Friday, July 22, 2011

Brunei's Economy on the Rebound

The Oxford Business Group on 21st July 2011 had this report on Brunei. This is based on a report issued by the IMF which you can read here.

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Brunei Darussalam: Economy on the rebound

Brunei Darussalam’s economy has been given a clean bill of health by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the agency praising the prudent economic management exercised by local authorities, as well as the efforts to reform and liberalise the financial sector and reduce the dependence on oil and gas as the nation’s main revenue earners. The Fund and other analysts have also said more still needs to be done to foster private sector development and improve the overall business environment.

In its latest report on the Sultanate, released in mid-June, the IMF said that many of the key economic indicators were performing well, with GDP rebounding in 2010 after two years of decline, the country’s current account surplus also well into the black and inflation under control.

The report predicted that GDP would expand by 3.1% this year, and while this is below the 4.3% forecast for the global economy, if the IMF’s projection is correct 2011 will see the highest rate of growth for up to five years.

The IMF said that while the Sultanate’s economy is still dominated by the oil and gas sector, which contributes nearly two-thirds of the nominal income, and is responsible for some 95% of export revenues and about 90% of government revenue, moves to diversify the economy were gathering pace.

“Economic diversification, a major medium-term challenge, is picking up momentum,” the report said. “Government policies increasingly emphasise economic and commercial viability in supporting development spending.”

Combined with reforms that have done much to achieve what the IMF described as strong financial institutions and strengthened financial sector stability, as well as a progressive reduction in corporate income tax aimed at further stimulating business growth and investment, higher gas and oil prices will boost revenue, meaning that the economic outlook is bright.

Though the outlook may be strong, the IMF has pointed to a few key areas where the Sultanate could further lift improve its performance. Foremost of these is the need to reduce the economy’s dependence on the state and for a scaling back of subsidies.

“Economic and structural reforms to reduce price distortions are needed to foster private sector development and the identification of viable export products and niche markets,” the report said. “These reforms will enhance fiscal sustainability and better prepare Brunei Darussalam for the eventual depletion of its hydrocarbons resources.”

The IMF also recommended an acceleration of programmes aimed at improving the business environment, such as streamlining bureaucratic procedures; opening areas traditionally dominated by the public sector so as to provide a needed boost to private sector initiatives; and improving access to financing and business advisory services, in particular for start-ups and small companies.

Another challenge is to build up its human resources skills base, with the gaps that currently exist slowing down economic growth and private sector expansion, according to Sasha Lennon, a director for consultancy SGS Economics and Planning, which is carrying out a study on the optimisation of land for industrial and commercial development.

As Brunei Darussalam progresses towards a broader and more knowledge-focused economy, it will need to develop a wider skills base, essential to both bolstering the private sector and attracting foreign investment, Lennon told the Brunei Times on June 14.

“Brunei Darussalam doesn’t have a very diverse skills base,” Lennon said. “While people who are educated are highly skilled, there are not enough of them with enough skills. That’s one of the biggest challenges.”

This challenge will involve putting in place very specific strategies to ensure that the Sultanate produces the right sort of skills to work in the right sort of industries, he said.

In the shorter term, to offset the temporary lack of skilled workers for some sectors, the country will have to import some of those skills by opening the doors of the economy to foreign workers, while focusing on developing the local skills base, said Lennon.

However, a balance must be struck when utilising imported skills, with every effort made to ensure a shorter-term expedient does not become a longer-term drain on the economy, The Sultanate’s minister of industry and primary resources, Yahya Bakar, warned on June 13.

Citing the tourism industry as an example, Yahya said that Brunei Darussalam was not maximising the benefits that could be derived from the sector due to “leakages” resulting from having to employ foreign staff and the necessity of importing tourism products.

“To strengthen the sector’s ability to multiply revenue throughout the economy, promoting greater local involvement and spin-off businesses will become a focus in the country’s future strategic direction for tourism,” he told local media.

The economy is still very much evolving, as the government endeavours to move away from its traditional reliance on the hydrocarbons wealth that has underpinned the country’s growth for decades towards a broader-based model.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

MOD WON

Last year, same opponent, same venue, same cup, same final. MOD lost. It was a sad day.

Last night, MOD won. It was a happy day.


Congratulations to the Ministry of Development Football Team for winning against the Ministry of Home Affairs. To be honest, I was not raising my expectation very high. If MOD had lost, I was already expecting it. But with MOD winning, the jubilation was much higher!

For those who did not watch the game, it was 0-0 at half time. Just after the second half, MOD took the lead but almost immediately MOHA equalised. MOHA had one chance to open up the lead but they messed up the penalty kick. Towards the end, it was MOD's turn to mess up the penalty. So it was 1-1 and remained 1-1 after extra time. During penalties, MOD missed one and saved one, making it 4-4 on penalties. Then it was 5-5 but on the seventh kick, MOD scored 6-5. The last MOHA player decided to play rugby and kicked the ball into the stratosphere. Eruption time for MOD spectators!

Congratulations to the MOD team for winning the Keputeraan Cup 2011.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Significance of July for Brunei

[I wanted to write about His Majesty's Birthday but I have written a few articles already in the past. So rather than repeating myself, I thought I will write something about July itself and its significance for Brunei. There was another important date that happened in July but nobody remembered that anymore. Anway, I wrote this article and it was published on Monday 18th July 2011 on The Brunei Times in my Golden Legacy column.]

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Significance of July for Brunei
by Rozan Yunos

JULY 15 is a date that all Brunei citizens and residents remember. July 15, 1946, is the date of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam's Birthday and therefore the annual celebrations of the birthday. The recent 65th birthday celebrations were equally grand to all the others before it. Thousands of citizens thronged to the Taman Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien to watch the annual birthday parade as well as to wish their loyalty and appreciation to His Majesty.

The Brunei national tri-colours of yellow, black and white with the red crest had been seen flying everywhere in the country where the public have been enthusiastically putting them up in residences, business premises and government office buildings. In addition, major buildings in the capital and the other towns had huge banners conveying their greetings to His Majesty.

Alongside the road, schoolchildren and teachers and members of the public, waited along Jalan Tutong waiting for His Majesty's motorcade to drive down to the Taman.

With flags and hadrahs in their hands, it was a colourful ceremony as well as a celebratory one. After the parade, it was the celebrations at Istana Nurul Iman where His Majesty gave the annual birthday titah and the annual honours and medals.

Only the major honours were awarded during the birthday itself. The remainder will be awarded during other days after the birthday. In the evening, there would be a banquet.

July I5 is certainly a date most remembered. But that July in 1946 also has a special date which tended to be forgotten nowadays. It restored Brunei's pride and position as a nation which is no longer occupied by an invading army.

Not many in Brunei remembered World War Two or even want to remember the war. It happened swiftly. On December 16, 1941, 10,000 Japanese troops landed in Kuala Belait. Within six days, the Japanese had managed to occupy Brunei. The British despite the agreement between Brunei and United Kingdom did not defend Brunei at all leaving only a tiny detachment of a Punjab Regiment in Kuching to protect the three territories of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei. Their only plan for Brunei was to deny the Japanese from getting the oil in Seria.

The Japanese more or less left the Brunei public alone. It was only towards the end of the war that the Japanese were seen as more harsh. It was towards the end of the war that the benevolent Japanese Governor was replaced. From 1943 the Japanese had started to suffer. Frequent attacks and bombings by the allied forces made supplies difficult to be sent and received by the various Japanese garrisons throughout the occupied Southeast Asian nations.

On June 10, 1945, Australian forces headed by Lieutenant General Sir Moorshead, landed at Muara Beach under "Operation Oboe" to recapture Brunei. They were supported by American air and naval units. Brunei Town was captured in three days after a heavy bombing campaign by the Allied Forces which virtually destroyed and flattened the city including the town mosque.

The Australian forces advanced from Muara into Brunei Town without much resistance from the Japanese. The majority of the Japanese soldiers fled to Limbang, Terusan, Tutong, and Kuala Belait. The Allied soldiers saw the extensive damage done by the Japanese during the occupation which was made worse by the Allied Forces' bombing operation in Brunei. From then on, Brunei was temporarily placed under the British Military Administration or the BMA.

The BMA's immediate actions were to restore peace and to regain the people's confidence in British administration. Thus the years 1945 to 1946 saw efforts being made by the British to rebuild Brunei and to revive its economy. The BMA carried out reconstruction work and started some form of administration in preparation for civilian rule. The man in charge was Brigadier Mackie, who was the Chief Civil Affairs Officer.

The BMA also had to revive Brunei's economy. This included reopening the Seria oilfields which the Japanese had set on fire. It was only in September 1945 that the fires were under control.

However by 1946, the British Malayan Petroleum Company was able to restore 113 wells and drilled 17 new wells. The hospital in Brunei town was also rebuilt. Dispensaries were provided in the other districts and a maternity service was set up.

A police force was reestablished and shop houses, schools and government buildings in the towns were soon repaired and reconstructed.

At the same time, new policies were also formulated by the British to strengthen the security of the Malaya-Borneo territories as well as a more systematic administration.

Conditions in Brunei improved much faster than was thought possible that on June 26, 1946, Lieutenant General Sir Montagu GN Stopford signed a "Declaration to end the British Military Administration in the State of Brunei". The declaration was signed in Singapore. Lieutenant General Sir Montagu was the Acting Supreme Allied Commander for Southeast Asia then. In the declaration, there were two main items. The first was the declaration to end and to pull out the BMA in the State of Brunei. The second was that the declaration would take effect when the Sultan of Brunei was able to resume his government in the State of Brunei.

It was this historic day in July in 1946 that Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin signed on July 5, 1946, that His Royal Highness proclaimed that in respect to the phrase "so far as it concerns the State of Brunei with effect from the time we resume our Government of Brunei" that "now therefore we, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Akhazul Khairi Waddien Ibni Almarhum Sultan Mohamed Jemal-Ul-Alam, Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George, Sultan, do hereby proclaim: We hereby resume for ourselves the government of the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam and subject to and with the advice of my council full legislative, executive and administrative powers and responsibilities over all persons and property in the state so far as is consonant with treaties, agreements, conventions and declaration with his Britannic Majesty's government".

The proclamation further read "We thereby declare that it is our intention to enact in council certain legislation which will provide that certain proclamations made by or under the authority of the military administration shall continue in force in the State of Brunei as indicated in the schedule hereto, and it is our wish that in the meantime the provisions of these proclamations should be applied in our state, "There were 10 legislations which were included under this schedule".

The July 5, 1946, proclamation by Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin returned Brunei's pride and integrity back to Brunei after being occupied by the Japanese and the British Military Administration. Though the British Resident returned soon after with WJ Peel appointed as the first post-war Resident.

Ten days after the proclamation, on July 15, 1946, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah was born at Istana Darussalam, Kampung Sumbiling.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

HM 65th Birthday Awards

Yesterday, on the occasion of His Majesty's 65th Birthday, he awarded these lucky people with a birthday gift. All end up with a nice little medal, however some get to carry new title to their names and some do not. For those who did not, there will be other occasions. I tried to be more descriptive as to the new title that the recipients will be getting as well as who they are. I don't know all of them but those I do know are here. Congratulations to everyone:-

Darjah Paduka Keberanian Laila Terbilang Yang Amat Gemilang Darjah Pertama (DPKT) - Dato Paduka Seri

1. Admiral Dato Paduka Seri Agus Suhartono, Commander in Chief of the Indonesian Army
2. YDM Pehin Orang Kaya Pendikar Alam Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Hasrin bin Dato Paduka Haji Sabtu, Commissioner of Royal Brunei Police Force

Darjah Pahlawan Negara Brunei Yang Amat Perkasa Darjah Pertama (PSPNB) - Dato Seri Pahlawan

1. YDM Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Brigadier General Dato Seri Pahlawan Awang Mohd Taweh bin Abdullah, Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Training Institute
2. Brigadier General Dato Seri Pahlawan Awang Haji Yusof bin Haji Abd Rahman, Commander of the Royal Brunei Land Forces
3. Laksamana Pertama Dato Seri Pahlawan Awang Haji Abdul Halim bin Haji Mohd Hanifah, Commander of the Royal Brunei Navy
4. Brigadier Jeneral (U) Dato Seri Pahlawan Awang Haji Jofri bin Haji Abdullah, Commander of the Royal Brunei Air Force
5. Lasamana Pertama Dato Seri Pahlawan Awang Abdul Aziz bin Mohd Tamit, Commander of Joint Force Headquarters of Royal Brunei Armed Forces

Darjah Setia Negara Brunei Yang Amat Bahagia Darjah Pertama (PSNB) - Dato Seri Setia

1. YB Pehin Datu Singamanteri Kol (B) Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Mohd Yasmin bin Haji Umar, Minister of Energy at Prime Minister's Office
2. YB Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad bin Pengiran Haji Abd Rahman
3. YB Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hazair bin Haji Abullah

Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei Yang Amat Mulia Darjah Pertama (SPMB) - Dato Seri Paduka

1. YB Datin Seri Paduka Dayang Hajah Hayati binti Pehin Orang Kaya Shahbandar Dato Seri Paduka Haji Mohd Salleh, Attorney-General

Darjah Paduka Seri Laila Jasa Yang Amat Berjasa Darjah Kedua (DSLJ) - Dato Seri Laila Jasa

1. Dato Seri Laila Jasa Mr Peter Voser, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell plc
2. Dato Seri Laila Jasa Mr Malcolm Brinded, Executive Director for Upstream International and Executive Board Member of Royal Dutch Shell plc
3. Dato Seri Laila Jasa Dr Babu Sukamaran, Hospital RIPAS
4. Dato Seri Laila Jasa Dr Lim Hock Seng
5. Datin Seri Laila Jasa Professor Uta Meyding Lamade, Consultant Neurologist

Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Brunei Yang Amat Mulia Darjah Kedua (DPMB) - Dato Paduka

1. Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Bahrom bin Haji Bahar, Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs
2. Datin Paduka Dayang Hajah Adina binti Haji Othman, Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports
3. YDM Pehin Datu Panglima Dato Paduka Kolonel (B) Awang Haji Abdul Jalil bin Haji Ahmad, Brunei High Commissioner to Pakistan
4. Dato Paduka Awang Haji Matsatejo bin Sokiaw, Permanent Secretary Prime Minister's Office (Energy Division)
5. Dato Paduka AWang Haji Mohd Roselan bin Haji Mohd Daud, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance
6. Dato Paduka Awang Haji Hisham bin Haji Hanifah, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance
7. Dato Paduka Dr Awang Haji Zulkarnain bin Haji Hanafi, Vice Chancellor Universiti Brunei Darussalam
8. 204 Dato Paduka Col Awang Haji Harith bin Haji Abdul Karim
9. YDM Begawan Pehin Khatib Dato Paduka Awang Haji Hamidon bin Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Haji Abd Hamid, Ministry of Religious Affairs
10. Dato Paduka Haji Zakaria bin Haji Ismail, HM Private Secretary's Office
11. Dato Paduka Dr Awang Haji Md Isham bin Haji Jaafar, Hospital RIPAS
12. Professor Madya Datin Paduka Dr Dayang Hajah Zaitun binti Haji Taha, Universiti Brunei Darussalam
13. Datin Paduka Matron Dayang Hajah Hadijah binti Haji Hassan, Hospital RIPAS

Darjah Seri Ugama Islam Negara Brunei Yang Amat Bersinar Darjah Ketiga (SSUB) - No Title

1. Pg Haji Mohd Tashim bin Pg Haji Hassan
2. Awang Haji Mail bin Besar
3. Dayang Hajah Mahani bin Haji Musa
4. Dayang Hajah Seimah binti Haji Abd Salam
5. Dayang Hajah Rosma binti Haji Kepli

Darjah Setia Negara Brunei Yang Amat Bahagia Darjah Ketiga (SNB) - No Title

1. YB Awang Haji Sulaiman bin Haji Ahad, Member of Legislative Council
2. Awang Haji Abd Aziz bin Orang Kaya Maharaja Lela Haji Mohd Yusof, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Religious Affairs
3. Awang Yahya bin Haji Idris, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance
4. Awang Haji Salleh Bostaman bin Haji Zainal Abidin, BLNG CEO
5. 205 Kololnel Pengiran Zulkifli bin Pengiran Haji Ismail
6. Haji Md Yunos bin Bolhassan, Director of RTB
7. Awang Haji Mohd Alimin bin Haji Mohd Tanjong, Senior Admin Officer, Ministry of Home Affairs
8. Haji Daud bin Haji Duraman, Former Chairman of Tutong Municipal Council
9. Awang Poh Eng Hong, Director of IT and R&D, Ministry of Communications
10. Professor Madya Dr Awang Haji Mohd Hashim bin Haji Abd Hamid, Universiti Brunei Darussalam
11. Haji Ahmad bin Haji Tudin, Former Deputy Auditor General
12. Haji Nasir bin Haji Damit
13. Haji Othman bin Haji Judin, HM Private Secretary's Office
14. Haji Ibrahim bin Mohd Yussof, HM Private Secretary's Office
15. Haji Metussin bin Haji Mohammad
16. Haji Ismail bin Pehin Orang Kaya Ratna Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Hapidz
17. Pengiran Julaihi bin Pengiran Dato Paduka Othman
18. Awang Haji Jabair bin Abdullah
19. Dayang Hajah Hartini binti Abdullah, Managing Director Brunei Investment Agency
20. Dr Dayang Hajah Rahimah binti Haji Md Said, Acting Director General Medical Services
21. Hajah Hasnah binti Haji Ibrahim, Director of Fisheries
22. Hajah Ainun bin Haji Abdullah, Senior Special Duties Officer, Ministry of Home Affairs
23. Sister Dayang Liang Swee Leng, Hospital RIPAS
24. Sister Dayang Teresa Wong Ng Moi, Hospital RIPAS
25. Dayang Esther Linau Batang

Darjah Paduka Seri Laila Jasa Yang Amat Berjasa Darjah Ketiga (SLJ) - No Title

1. Mr Akinobu Nomura
2. Dr Haji Shaukat Zinna

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dirgahayu Kebawah Duli Tuan Patik! Largest Stamp Ever!

It's His Majesty The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam's 65th Birthday today. And what better way to celebrate the 65th birthday?

Yes, a $65 miniature sheet which consisted of the highest ever face value for a Brunei stamp - $65! Size wise, the $65 stamp itself is probably the biggest size stamp that has been produced by Brunei.

In its 116 year of history, the Brunei postal authorities highest value stamp before this was a $60 stamp which was in commemoration of His Majesty's 60th Birthday. That has now been superseded. However it has to be noted that the 50th Birthday Miniature Sheet had 5 $50 stamp making that worth $250, thus making that the highest value for a miniature sheet.

If you can't afford the $65 stamp, don't worry. The postal authorities have the much cheaper miniature sheet containing all 6 of 65 cents each stamp.


Or you can always get the first day cover with all 6 of the 65 cents stamps.


And for those who needed the technical details:

Name of Issue
Anniversary of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzadin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien, The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, 65th Birthday

Date of Issue
15 July 2011

Stamp Denomination
65 cents x 6

Price of Miniature Sheet
$3.90

Price of Miniature Sheet High Value
%65

Designer
Pengiran Haji Mohd Yamin bin PSJ Pengiran Haji Abd Momin

Printer
Southern Colour Print, New Zealand

Size of Stamps:
30 mm x 40 mm

Size of Miniature Sheet
150 mmm x 140.5 mm

Size of Miniature Sheet High Value
160 mm x 120 mm

Printing Process
Lithography

Paper
110gsm

Perforations
13 per 2 cm

Sunday, July 10, 2011

'Pi' and 'Tau'

Back in April 1976, I found myself in a Singapore classroom courtesy of the government's scholarship program. I had undergone about three months of secondary education in Berakas English School before that. When I arrived in Singapore, the classes were getting ready for the mid-year exam in May. The classes were revising their lessons. That was when I discovered there were indeed differences between the syllabus of the two education system. In most cases we coped but some I learnt the hard way. In Brunei, we were learning 'modern' maths but in Singapore, they concentrated on the traditional maths. The 'modern' maths was more like playing with maths and apparently was another experiment. However that 'modern' maths did not teach me what the formula for the area in a circle, all I heard was five r squared. Eventually I learnt five was not five but 'pi' and r was the radius. That 'pi' was versatile but difficult to pin down in exact value.

Sometime last week I came across a news article entitled "mathematicians want to say goodbye to pi" and I was thinking huh?

Apparently the proponents of anti-pi is pushing for another factor to be used called 'tau'. 'Tau' is equal to '2 pi'. The idea is that with 2 pi, errors can be made as sometimes the users forget the 2 whereas if it just one factor which is tau, errors can be reduced. According to the yahoo news, "tau advocates have said they've noticed a significant improvement in the ability of students to learn math, especially geometry and trigonometry where factors of 2pi show up the most, when the students learn with tau rather than pi."

I don't know about you, remembering 'pi' was hard enough, 'tau' is not that much easier.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

CSPS Wants You!

The Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS) is currently undertaking a research study to understand employment issues among university graduates. The study focuses on three groups of graduates – (i) employed; (ii) unemployed; and (iii) under-employed (i.e. those currently working but feel that their jobs are unsuitable).

CSPS encourages all university graduates, from local and overseas, Bachelor’s degree to PhD level, to fill in an online survey, which can be accessed via CSPS’ website, www.csps.org.bn, or CSPS’ Facebook page, www.facebook.com/csps.brunei

The survey will only take ten minutes to complete. Participate now and make a difference for your own future!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Memukun

I was rewriting my 2007 article on memukun the other day and I asked all my colleagues what their recollection about it was. One of my colleague, who has retired from the government and I met him at one of my niece's wedding function recently strumming a guitar(!), kindly wrote me the following recollection. Since he spent sometime doing it, to do justice to him, I thought I will reproduce it and he has given me permission but he asked to remain anonymous.

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MUKUN,(MEMUKUN atau BEMUKUN)

Pertama sekali saya melihat acara memukun ialah semasa saya masih kanak-kanak pada awal tahun 1960an.


Acara memukun atau bemukun selalunya diadakan pada waktu malam majlis-majlis keramaian seperti perkahwinan dan ‘makan tahun’. Memukun di adakan pada malam sebelum hari majlis-majlis ini diadakan sebagai hiburan kepada keluarga pengantin atau orang kampong yang membuat persediaan bagi acara yang akan di adakan keseokan hari, lazimnya masak-masakan, pelaminan, dan sebagainya.

Pemukun ini lazimnya terdiri daripada wanita sama ada secara seorang atau dua orang. Pemukun membawa bersamanya gendang yang dipanggil ‘dumbak’. Gendang ini di buat daripada kayu dan kulit binatang. Pemukun yang sering diundang pada tahun 1960an itu didatangkan dari Limbang atau Miri. Mereka yang ‘popular’ ketika itu. Tidak tahu lah saya jika ada pemukun wanita di Brunei pada masa itu.

Acara memukun biasanya diadakan dihalaman rumah. Ini membolehkan orang ramai yang hadir , biasanya pemukun-pemukun lelaki menyertai acara ini. Selalunya tempat yang digunakan ialah sebahagian daripada ‘teratak’ , iaitu bangunan panjang terbuka yang diperbuat daripada kayu , lantai buluh dan atap daun. Ruang teratak ini akan dihias secara sedarhana dan dihadapan pemukun wanita akan disadaikan kain-kain berwarna warni yang mana jika dilihat dari luar kita hanya akan dapat melihat sebahagian saja dari badan pemukun wanita yang duduk diruang berkenaan. Biasanya selain dari pemukun, ia juga akan ditemani wanita-wanita termasuk anak-anak dara ahli-ahli keluarga . (Tidak pula saya ingat ada wanita-wanita tua duduk menyertai pemukun,!) Di hadapan ruang ini disediakan lah ruang kosong, biasanya tapak lapang selaku gelanggang bagi pemantun-pemantun lelaki berjoget berpasangan sambil menjawab pantun dari pemantun wanita. Ada juga kalanya sampai dua tiga pasangan pemantun lelaki berada digelanggang, tetapi Cuma seorang menjadi pemantun , yang lain menjadi teman berjoget untuk memeriahkan suasana (atau mungkin juga untuk menghilangkan gementar).

Memukun dimulakan dengan pemukun wanita memukul gendang yang rentaknya hamper sama dengan rentak joget. Seterusnya pemukun mula berpantun, biasanya “pantun empat kerat” mengandungi dua kerat awal sebagai “pembayang” dan dua kerat terakhir sebagai maksud sebenar yang hendak dinyatakan. Pemukun akan terus “menjual” pantun –pantunnya sambil bergendang sehinggalah ada pemantun lelaki masuk ke gelanggang pantun untuk menjawab pantun yang dijual pemantun wanita. Tema pantun selalunya barmacam-macam; antaranya pantun nasihat, jenaka dan percintaan. Biasanya jika pantun-pantun percintaan barbalas pantun boleh perpanjangan , kerana mukun bertemakan percintaan ini boleh mengandungi cerita dan drama percintaan teruna dara. Mungkin ini yang menyebabkan remaja-remaja zaman dahulu meminati mukun dan pantun (sebelum adanya radio, dll).

Melodi pantun mukun yang asli mungkin pada pasa ini tidak dapat dikesan atau diketahui lagi. Tetapi seingat saya melodi pantun “Mukun Menyubuh” yang sehingga kini masih dilagukan adalah yang unik dalam memukun, termasuk patah-patah sebutan ayat dalam rangkap pantun itu. Keunikan melodi ini dan mukun secara amnya dapat kita bandingkan dan bezakan misalnya dengan Dondang Sayang di Melaka, semenanjung Malaysia . Pantun –pantun meukun boleh juga dialunkan mengikut melodi lagu-lagu joget moden seperti sekarang ini.

Yang menariknya pada waktu dahulu pemantun mesti mempunyai suara yang lantang kerana ketika itu belum ada pembesar suara digunakan. Keupayaan pemantun wanita berpantun sepanjang malam, kadang-kadang hingga menghampiri subuh sangatlah mengkagumkan. Begitu juga dengan keupayaan pemukun sama ada wanita atau lelaki mencipta pantun secara serta-merta (automatic!) sambil berbalas-balas adalah satu kebolehan yang luar biasa yang hanya dimiliki oleh orangorang tertentu, dan bangsa Melayu umumnya. Dari itu diucapkan setinggi-tinggi penghargaan kepada mereka yang berusaha mengekalkan budaya tradisi kita ini.

Sekian. =)

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Brunei cars to be driven in Palawan?

I saw this release by the Philippines Information Agency. The only thing that struck me was, WOW! we will be able to drive in Palawan with our own cars should this RO-RO connection to Port of Brooke's Point in Southern Palawan was ever to take off connecting Muara to Labuan and to Palawan.

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Port of Brooke’s Point, ready for RO-RO connection with Malaysia, Brunei


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, 30 June (PIA) –- The port of Brooke’s Point in southern Palawan is set for Roll on-Roll off (RO-RO) connection with the ports of Labuan in Sabah and Muara Port in Brunei Darussalam.

This was announced in the plenary meeting of 8th Transport, Infrastructure, and ICT (TIICT) Development Cluster meeting held recently at Hotel Centro in Puerto Princesa City recently. The implementation of the project is waiting for the harmonization of CIQS rules for the Labuan and Muara routes.

The completion of this RO-RO connection would further boost interconnectivity within the sub-region and enhance the sub-region's goal of becoming the ASEAN's food basket and eco-tourism hub.

"We need to develop projects cutting across transportation, economy, and
tourism," said Brunei Transportation Ministry Director Pengiran Haji Mohd Zain, chairman of the 8th TIICT Development Cluster meeting.

Under the BIMP-EAGA Strategic Roadmap, EAGA aims to be recognized as the
food basket, and eco-tourism zone of the ASEAN through a seamless network of air, sea, and land transport.

With this, the key players of the transport industry players both from the private sector and government were urged during the meeting to relate every transport project to these general goals of the sub-region.

"The TIICTD sectors play vital roles in our countries' socio-economic progress. They are enablers of growth. They bring food and other agriculture product to the markets, they facilitate trade, open up tourist destinations, increase investments, and bring people, services, and goods together," said DOTC Assistant Secretary Dante Lantin, head of the Philippine Delegation in his Welcome Remarks.

During the plenary session, the TIICTD cluster identified and prioritized projects and discussed issues and concerns relevant to the development of key transport, infrastructure and ICT industries.

The suspended routes from Puerto Princesa to Kota Kinabalu, and Zamboanga to Sandakan were one of the key projects that were identified as priorities and to be presented to the upcoming Transport Ministers Meeting slated this year.

Philippines , which has adopted the Open Skies Policy (EO 29) this year, also urged the other BIMP-EAGA member countries to open up through a proposed BIMP-EAGA Open Skies. The country is advocating reciprocity from the other member countries.

It was further proposed for the member countries to explore the possibility of creating an interline hub, which will serve as the drop and pick-up point
of the airlines.

The Philippine delegation also agreed to submit a proposal on a conduct of an Airline Summit, which aims to encourage airline operations in BIMP-EAGA.

The meeting also highlighted reports on the status of ports infrastructure improvement in EAGA. Philippines reported that funds from Philippine Ports Authority have been allocated for the improvements of Davao , Zamboanga, and General Santos ports.

Prior to the working group meeting, the 1st TIICTD Private Sector meeting was held, hosted by the Palawan Economic Development Council.

The meeting aims to recognize the role of the BIMP-EAGA private sector in ensuring the success of the current and future projects. (vsmendoza/MinDA/pia-palawan)

Friday, July 01, 2011

Brunei Darussalam: Promoting Takaful

On 29th June 2011, The Oxford Business Group reported the following about Brunei:

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Brunei Darussalam: Promoting takaful

The Sultanate’s sharia-compliant insurance sector is looking to expand its market share, stepping up efforts to promote takaful products and increase the range of policies on offer, with the sector likely to see greater segmentation as a result.

The sharia-compliant insurance sector is tightly regulated, with Takaful Order 2008 being the central document setting out the terms and conditions under which the industry operates. Issued in October 2008 and coming into force the following month, the order codified takaful operations, ensuring that the industry as a whole was based on a firm foundation and that, just as importantly, its products and activities met the requirements of sharia law.

To guarantee this, Takaful Order 2008 mandates that any product to be offered by a service provider has to be assessed and approved by the Sharia Financial Supervisory Board before it can be deemed as meeting the necessary standards and requirements.

The board, established in 2006, is tasked with monitoring and controlling the administrative and business dealings of institutions operating in the sharia-compliant segment of the financial sector, including takaful. Consisting of at least eight members, a mix of state officials, scholars and financial experts, the board serves as a guarantee that both best practices and sharia compliance are maintained across the sector.

The order also sets out the minimum financial requirements for a company to operate in the takaful segment, puts in place checks and balances for the sector, and mandates standards that senior officials must meet before being employed in positions of responsibility.

The industry has of late undergone something of a shake-up. Late last year, two of Brunei Darussalam’s three sharia-compliant insurance firms – Takaful IBB and Takaful BIBD – merged to form Syarikat Takaful Brunei Darussalam, with the two operating as separate units. Takaful IBB, which focuses on general policies, now trades as Takaful Brunei Am (TBA) while Takaful BIBD is now known as Takaful Brunei Keluarga (TBK), the unit dealing with family coverage. Along with Insurans Islam TAIB, they comprise the Sultanate’s takaful sector. Their conventional competition consists of nine policy writers, mainly subsidiaries of overseas firms.

Currently, general takaful policies – those covering vehicle, property and other business insurance – account for 80% or more of the total, with the remainder being private or family coverage, in the main life and health policies. In total, Brunei Darussalam’s takaful insurers account for around one-third of all premiums written.

The relatively low take-up of family coverage, especially health policies, can be largely attributed to the extensive social services provided by the state. With universal health coverage the right of all citizens, selling supplementary medical coverage can be difficult. However, this has not deterred TBK from relaunching its sharia-compliant health policy, Takaful As Syifa, which was first offered in 2002.

The policy has been redesigned to meet the needs of Bruneians who travel overseas by linking with international medical services provider International SOS, and it also covers additional health costs at home, including for alternative medicine services.

Recently, Brunei Darussalam’s takaful firms have been taking their message on the road, conducting information sessions to brief the public about the benefits of their products. Both TBA and TBK have been holding exhibitions in shopping malls, schools and community centres.

According to Mohammad Fuad Hamdi PD Hj Awang Salim, the assistant general manager at TBK, there is a need to develop an understanding of takaful insurance products in the marketplace. “Takaful As Syifa is a takaful medical plan coverage which provides reimbursement of medical expenses in respect of medical treatment due to illness or accident borne by the participant, and not many people are familiar with the matter,” he said during an exhibition in Gadong on June 5.

For the moment local operators in the takaful market will likely to continue to dominate the local market with little room for new international players. Though there is strong potential for growth, it will probably be only on a relatively small scale, given the limited size of the domestic market. For the foreseeable future at least, it will be up to the established local players to expand the existing product range and create an environment in which sharia-compliant products can flourish.

Inspirational Quotes

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