at special risk of severe complications and death from the new H1N1 swine flu virus, U.S. researchers reported on Friday.

They described the cases of 10 patients at a Michigan hospital who were so ill they had to be put on ventilators. Three died. Nine of the 10 were obese, seven were severely obese, including two of the three who died.

The study, published in advance in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly report on death and disease, also suggests doctors can safely double the usual dose of oseltamivir, Roche AG's antiviral drug sold under the Tamiflu brand name.

"What this suggests is that there can be severe complications associated with this virus infection, especially in severely obese patients," said CDC virus expert Dr. Tim Uyeki.

"And five of these patients had ... evidence of blood clots in the lungs. This has not been previously known to occur in patients with severe influenza virus infections," Uyeki said in a telephone interview.

Dr. Lena Napolitano of the University of Michigan Medical Center and colleagues studied the cases of 10 patients admitted to the university's intensive care unit with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome caused by infection with H1N1.

"Of the 10 patients, nine were obese (body mass index more than 30), including seven who were extremely obese (BMI more than 40)," they wrote in their report.

Their study was not designed to see if obesity or anything else poses a special risk factor for flu. But the researchers were surprised to see that seven of the 10 patients were extremely obese.

MULTIPLE ORGAN FAILURE

Nine had multiple organ failure, which can be seen in influenza, but five had blood clots in the lungs, and six had kidney failure.

None has fully recovered, the researchers said.

The H1N1 swine flu virus first emerged in Mexico in March and was spreading out of control in the United States by the time it was identified at the end of April. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic in June.

While it is causing moderate illness, all influenza viruses can be deadly and this one is no exception. It has killed close to 500 people globally, more than 200 in the United States alone.

However, the new virus has a slightly different pattern from seasonal flu -- it spreads in the summer months, attacks young adults and older children, and may affect the body slightly differently.

As with H5N1 avian influenza, which only rarely attacks people, patients seem to survive better if they get Tamiflu for longer than the usual five-day treatment course, Uyeki said.

"We don't know if it is necessary for a higher dose of the drug to be given to patients who are obese," he said.

"The high prevalence of obesity in this case series is striking," the CDC's commentary accompany the report reads.

"Whether obesity is an independent risk factor for severe complications of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus infection is unknown. Obesity has not been identified previously as a risk factor for severe complications of seasonal influenza."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Brunei $25 stamp 1910

Yesterday, I was off to Gadong during lunchtime and drop into my friend who deals with antique books. I was not expecting to buy anything but normally just have a quick look around at whatever new that he has got. Maybe I shouldn't say new. Whatever old things that he managed to acquire recently.

When I was there he showed me these 4 stamps:-


These stamps were issued for the Brunei Postal Authorities in 1910, almost 100 years ago. They are part of the 1908 series.

$25 was a lot of money in those days. In those days even 1/4 cents can still purchase something, so what more $25. It could be a senior executive's monthly salary. Nobody can afford to buy those stamps. But these stamps are not just used for postage but they are also used for revenues that is stamp duties etc.

But here's the thing. I managed to get a single $25 stamp about two years ago, in much less perfect condition and I had to pay good money for it:-


These four are perfect. They are worth more than what I paid for the single one.

Believe it or not, the catalogue value for one of this stamp is $1,500 each. Those 4 stamps are worth $6,000. And these came in four, that would again add to the value of the stamps. When I saw them, my eyes went wide. But luckily too, people don't sell stamps based on catalogue values. Nevertheless these 4 are now sitting safely in my safe.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Brunei $5 note



Every now and then you get to see the previous paper note of Brunei's currency. This $5 paper note surprisingly is still circulated. I was quite intrigued to see Brunei's $100 notes the other day being used at HH. So there are still some old notes. But this $5 note is interesting. You look at the back and you will see this:-



This water village photograph being used for the note is unusual. It is not the usual photo of Kampong Ayer. When I first studied the $5 note in detail. It took me quite by surprise to realise it is not Kampong Ayer.

About two years back, I found this old postcard:-



Familiar? This is not a village in Kampong Ayer. It is in Brunei but not Kampong Ayer as you know it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ancient Trading Customs of Brunei and China

[I wrote the following article for my Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times two Sundays ago:-]

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The history of friendly exchanges of envoys and trade between China and Brunei went back a long way. According to Chinese records, the earliest recorded contact date back to more than 2,000 years. Relationship was established as early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC to 23 AD). By 669 AD during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), official exchanges between Brunei and China had begun.

Shen Yu (441 – 513), holding the post equivalent to Prime Minister wrote in a book ‘Song Shu’ (the book of Song Dynasty) that on the third month of the first year of Yuanhui Reign (May 2, 473), an envoy from Poli (Brunei) came to contribute their native products.

Liu Xu writing in Jiu Tang Shu (Old Tang History) described that in the fourth year of the Zhenguan Reign (630), the Brunei King sent an envoy following the envoy sent by the country Linyi to China to contribute their native products. The king was described having the surname of Shaliyejia and Hulunapo as his first name. He wore a crown decorated with pearls and jades and seated on the throne of gold.

By the time of the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), official and non-governmental commercial and cultural exchanges have become more frequent and were officially recorded in Chinese history.

In 977, it was recorded that the King of Brunei had dispatched his envoy Abu Ali and a delegation to China. The delegation brought with them, camphor, hawksbill turtle shell, ivory and sandalwood as tributes to the Emperor of China.
From the remains of archaeological digs such as at Limau Manis, Kota Batu and Tanjong Nangka, we know that the Chinese traders came very frequently to Brunei. The finds at Limau Manis included shards of vases and coins from various eras of the Chinese dynasties ranging from Emperor Kao Tzu of the Tang Dynasty (618-627) to Emperor Hui Tsung (1101-1125) of the Northern Song Dynasty.

As a result of these frequent trades between the two countries, elaborate customs and traditions developed whenever Chinese traders arrived in Brunei to trade. The best description was recorded by Zhao Rukuo who was the head of the custom house of Fujian Prefecture during the Song Dynasty, in his book ‘Zhu Fan Zhi’ (Records of Foreign Countries) Part II.

According to Zhao Rukuo that three days after the Chinese ships arrived in Brunei, the King of Brunei will lead his family and high officials to visit the ships to greet the seafarers and traders.

The ship’s crew will greet the King by lowering brocade-decorated gangplank. Wine, gold, silverware, official mattress and umbrellas will be presented to the king’s entourage according to their ranks. After the entourage had disembarked, the merchants will still not trade.

Every day, they would then treat the king with Chinese meals. As a result, all ships heading for Brunei would always carry one or two skillful cooks. The seafarers will visit the king with gifts on every first and fifteenth day of the lunar month.

It will be about a month later before they will invite the king and his high officials to discuss the prices of the goods. After both parties had agreed to the prices, then only will the Chinese traders invite customers to trade with them. The traders would then beat drums to announce that trading had begun.

If anyone is caught trying to trade privately before the two sides had officially agreed on the prices, he would be severely punished. However, according to the ancient seafarers, Brunei hold businessmen in high esteem and even if they are convicted of murder, they would only be punished and not sentenced to death.

Once the ship had completed trading, the King will prepare a banquet for the crew. The King will also give them camphor and local cloth. He would have also given a speech praising the seafarers and thanking them for coming to Brunei.

But the ships are not allowed to leave till the fifteenth day of June and the crew needed to purchase sacrifices to celebrate the Buddha Festival. If they did not do this, it was said that they will suffer stormy waves on their return to China.

During the pre-Islamic sultanate of Brunei, Buddhism was practiced. The King would offer flowers and fruits himself for three days running.

The Chinese history indicated that foreign traders bring many imported goods to Brunei. The imports included gold, silver, Jia brocade, Jianyang brocade, silk of five colours, antler of five colours, glazed balls, glazed bottles, white tin, black lead, armlets, kermes, lacquered bowls and plates, celadon and on.

On the other hand Brunei would be trading plum borneol (camphor), Su borneol, Golden Foot borneol, Rice borneol, beeswax, acronychi pedunculata and hawksbill.

Pehin Jamil in his book ‘History of Brunei in Brief’ described that Marco Polo, the Italian traveler who had visited China and countries in this region, noted that trade between Brunei and China was going on well in 1291.

The trading – buying and selling were said to be very efficient and systematic and was supervised by a Chief Scribe, a Deputy Chief with a number of officials to ensure that the weights and measurements were accurate.

Graham Saunders in his book ‘A History of Brunei’ also described that in 1330, a Chinese merchant by the name of Wang Ta-yuan came to Brunei and recorded that the Brunei people were lavish in their habits and that they were good accountants, a tribute to the commercial class of the Brunei port.

The Islamic Sultanate of Brunei was said to have started around 1376 by Sultan Muhammad Shah as the first Islamic ruler of Brunei.

During the reign of Sultan Sharif Ali (1425 – 1432), the third Islamic ruler, Brunei was a well administered government and even though official relationship between Brunei and China was distant during this period, trade was still conducted between the two countries. The Chinese residents of Brunei carried out trade with China, Patani and the surrounding countries.

Sweeney in ‘Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei’ also described that all the goods being traded would be taxed. One item of every ten sold and ten items for every hundred. If the traders wished to be free of this tax, they could do so on the conditions that they offer gifts to the Sultan, Wazirs, Cheterias and the other high ranking officials.

According to ‘Salasilah Raja-Raja Brunei’, Dato Imam Yaakub’s version, since the reign of Sultan Muhammad Hassan (the ninth Sultan) and up to the reigns of Sultan Nasruddin (1690 – 1710) and Sultan Hussain Kamaluddin (1710 – 1730 and 1737 – 1740), Brunei’s harbour had a good reputation among foreign traders because the Sultan made trading very safe and cooperated with the traders in the distribution of their products to the market, for the benefit of the Brunei people.

Last year, trade between the two countries reached a record US$355 million (B$490 million). Brunei exported US$255 million worth of crude oil to China. Over the same period, Brunei imported garments, agriculture products and machinery worth US$100 million. Chinese Ambassador HE Tong Xiaoling noted that the booming bilateral trade and the exchange of high-level delegation reflected the warmth of relationship between Brunei and China.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

UK 20 pence Coin Error 2008

Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. As a civil servant, I have seen obviously my fair share of errors in policies and actions. Most are unintentional but the mistakes or the shortcomings are seen only when those policies or actions have been put into place. As a collector of things, obviously I loved it when errors or mistakes happen. This morning one of my friends holidaying in London alerted me about the 20 pence UK coin error.

A quick check on ebay has shown that this error if you find it can make you more than a 100 pound richer. So for those coming from London and not allowed to go out because of the current H1N1 can fill your time by going through your British coins and search for this 20 pence.

UK produced the first 20 pence in 1982 about a year earlier before I studied there. So by the time I arrived the 20 pence was already part of the coins that I had to use.



Over the years, new coins were issued and the latest is the 2008 and 2009 coins as follows:



However this 2008 and 2009 coins were only available as part of specimen sets and not yet in circulation. However when the authorities printed the coins for circulation, they made an error. Prior to 2008, the coins had the year of printing which is at the back of the coin. But with the new design, the year had to go in front of the coin. But the first circulation of coins, someone made the error of not putting the year in and hence you get this coin,



with no year in front! By the time the authorities discovered this, about 200,000 of these coins had gone into circulation. So if you ever find this new 20 pence coin with no year in front and with the new design at the back also with no year at the back, you have a choice. Hang on to it and watch the price rise or cash it in now at ebay. The prices are about 50 pounds for each 20 pence coin for the time being.

Inspirational Quotes

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