Monday, November 30, 2009

Brunei Statistics 2008

What is the GDP of Brunei Darussalam? What is the amount of rainfall in Brunei? What is the maximum and minimum degrees over the last five years? How many teachers are there in Brunei? What is the value of our exports? Or our imports? How many Dewan Bahasa book members are there? How many criminal cases were handled by the police? What is our road casualties? How many dentists are there? Or Doctors? Or Nurses? How about pharmacists? What is the leading cause of death in Brunei? How about the top 10 leading causes?

This green book produced by the Statistics Department of the Economic Planning and Development Department can tell you all those statistics and many more other stats that you ever want to know or not want to know. This is the most useful book if you ever need to do a time series analysis of any data.

The latest book is the 2008 edition and I got mine a couple of weeks ago courtesy of my colleague at the PMO. It costs a miserly $8 for the amount of wealth that you can get from it. You can get it direct at the Economic Planning and Development Department at their Ong Sum Ping office.

Incidentally, the GDP for Brunei for 2008 is $20.4 billion which works out to be $51,251 per capita. In 2008, our population of 398,000 suffered a recession as the GDP contracted by 1.9%. The silver lining is that the non-oil sector expanded by 2.4% but the oil-sector contracted by 6.3%. Caveat, the GDP is only one measure but not the whole measure about the economy.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Selamat Hari Raya Haji

Two of the most important Islamic holidays of the year are Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. Brunei as the rest of the world is celebrating Hari Raya Haji or Hari Raya Korban or Eid ul Adha. Do you know the history behind it?

We know Hari Raya Eid ul Fitr or Hari Raya Aidil Fitri as we say in Brunei marks the end of the long fasting month of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Adha marks the end of Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage to the holy city Mecca. Also popularly known as the Festival of Sacrifice, this Muslim holiday Eid-ul-Adha commemorates Nabi Ibrahim’s unselfish act of sacrificing his own son Nabi Ismail to Allah.

The history behind Eid-ul-Adha follows the story of the faithful Nabi Ibrahim, who was instructed by Allah in a dream to raise the foundations of Kaabah, a black stone, the most sacred Muslim shrine in Mecca. Immediately responding to Allah's command, Nabi Ibrahim set off for Mecca along with his wife and son, Nabi Ismail. At that time, Mecca was a desolate and barren desert and Nabi Ibrahim had to face a lot of hardships. However, he supplicated Allah’s commands uncomplaining.

In a divine dream, he also saw himself sacrificing his son Nabi Ismail for Allah’s sake. When he told this to Nabi Ismail, the latter immediately asked his father to carry out Lord’s commands without faltering and assured that he was completely ready to give up his life for God. But miraculously enough, when Nabi Ibrahim was about to sacrifice Nabi Ismail, Allah spared the boy’s life and replaced him with a lamb. And this is what Nabi Ibrahim ultimately sacrificed.

To commemorate this outstanding act of sacrifice (qurbani) by Nabi Ibrahim, people sacrifice a lamb, goat, ram or any other animal on Eid-ul-Adha and give the meat to friends, neighbors, relatives and the needy. People who are away from the holy pilgrimage, Hajj, also carry out this traditional sacrifice. Hence Eid-ul-Adha is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice or the Day of Sacrifice.

Eid-ul-Adha begins from the 10th day of the 12th Islamic month Dhul-Hijjah. But the date of Eid-ul-Adha depends on the visibility of the moon each year. Eid-ul-Adha is known by different names in different parts of the world.

For instance, Eid-ul-Adha is known by the name Hari Raya Aidil Adha in south-east Asia. In Brunei and Singapore, the local name for Eid-ul-Adha is Hari Raya Haji and in Malaysia, people refer to this festival as Id al-Adha and have made it a national holiday there. Indians know Eid-ul-Adha as Id al-Adha or Idu’z Zuha. And in Bangladesh, Eid-ul-Adha is known as Eid-ul-Azha or sometimes even Id al-Adha. But whatever the name, the celebratory spirit of Eid-ul-Adha runs high among Muslims all over the world, the geographical variations notwithstanding.

Selamat Hari Raya Haji to the visitors of today!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Expensive Brunei Stamps

Not many things can make me go gaga. But the sight of this stamp on ebay certainly does the trick. This $5 stamp overprinted by the Japanese during the Second World War is worth a fortune. I tell you it's a fortune. At the moment, the opening bid for it is US$1,099.95 and so far no one has bid. But if I know the ebayers, wait till the last minute, someone will snap this up.

This is the other one also on at the same time. This 6 cent red overprinted Japanese occupation is currently open for bidding from US$699.95. The last time I tried to bid for this, it disappeared at around US$700+. But that figure is now the starting pay.

If you don't want to buy any other Brunei stamps, then get these two. You will not regret them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bruneians Winning Golf!

Yesterday, our football veterans won. Today, I found another winning Brunei entry, this time at Golf. This is a report from Malaysian Mirror also dated 23rd November 2009:-

JOHOR BAHRU: Brunei team, Lapor Po Tiger blazed the course on a very wet week at Tanjong Puteri Golf Resort to emerge as winners in the grand final of the World Amateur Inter Team Golf Championship (WAITGC), from November 3-5.

Powered by the sultanate’s best known amateur golfer, Seruji Haji Setia (0) and backed up by Pg Adam Pg Hatan (0), Dennis Koh Kheng Siang (8) and youngster Sanjok Moktan (3), Lapor Po Tiger combined for a three-day total of 55-over-par 703 at the 6,454-metre, par-72 championship course, winning the gross title by six strokes.

“It was a team effort. The course was tough and the weather condition was challenging (round three was delayed by more than four hours due to thunderstorm) but we managed to pull through,” said Seruji who was the team captain. “We are absolutely delighted with this win as we came close last year in Melaka, only to finish second.”

Lapor Po Tiger’s victory broke Australian team, Coathangers’ stranglehold of the title. The defending champions who won for three successive years finished fourth this time around, missing a podium finish by two strokes.

Despite Coathangers’ disappointment, Australia still had two teams in the gross category’s top three with Skippy the Kangaroo and Revellers finishing runners-up and third respectively.

Skippy the Kangaroo with Timothy Maddern (3), Alexander Fraser (1), Garth Christopher George (5) and Harry Kamachu (10) in the team fired 709 strokes total while Revellers who was represented by Colin William Hoole (2), Paul Chappell (0), Peter Bennet (4) and Leon Stielow (4) carded a combined total score of 712.

In the nett category, Pakistani team of Punjab comprising of Zulfiqar Rana Brigret Ddildarr (15), Zahid Ahmed (14), Mirmaaz Mahmood Mirikramm (13) and Morad Ahmed Khan Ahk (14) claimed the title with combined stableford points of 329.

This is the 16th season of the evergreen amateur golf circuit, billed as the only one in the world run by a country’s Tourism board. A total of 161 teams took part in the six qualifying rounds with the top three gross and top two nett teams at each leg qualifying for the all-expenses paid Grand Final.

Popularly known with the acronym WAITGC (wai-tag), this Tourism Malaysia’s initiated event is an internationally acclaimed golfing extravaganza. According to Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, the director general of Tourism Malaysia, despite the economic slowdown and the H1N1 influenza threat, the circuit still managed to attract 644 players this year and he was confident with more promotion, WAITGC would attract more players in the seasons to come.

At the prize presentation dinner at Mutiara Hotel Johor Bahru, Datuk Mirza also unveiled the logo of the Malaysian International Golf Fair 2010, which will be organized by the Malaysian Golf Association in conjunction with the 50th Putra Cup from October 1-3 next year.

The World Amateur Inter Team Golf Championship is managed by Golf Club Managers Association of Malaysia (GCMAM) and sanctioned by the Malaysian Golf Association.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brunei Football Veteran Wins!

The New Sabah Times yesterday (23rd November 2009) reported this headline "Spectacular Bothwell goal seals Brunei Veterans’ victory" and had this story (good to know we can still win it):

KOTA KINABALU: Mohd Brian Iman Abdullah Bothwell scored a spectacular goal in sudden-death extra time to help Brunei Veterans retain the Borneo 7s crown for the second successive year.

Brunei Veterans, made up of Brunei ex-national players, defeated MX10, virtually the same side that lost the final last year, albeit that last time out they played under the Lecoq FC banner.

Yesterday, it was a closely contested affair with Brunei Veterans drawing first blood through Mohd Brian Iman’s opener as early as the third minute.

But MX10, who were strengthened by almost all ex-Rhinos with the likes of Bobby Chua, Harun Laban, Andrew Laban and Suharmin Yusof, found the equaliser when ex-Rhinos’ skipper Jelius Ating nodded home in the ninth minute.

Then Harun helped MX10 to take the lead by slotting home in the 11th minute.

But MX10’s lead was short-lived as ex-Brunei international Azmanuddin Gillen put his side on level terms a minute later to eventually drag the game into five minutes of sudden-death extra time.

It was barely less than 15 seconds into extra time, when Mohd Brian Iman struck the winner, by unleashing the ball from the halfway mark that caught MX10 custodian Bacho Illyas off guard to eventually win 3-2.

Last year, both teams were tied one-all after extra-time before Brunei Veterans won the inaugural tournament 5-4 through a penalty shootout.

Besides Mohd Brian Iman and Azmanuddin, Brunei Veterans also had in their team the likes of Pg Sallehuddin Pg Hj Damit, Hj Hassan Hj Damit, Ishak Ibrahim, Osman Hj Apong, Puncha Gunong, Mohd Saidy, Suni Mat Jerah and Hj Sallehudin Lee Abdullah.

Mohd Hasnol Ayub, Solumin Sanor, Tan Tack Ming, Mohd Lajim Asmat and Mick Govind completed the MX10 squad managed by former Rhinos’ team manager Joehari Ayub.

Earlier on, Likas United defeated V’s Star 2-0 to finish third while KK Pro’s won the Silver final defeating Rontogtino FC 3-0, while La Sallites claimed the third spot after edging JKR Veteran 2-1 in the playoff.

The tournament, organised by Borneo Sports & Adventure Holidays and played on a slightly smaller pitch, was held at the Likas Stadium.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rice Industry Statistics

During the launch of the agrifood by His Majesty, all the guests received several books as gifts. One of the books is a small booklet containing the Agriculture statistics of 2008. I was quite intrigued with the statistics on rice which looks like this:-

Throughout the last 10 years from 1999 to 2008, our local production has increased. The Agriculture Department has been slowly making local rice production efforts meeting the target of if I am not mistaken 20% of self sufficiency or something like that. That was not good enough and though the efforts of 2009 has been much more and has led to the new target of total self sufficiency in rice. Even from 1999 to 2008, we can see the local production increased from about 200 metric tons to about 900+ metric tons.

What's interesting is that the increase in rice production did not cause any dent in the rice imports. There was a sudden fall in 2000 but between 2001 to 2007, rice imports remained at around 30,000 metric tons and even increasing slightly in 2008 to almost 32,000 metric tons.

One effect is obviously this two data are on different scales but shown on the same paragraph. The data on imported rice is from 0 to 40,000 whereas on local production was from 0 to 1,000. So, the growth of local rice is quite miniscule to the overall scheme of things. The second obviously is population growth. Is it possible that any local growth is taken up by increasing population growth? The increase in 2008 I am speculating could be due to increased importation to buffer up our rice supplies due to the uncertainty of the supply exports from Thailand.

But whatever it is, it is interesting and without knowing much about rice industries and rice demands and supplies, it might be worthwhile to look at the data and see what can be read from it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Brunei's Finest Veterans

My spare time this week has been taken up calling up some of Brunei's athletes in order to complete my article on Borneo Games. I asked a number of people for names and my Minister gave me this name - Cikgu Haji Abdul Razak bin Bongsu. Finding his contact number was one of the easiest. Two of his children are engineers with the Public Works Department.

When we finally talked to each other, I discovered another whole world. When I was a student in Singapore in the 1970s, anything about Brunei always excited us. The lowest hill in the world then, which was a tiny bump somewhere in Shell's golf course. That got a mention in the Guiness Big of World Records. And the biggest story (to us students in Singapore) was an athlete Aloysius Sibidol winning world records for discus and javelin throwing. You probably are saying to yourself, huh??? Yes Sibidol established world records - in his age group. He was a veteran athlete.

I knew the world of veteran athletes was there but I didn't know how big. When I talked to Cikgu Razak, I finally realised that there is a whole world out there. These veteran athletes are still active - doing their best despite being above 40. Cikgu Razak is 71 and he is still competing. The veteran athletes have their own competition and well attended too. They even have their own association - Brunei Darussalam Association of Veteran Athletes (BDAVA) and is associated with Asian Veteran Athletics Association (AAVA) and World Association of Veteran Athletes (WAVA).

Cikgu Razak has taken part in many athletics meets. He was formerly the Secretary of the Brunei Amateur Athletics Association and Vice Chairman way back in 1975. He was the Chef du Mission for Brunei to the SEA Games in Jakarta (1977) and Manila (1981) and other regional meets. He also organised the Merdeka Games in 1984 and active in trying to revive the Borneo Games. He founded the BAVA in 1983 and since then has been the President.

Last month, the Brunei veterans athletes have done the nation proud when they grabbed eight gold, two silver and one bronze medals at the Singapore Masters Open Athletics Championship 2009 at Gombak Stadium. Eight local veteran athletes took part in 15 tracks and field events. You see, it does not really matter how old you are, you can still shine. Cikgu Razak and the other Brunei veteran athletes are the best example of that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Borneo Games

The Managing Editor of Brunei Times asked me to write an article about the upcoming Borneo Games. This is not an easy subject to write. You see, for most of the articles I have written, I have practically all the reference books and other reference articles somewhere in my library. So I generally am able to write most things about Brunei but give me a topic on sports, my mind will be unable to function.

Anyway after a few quick checks on the internet which yielded very little but sufficient to go on, the first one was actually held in Brunei in 1954. It was at SRC in Seria. 1954 is not a good year. Borneo Bulletin has yet to go live then and practically everything was in Seria because that's where the British government really is. Not much was in Town. The first 5 year RKN was just kicking off.

However Seria is where I was born and my family more or less were in Seria then. I phoned my dad and he said why don't I ask my uncle as he remembered that my uncle took part in the Games. I called up my uncle and had the surprise of my life. Not only did he took part, he took part in the first one!

And apparently in those days, the so called Brunei team was made up of entirely the athletics prowess of BSP's employees. The Brunei team really should be called Brunei Shell team as only my uncle was the only Bruneian in the team. The others were all expatriates. Nevertheless the 'Brunei' team won the Games in 1954 and subsequently in 1955 in North Borneo and in 1956 in Sarawak.

I didn't realise that in the early stages of the Games, it was held annually. By 1957, the Brunei Athletics Association took over the the management of the team. Without the expatriates imports, my uncle said that we could not win the tournament anymore and probably have not won it since.

Anyway, I had to talk to a number of people just to get my story, so look out for the article next Monday.

The 'new' Borneo Games was revived in 2005. This year is Brunei's turn to host it. It will will be contested by Brunei, East Kalimantan, Labuan, Melaka (the host of 2010 SUKMA XIII), North Kalimantan, Sabah, Sarawak, South Kalimantan and West Kalimantan. Now, that's truly Borneo.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Old Chinese Temple in Muara

Muara Chinese would remember this. This was the old chinese Temple in Muara. This was eventually demolised in the mid 1980s to make way for the expansion of the Muara Port.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Brunei Otters

A couple of months back, one of my junior colleagues took this photograph from his office. He has a nice office on the sixth floor of the MOD Building. That office overlooked the Highway and the airport as well as the huge canal flowing next to the highway. We have actually taken a boatride along that canal all the way from Kampong Ayer. When he first showed me this photograph, I was not sure what I was seeing. But when I cropped up the photograph. See, if you can recognise the animals.

Caught me by surprise too. I did not realise that there are otters living in our rivers. That means that the Brunei wildlife is more varied than I thought and to see a family of otters which honestly I have not seen in Brunei other than watching them on television even surprised me till now.

That really means we have to take care of our environment. We don't know what else is there that we inadvertently destroy in our haste to modernise.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Labuhan Kapal and Sungai Tekuyung

Yesterday during the 100 Years of Modern Land Administration Symposium, also held on the sidelines was a small exhibition of previous land related items. These are the cadastral equipment used to measure the size of land etc and also related old documents.

[The forerunner to today's electronic calculator]

[Really old land document]

[Minister looking at old land documents]

What we found interesting is that the first land title was at Labuhan Kapal. Labuhan Kapal is where the wharf is currently. Though yesterday someone argued that it is where the food stalls are rather than at the wharf. If you searched for an old photo of the Labuhan Kapal somewhere in this blogsite, you will find it. What I found interesting was the boundaries of that particular land. The boundary was Sungai Tekuyung. Sungai Tekuyung is somewhere where I live which is in Kilanas. That can't be right. If that is right, that would be a really huge piece of land. So, somewhere along the wharf, there used to be a small stream called Sungai Tekuyung. I would really love to know where that is.

Incidentally, another document also showed the first land as part of the Town Title. So Lot No.1 is at the corner of Jalan Residency and Jalan Kianggeh which is the Jasra Harrison building.

I am not sure whether the small exhibition is on today. But if it is, it would be worthwhile for you to go to the 5th Floor of Kiulap Plaza Hotel just to see the documents. You would not have the opportunity otherwise.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

100 Years of Modern Land Administration

Today will be held a special symposium to mark 100 years of modern land administration in Brunei. It will be held at the Kiulap Plaza Hotel.

Land Department itself is not 100 years old. It was formed in the early 1960s. Prior to that, it was the District Offices with special District Land Officers working in the district offices that determined whether or not you could have your land application approved. So the symposium is not celebrating 100 years of Land Department but 100 years of modern land administration - or rather the Land Code which was enforced in 1909. Before the land code of 1909, all land was either Crown Land (Kerajaan) or appanage land (held by high ranking nobles who were awarded "sacred" titles by the sultan) (Tulin), or private-heirloom land (held primarily by high-ranking nobles) (Kuripan). Today any land not under private title is state land. Only citizens are allowed to own land.

Rather than invent the wheel, here is what the Commissioner of Land said about the symposium.

"Globally, land remains an important asset to any nation. The demand for land between competing users for economic growth calls for better land management and administration.

Land requires better management and administration. The types of development, number and varieties of players involved in land are strongly linked to the socio-economic and political considerations. Proper land planning, land management and administration are required and must be supported by an evolving and dynamic national land policy and strong political will.

In addition, the land has to be administered to secure the ownerships for prosperous economic growth and national political stability. With the advancement of new technologies, information and data management in land administration and management are now less tedious. ICT evolution has paved the way for a dynamic and progressive land management and administration.

The Symposium will be organized into Sub-themes, namely;

•Issues in Land Ownership - Deals with issues on ownerships, securing the land rights, rights of landowners to develop, multi-ownerships.
•Spatial planning and Development - Role and contributions of land administrators, land use management with planning, land values and land policies, optimization of land use through land regeneration, land realignment/ readjustment, land consolidation and housing issues and sustainable development issues.
•Regulating the Land Market - Public and private partnership for economic growth, land market in support of economic growth, importance of land values in decision-making and land policy formulations.
•Land Taxation - Impact and contribution of land and property taxation for national socio-economic growth, IT development in land administration, management and revenue collections.
•ICT,E-government, GIS in land administration and land management.
•Education and Training for Land Administrators (Human Resource Development HRD)."

The International Symposium entitled "Towards A Progressive Land Administration and Management" will be held over two days on 11th and 12th November and will be officially launched by the Minister of Development. A number of speakers will be giving their papers including Professor Ian Williamson who is an Australian expert on land issues, Assoc Professor Dr Haji Awang Asbol of UBD who will be talking about the history of land develoment, Lim Hooi Siang, the current consultant for Municipal Board and Puan Adibah Awang, a Geoinformation Science and Engineering Lecturer from UTM. Other Brunei speakers from TCP, Forestry etc will be there as well. I was invited to speak but the time was not there to prepare a thoroughly researched paper, so I had to decline at the last minute. Though I will join a forum panel on the second day.

I will try to get a gist of the papers and post them here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

BEDB's 2000 Housing Project

Yesterday morning, I accompanied my minister to visit the housing project conducted by BEDB at Pandan 10 in Kuala Belait. It was a working visit to see if there is anything new that our own Housing Development Department (HDD) can learn from it as well as keeping an eye on the project as the houses will form part of our housing stock soon.

[Getting ready for the group photograph]

I remembered and tracked down an old BEDB press release about the cost of the houses. This is what it says in February "According to the BEDB’s infrastructure division, the cost per house in Bina Puri’s tender price is lower than for previous contracts awarded under the National Housing Scheme as a result of greater efficiency and economies of scale. “There will be savings for the government in terms of both time and money” said Mr Geoffrey Shim, Senior Executive Engineer with the BEDB."

Despite Mr Shim's claims, we were much disappointed to learn that the cost is not any lower than that built by the HDD. The average cost per house was $53,000 but if the total cost of the project of around $289 million is divided over the 2,000 houses, then each house will cost around $144,000 each excluding the value of the land and excluding the value of the sewerage treatment plants which is normally included in all housing projects. Whatever it is, the government has to absorb around $100,000 subsidies as currently terrace houses will be sold at around $43k to $45k depending on whether it is a corner unit. We have not set the price for the semi-d houses yet.

Anyway, even if there is no savings in money, there is indeed savings in time. The houses are built on raft foundation (no piling).

[Raft Foundation]

The houses are built using the shear wall method and utilises the plastic and tunnel foam system with recycling abilities of up to 300 cycles.

[Plastic and Tunnel Foam System Formwork]

What happened is that the contractors put up a form work with mild steel structures and pour in the cement. For tunnel form method, even the first floor slab (the ceiling/floor) is made by pouring cement.

[Incomplete Semi-Detached Houses]

There is no time wasted for laying bricks. That is why you can see the houses built much faster. Since the wall is pure concrete, it is thinner than houses built using bricks. I know a number of people expressed their worry about the thickness of the wall but I wouldn't worry. The wall is solid and much more solid than a brick wall in some sense.

The thickness of the wall was around 100 mm, compared to a brick wall which will measure some 120 mm plus plaster. Why don't HDD contractors use the same method to increase speed? You do need a bigger volume than what HDD use to tender out. You need at least 1000 house as the form does cost a bit compared to the wood form that our contractors are used to using.

Anyway, the houses are built similar to the HDD housings and each house will have a floor space of 120 meter squares (roughly 1,300 square feet). The semi-d houses (800 units) will have an area of around 400 meter square (about 0.1 acre) and each terrace house (1,200 units) will have an area of around 250 meter square (about 0.07 acre), again quite comparable though a tad smaller than the current HDD housing but by not much.

Each house whether terrace or semi-d has three bedrooms and three bathrooms. One bathroom on the ground floor with a size that Bruneians also look out for - suitable for suka duka. The master bedroom has an attached bathroom and the other two bedrooms share one bathroom. The bathrooms and the kitchen are tiled. There is a sample house currently on site and members of the public are allowed to come in and see the houses for themselves.

[Sample Houses]

Anyway, the house construction is proceeding on time and should be ready by 2011. Together with HDD's housing project in Sungai Liang and soon at Lorong Tengah in Seria, we projected that all the backlog and current housing waiting list in the Belait District to be taken care of in the next three years. We too look forward to BEDB completing their 2,000 houses.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Brunei $100 1988

How many people remember this $100 note? Not many I am sure.

All these while, all my other notes collection was growing, I only had two pieces of this $100 note. On the internet too, especially on ebay, this is rarely available. On the current ebay, there is one currently available note with a price of about US$260. I was quite surprised the other day when my nephew said someone deposited a few pieces. I rushed to see him and saw 6 of these notes in varying condition. The worst was badly folded but the best was in the EF category. If you managed to get hold of one, keep it. It may not be worth as much as the Begawan note but I am sure that will change. You just can't find these notes.

This is one of the least remembered paper money that Brunei had ever produced. It was produced around 1988 to 1990. Many people remembered the older $100 of Sultan Omar Ali and of the earlier Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Those two were the large notes. Those two were replaced by this $100 notes.

However this is also one of the most counterfeited notes. I am sure that led to the decision to remove this and replaced the note with a newer (brown) $100 paper notes and that too has now been replaced with the polymer $100 note.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Growing Industry in Brunei

The Oxford Business Group on 3rd November 2009 published the following article:


Brunei Darussalam: A Growing Industry

3 November 2009

Ensuring domestic food security and developing a viable export sector are at the heart of Brunei's efforts to establish a strong commercial food processing industry, though the country has to balance its staunch commitment to environmental protection with the need to achieve self-sufficiency in basic staples.

At present, Brunei Darussalam's agriculture only partially meets the country's food needs, with a small contribution to both employment and the economy, something that may well change in the near future.

Last year, the total output of Brunei Darussalam's domestic food sector was just $158m, though under a new strategy developed by the Department of Agriculture this is to increase to $430m in 2013 and $1.9bn by 2023. While the strategy aims to improve yields from farms, the emphasis is on growing the agri-industry.

Speaking at the launch of the new strategy on October 10, the industry and primary resources minister, Pehin Yahya Bakar, said the challenge was to develop sustainability.

"I wish to stress that the basis of agricultural development for the next two decades will be directed at efforts to strengthen the capacity in the agricultural sector, not only in increasing primary agricultural commodity production sustainably, but more so in the development of the capacity of the secondary sector, food processing, which will invite more agri-business opportunities, locally and internationally," he said.

One of the cornerstones of Brunei Darussalam's ambitions is the Agro Technology Park to be located near the capital, a project being developed on a 260-ha site to cater to the needs of the industry. When operational in 2011, the park is expected to create up to 8000 jobs and combine research and logistics hubs alongside a processing cluster. With the state contributing $140m and private investors expected to match that, the project is one of the largest industrial developments outside of the energy and petrochemicals sectors.

The other building block on which the Sultanate's food processing sector is to be constructed is the state policy of supporting the halal food industry, promoting the production of fresh and processed foods that comply with the requirements of sharia laws.

Brunei Darussalam officials have identified the growing demand for halal products, a market that already represents around 12% of global food sales and which is expected to increase to 30% by 2025, as an industrial niche the Sultanate can help fill, both through testing and certifying products from overseas through the Brunei Halal Brand and by expanding domestic production.

Though Brunei Darussalam wants to boost its agri-industrial base, along with the primary industries needed to support it through the growing of raw materials, there are a number of constraints that may restrict the scope of development. One of these is a shortage of land.

Though the Agro Technology Park and other smaller-scale projects are being developed to serve the food industry, there is only a limited amount of land available for extending agricultural production.

According to figures released by the minister of development, Pehin Abdullah Bakar, on October 17, just 5% of Brunei Darussalam's land is listed as accessible for housing or industrial purposes, with housing having the priority.

There are only some 28,825 ha of the country's total landmass of 576,500 ha that has not been marked for preservation or that is already being utilised, the minister said.

With some 17,000 applicants on waiting lists for state housing, a figure that is expected to rise to 30,000 by 2012, the minister said care had to be taken to manage land resources.

"So far, the nation's housing scheme requires 5000 ha of land, which is 17% of the land available," Pehin Abdullah said. "This shows the need for us to use land more wisely."

To combat the lack of wide open spaces, Brunei Darussalam officials are promoting the better use of what land is available, both through utilising improved technology and techniques, and by focusing on crop strains that are best suited to local conditions. One example of this is the introduction of a specially developed high yield rice variety, Bera Laila, part of the campaign to meet 20% of domestic rice demand by 2010, up from the current single-digit levels.

Another way that Brunei Darussalam is looking at overcoming its deficit of primary produce for processing is through imports, a strategy outlined by Abdul Latif Sani, a senior official with the Department of Agriculture's Halal Development Division.

Brunei Darussalam was considering forming partnerships with foreign firms to provide bulk raw materials to be exported to the Sultanate where they could be processed so as to meet halal standards, Abdul Latif told the Borneo Bulletin while attending the sixth China-ASEAN Expo in late October.

"Basically the objective is, as a Muslim nation, to provide halal food to Muslims worldwide," he said. "The second objective is that we are tapping into the lucrative halal global market, which is believed to be worth billions of US dollars. The third is that we want to take the small and medium-sized enterprises' products to explore the global halal market."

While it will take time for Brunei Darussalam's agri-industry to fully get off the ground, having identified a potential growth market, the government is putting in place the necessary capital and infrastructure to sustain the sector's development.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

High Pay with Minimal Schooling

I was intrigued by one article on entitled "10 Jobs With High Pay and Minimal Schooling Required!" The article was written by Michael Kling and published on yahoo finance on Tuesday, November 3, 2009. It read as follows:


You don't have to go to college earn a decent living. Some professions pay good salaries without requiring post-secondary schooling.

Your New Career
Here's a list of top-paying jobs requiring little schooling, and their median annual earnings as of 2006, using the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Keep in mind that these jobs have their own challenges and often require some type of specialized schooling - sometimes on-the-job training.

1.Air Traffic Controllers: $117,200

These workers make sure airplanes land and take off safely, and they typically top lists of this nature. The median 50% earned between $86,860-142,210, with good benefits. Air traffic controllers are eligible to retire at age 50 with 20 years of service, or after 25 years at any age.

Watching blinking dots on a radar screen that control the lives of hundreds can be stressful, and the job require specialized FAA schooling and on-the-job training. Typically, two to four years of training are needed in order to become fully certified, although previous military experience can cut that time down significantly.

2.Industrial Production Managers: $77,670

They oversee manufacturing activities. A college degree is preferred, but not necessarily mandatory. They often work in industries such as aviation and automobiles.

3.First-Line Police and Detective Supervisors: $69,300

Police officers can advance through the ranks to become supervisors by passing exams and achieving good performance reviews, and advanced training can help win promotions.

4.Funeral Director: $49,620

College programs in mortuary science usually last from two to four years. You typically must also serve a one-year apprenticeship, pass an exam and obtain a state license. Hours can be long and irregular. Dealing with dead bodies and crying relatives isn't for everyone.

5.Police and Sheriff Patrol Officers: $47,460

Police corporals had an average minimum annual base salary of $44,160, according to the International City-County Management Association. But total income can significantly exceed base salary because of overtime pay. And police officers can often retire at half-pay after 25-30 years of service.

Applicants usually must have at least a high school education, and some departments require a year or two of college or even a degree. Rookies are trained at police academies.

6.Advertising Sales Agents: $42,750

20% have a high school degree or less, and 10% have an Associate's degree.

7.Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents: $39,760

Don't let that figure fool you; the highest 10% earned more than $111,500. While advanced coursework is not necessarily required, new entrants must pass an exam and get a state license. Connections in the community and a willingness to work hard are what really count, but experience and a good housing market also help.

8.Occupational Therapist Assistants: $42,060

These workers usually need an associate degree or a certificate. They work with occupational therapists, helping injured patients recover from, or compensate for, lost motor skills. Job prospects are good in the growing health care field, especially for those with some post-secondary education.

9.Occupational Therapist Aides: $25,000

These employees receive most training on the job. Under supervision of occupational therapists, they also work with injured people. Competition for jobs is tougher for those with only a high school diploma.

10.Physical Therapist Assistants: $41,360

These workers deal with physical therapists, helping patents improve mobility, relieve pain or overcome injuries or disabilities. Those working in home health care services tend to make more on average. Aides, earning an average of $22,000, are trained on the job. Assistants, who have greater responsibilities, typically need an associate's degree.


Unfortunately these jobs are in America!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Rebellion in Brunei

Tun Teja commented in the Comment Box a few days ago about how he just came across this book. In fact this is not a new book, this book has been around since the third quarter of 2007. I bought it in Singapore last year for a would you believe it price of S$193.81. I checked on the internet this morning, the price is much lower now. Barnes and Nobel is selling it for US$56.21 (S$78.86), Amazon USA is selling it for US$79.00 (S$110.84) and Amazon UK is selling it for GBP43.12 (S$98.96). Shipping and packing is of course extra.

This book is written by Datuk Harun Abdul Majid, one of our local businessmen. This book arises out of his dissertation when he was doing his Masters at King's College in London and he carried out his research at the Department of War Studies there.

Some people commented that no one has written about the 1962 incident. In fact, there are a number of other books written about Brunei Rebellion which you can still find in the market. Topmost obviously is HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah's "Remember, Remember 8th of December", Dr Haji Zaini Haji Ahmad's "Pertumbuhan Nasionalisme di Brunei (1939 - 1962)" and "Brunei Merdeka: Sejarah dan Budaya Politik" and Pehin Jamil's "8 Disember: Dalangnya Siapa?".

What's different about Datuk Haruns's book is that his view is seen from the larger regional 1960s Malaysia-Indonesia conflicts. A number of British servicemen who served in the region noted the fighting in Malaya and Brunei was part of the Small Wars which the British soldiers, sailors, and airmen from Britain and the Commonwealth have been fighting to defend Britain's shrinking empire since the end of World War Two. An interesting website of the servicemen's journals including the fighting in Brunei can be found here

According to the book's writeup, this book is supposedly "the first comprehensive history of the Brunei Rebellion, which was the trigger for the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation of the 1960s and of critical importance in understanding the history of the region. Harun Abdul Majid explores the turmoil throughout Southeast Asia that was the backdrop to the rebellion and analyses how Brunei not only survived but actually emerged from this turbulent period as a stronger and more coherent political state. Although the rebellion itself was short-lived, the consequences for the region's international relations within Asia and with the West - especially given Brunei's emergence as a significant oilproducer - were far-reaching."

Inspirational Quotes