Friday, June 28, 2013

Gold Dinars and Silver Dirhams in Brunei

Last Thursday I attended a nikah ceremony at As-sallehin Mosque. My wife's cousin's daughter was betrothed to her chosen love one. As usual part of the ceremony was a 'mas kahwin' where the groom has to pay to the bride a sum of money. In Brunei, that sum is usually around $200 to $300. I know of one state in Malaysia, Johor, which makes it a mandatory $22.50. Lately many have been following the practise of old where the sum is a gold dinar coin.

I was quite intrigued when the imam announced that the 'mas kahwin' for that wedding was also one gold dinar coin. I could not wait until the end of the ceremony to see for myself what one dinar coin looked like. It looked like this:

I was told that the value of this gold dinar coin was around $300. After the ceremony, I decided to ask around and posted the question on my fb. I got all the answers. Apparently there are several companies selling the dinar gold coins around the region. This one in particular was actually sold by a company which had branches in all over the Muslim world including Brunei. Dealers called this the Brunei Gold Dinar. This dinar is made up of 999 purity of gold. Currently it cost about $330 or thereabouts.

Another company is Malaysian based but their dinar gold coin was slightly impure which is 916 around 22 karat. The price of that gold dinar varies according to the market. Since the pricing was listed, it was easy to see. When I first looked, the price was M$591, today it was M$570.

The State of Kelantan apparently got into the act and produced their own at 917 purity. The market price for today was $270 and the listed price for the Kelantan Gold Dinar today on their website was M$665 which is around $266 which is quite close to how much they are selling here. The Kelantan gold dinar looks like this:

These gold dinars all weigh 4.25 grams. They weigh the same but their thickness and sizes vary slightly. Another version is the silver dirhams which are very cheap at around $6+ for 1 silver dirham. They come in 1 silver dirham, 2 silver dirham, 3 silver dirham and 10 silver dirham. The gold ones also have various values similar to the silver dirhams.

These are indeed interesting times for coin collectors to be able to collect something valuable and perhaps can be used as investment tools.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

New Brunei Road Names

The Bandar Seri Begawan Municipal Council has named several relatively new roads and renamed some of the more established ones recently.

NO.1 : Jalan Pasar Gadong - Starting from the traffic light at Jalan Babu Raja until the exit of the Kiarong roundabout. This one is easy, the road passing in front of the wet market in Gadong.

NO.2 : Jalan Masjid Omar Ali Saifuddien - Starting from the traffic light at Jalan Elizabeth II near the Madrasah Building until the traffic light at Jalan Pretty and Jalan Sultan. This stretch of road has not been named ever since it was built in the lat 1990s. It is nice to see this stretch finally having a name.

NO.3 : Jalan Duta - Starting from the traffic light at the Jalan Kebangsaan junction until the exit to Simpang 336. This road at the traffic light simpang 4 near the Immigration and Labour Department was completed a few years ago and most people do not know where it leads to. This road is to help the embassies which are starting to be built around the area.

NO.4: Jalan Lapangan Terbang Berakas. Starting from the main roundabout until the Brunei International Airport. This one is a no brainer.

NO.5 : Jalan Komersial Jaya Setia. Starting from the entry of Simpang 13 in front of the Brunei International Airport until Jalan Padang Kebajikan. The road leading to the Times Square, Citis Square, Airport Mall etc entering from the International Airport Road and going out to Jalan Perdana Menteri (used to be Jalan Berakas)

NO.6 : Jalan Padang Kebajikan. Starting from the T Junction in front of the Jalan Perdana Menteri until Padang Kebajikan Building. This is interesting as the padang is now called something else but people still called it Padang Kebajikan. This used to be administered by the Jabatan Kebajikan, Belia dan Sukan. However the Kebajikan bit has now become a separate department on its own known as Jabatan Pembangunan Masyarakat. The department administering it is now known as Jabatan Belia dan Sukan but everybody still remembers the 'kebajikan'.

NO.7 : Jalan Perdana Menteri. Starting from the traffic light at the Jalan Gadong & Jalan Kumbang Pasang untuk the Berakas roundabout. This new road has taken over two major roads. Used to be from the Gadong junction to the Old Airport Junction, the road was known as Jalan Kumbang Pasang and from there, it would be Jalan Berakas. But now that entire stretch is Jalan Perdana Menteri.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fake Brunei Star Coin

Last week, the Brunei Numismatic Club, an online facebook club, with about 600 members decided to suspend any trading among members, the Brunei Star coin. There were too many fake of those coins circulating.

Among coin collectors in Brunei, the star coin or duit bintang as it is popularly known, is a must to have among one's collection. The coin issued by Sultan Hashim in 1886 was the first modern coin before the 1967 coin issued by Sultan Omar Ali Saiffudien. The star coin was minted at the Birmingham Mint. Prior to the Sultan Hashim's star coins, the previous Sultans issued coins known as pitis. These were minted or rather made locally by Bruneians. The star coins were made entirely out of copper, whereas the previous coins were generally iron.

The star coin is not that hard to obtain. About 1,000,000 pieces were made in 1886. It sold locally for around $40 to $50 a piece. Though prices as high as $120 a piece is not unknown. The star coin is also to recognise by it colour, it is generally a very dark brown, almost blackish. Over the last few months, a number of the club members reported that once polished, the star coins can be a brilliant yellowish or reddish metal. That was surprising as the coin was made out of copper and coppers do not shine to a yellowish or reddish metal.

Discussions were held, even with collectors in Singapore. Once these yellowish coin was studied, the difference was visible. These yellowish coins were not the original star coin. These coins looked almost identical but there were differences. The most obvious is the jawi writing. In the original star coin, the word 'sen' or cent is spelled with jawi letters, 'sad' 'ya' 'nun'. In the 'newer' star coin, the word 'ya' was missing. The two dots that were supposed to be underneath the letter 'ya' were missing. There are other differences and a coin expert will be able to tell the difference.

Even though the two coins looked identical, darkish brown black (see the coin on the left hand side above) when unpolished. But once polished, the original copper colour can be seen for the original one (middle coin). However for the fake coin, it will come out in brilliant yellow (coin on the right hand side).

To me replica coins served a purpose. It can still be used as a teaching tool or for purchase by someone who can't afford the real coins. However if the replica coins were sold as original coins with original coins prices, then someone out there is being real dishonest. If you are contemplating of buying a star coin, to determine the authenticity, for the time being, the give away sign is the missing dots under the letter 'ya'.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Which weekend for Brunei?

When I was in Darjah 1 or 2 (Primary 1 or 2), I remembered I went to school on a Sunday, this was around 1970. I remembered on every Sunday, it would be my father who went to school to pick me up whereas any other day, it would be my mother. So Sunday then was a school day but it was an off day for the government servants. I don't know when school days changed. When my wife was posted to the Ministry of Defence sometime last year, she had to work Mondays to Fridays whereas I am still on Mondays to Thursdays and Saturdays. We only had Sundays as our weekend together. There are other agencies who worked on Fridays as well. Every now and then we would argue which days would make for better weekends. But according to Reuters, the Saudis have decided to change:-


Saudi changes working week to Sun-Thurs

DUBAI, Monday, June 24, 2013 - SAUDI Arabia on Sunday said it was switching its official weekend to Friday and Saturday, bringing the kingdom's working week in line with other members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

Saudi Arabia, the biggest Arab economy, had been the only Gulf Arab state to have a Thursday-Friday weekend after Oman shifted to a Friday-Saturday weekend last month.

A statement on national Saudi news agency SPA said the change, decreed by King Abdullah, will take effect as of this weekend.

According to the statement, this was "for the sake of putting an end to the negative effects and the lost economic opportunities consistently associated with variation based on work days between local departments, ministries and institutions and the regional and international counterparts".

King Abdullah issued the decree following a recommendation in April by the Kingdom's Shura Council, which advises the government on new laws, to change the country's official weekend from the current Thursday and Friday.



Monday, June 24, 2013

Brunei's Currency Peg

It has been a while since I last posted anything about economics in this blog. I was sending some payment this afternoon and I saw the Malaysian to Brunei exchange rate was RM2.46. I don't know what it has been all this while whether higher or lower. I read this article in The Brunei Times about the highs and lows of Brunei's currency peg and apparently Brunei dollar has depreciated significantly last week. The argument in the article was that Brunei might have not have to face the depreciation and it only did so because of our peg to the Singapore currency. Many have asked whether this peg is worthwhile. Read the article below:


The highs and lows of Brunei's currency peg


BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Monday, June 24, 2013 - THE latest depreciation of most Southeast Asian currencies did not fail to make its mark on the Brunei dollar. Interestingly, this has nothing to do with how resistant the Brunei economy is against currency crises or fiscal imbalances on the world market. The oil-rich Sultanate is far away from a crisis and is also not a prior target of international currency speculators.

No. The reason why the Brunei dollar depreciated significantly last week in concert with other ASEAN currencies is simply that it is pegged to the Singapore dollar and managed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, while the Brunei Currency and Monetary Board, which serves as a kind of central bank for the country, does not have many means to influence exchange rates if it is not done jointly with Singapore.

Thus, the Brunei dollar was carried down in the same way the Singapore dollar joined the heaviest depreciation of ASEAN currencies in a year. The Thai baht fell, Malaysia's ringgit depreciated, as did Indonesia's rupiah and the Philippine peso. The Singapore dollar dropped 2.6 per cent in May, the biggest slump since May 2012. It has also tumbled against all of its main Asian peers this year except the Japanese yen and South Korean won. By the end of May it was also down 5.5 per cent versus the Thai baht.

The Singapore dollar's strong alignment to global factors is also the fate of the Brunei dollar, although the underlying economic factors might be fairly different. The city state's currency's substantial correlation with the Swiss franc and little capacity for it external sector to benefit from the US growth recovery are some of the factors that might dragging the currency further. Singapore is also the only ASEAN nation that has only narrowly avoided a recession in the fourth quarter of 2012, a situation that normally brings with it a weakening currency. And despite reporting surprisingly positive GDP data during the first quarter of 2013, Singapore's recent numbers are still lacklustre when compared to the region and even the US.

A number of past financial crises have had their roots in countries pegging their currency. If there is change in the structure of interest or exchange rates then this has large effects on both monetary systems even if they have a differently structured economy. While a peg to a major ASEAN currency certainly has its advantages for Brunei, the country also has to face possible unwanted results that are not its own fault.

The Brunei Currency and Monetary Board will probably have to look into measures that offset the depreciation of the Brunei dollar at least to ensure that local purchasing power remains intact and rising prices for imports will not have any effect on fiscal stability. The board will also have to take into account that the envisaged role to develop Brunei towards an Islamic and International Financial Centre will also strongly depend on how the future strategy with regards to the Singapore dollar peg will be laid out.

Do you think Brunei should de-peg its currency from the Singapore dollar? What effect would it have? Let us know through Twitter: @insideinvestor using hashtag #bruneitimes.

-- Courtesy of The Brunei Times --

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Brunei Unemployed Proactive in Finding Job

I read this interesting comment on Brunei Times facebook site which was referring to a speech I made yesterday. Our Ministry focused on the community welfare launched a program where we invited those who are receiving welfare assistance, unemployed youths etc so that we can motivate them, let them know where job assistance etc can be obtained, or where they can find assistance if they want to start up business etc. The focus was very much on if you have a skill, you can be employable. My speech (very much truncated) as reported appears below the comment by this person:-


"Ngalih saja dilantik menjadi SUT!!...perkara macam ani pun nda terfikir. Kursus sana sini. Seminar bukan main. Kelulusan macam-macam. Tapi menyelasaikan isu perkerjaan, langsung nada. Mati-mati mengharapkan pihak swasta untuk menyediakan pekerjaan. Cuba tah fikir sedikit, apakah pihak swasta mampu menyediakan pekerjaan kepada semua orang jika nada untung diperolehi?! Tuhur hantap...Jangan luan diisi parut atu, cuba buka minda atu sedikit. Alum lagi negara tani ani muflis jika negara menjamin pekerjaan kepada setiap rakyat dan penduduk. Takahi tah cakap ani....setiap hari jenayah berlaku dalam negara, napa nda ambil polis banyak-banyak? Pantai tani selalu bersampah, napa nda gajihi orang membersihkannya? Kelas sekolah panuh dengan anak-anak sekolah, napa nda mengambil guru? Sungai tani kamah, napa pulang Indon atau Bangla digajihi? Setiap kampong nada bomba, napa nda ditambah bomba atu?....iatah tani ani nda mahu memajukan bangsa sendiri..."


Unemployed Urged To Be Proactive in Finding Jobs

Bandar Seri Begawan, 23rd June 2013 - THE unemployed should be proactive finding a job and not just rely on the government to come to their assistance, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports said yesterday.

Speaking during the launch of the Career and Entrepreneurship Programme, Hj Md Rozan Dato Paduka Hj Md Yunos said: "There are 2,040 registered job seekers in this country, while another 4,144 are receiving benefits from the Community Development Department (JAPEM)." The permanent secretary said the Sultanate is faced with the challenge of tackling the growing number of welfare recipients — particularly unemployed youth — in the country.

The government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has come up with comprehensive plans to tackle the issue of unemployment in a bid to reduce the burden on the state. Among these strategies is the zakat adopted by the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEBD), Brunei Shell Petroleum, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

"Each of these establishments is trying to overcome unemployment through various projects that provide jobs for the locals," the permanent secretary said.

"All these (efforts) are meant to fulfil the Vision 2035, which seeks to create a well-educated population and a skilled workforce and a high standard of living." However, he reminded the attendees that despite efforts made by the government to reduce unemployment, there needs to be a change of mindset at the individual level. "Employment programmes provided by the authority can only do so much. It is up to the individual to change and work hard to achieve a better life," he said, adding that the unemployed should actively look for suitable work and ensure that their skills meet the needs of the workplace.

Hj Md Rozan quoted a hadith as narrated by Al-Bukhari about being proactive and showing initiative. "Indeed, among you is a person who takes the ropes and goes uphill to obtain firewood, then he carries (the firewood) at the side of his waist to be sold in which the profit is enough to cover for his daily expenses. (That) is better than begging from others whether or not they give (what you are begging for)".

The hadith in itself encourages Muslims and people in general show initiative and to try to resolve their own problems rather than seek help from others.

Hj Md Rozan also recited excerpts from Surah At-Talaq (The Divorce) Verse 2 and 3. "And whosoever is pious to Allah, indeed He will provide a way out (of every difficulty and hardship). And (Allah) will provide him with sustenance from directions (sources) ... least expected."

The Career and Entrepreneurship Programme was conducted by the Department of Community Development the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports' Digadong Hall.

The programme is specifically designed to help job seekers educated to higher education level.

It comprised motivational talks from the Youth Development Centre and the Local Employment and Workforce Development Agency (APTK).

There were also lectures given by the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources.

Over one hundred people from various walks of life turned up for the programme, which carried the theme "My Career, My Future".

-- Courtesy of The Brunei Times --


Sunday, June 02, 2013

Brunei Sports Minister attends MINEPS V

Berlin, 30 May 2013 - BRUNEI Darussalam attended the MINEPS V, which took place between May 28 and 30, at the Intercontinental Hotel, Berlin, the Republic of the Federation of Germany, and was represented by the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah.

The conference was officiated by the Chancellor of the Republic of the Federation of Germany, Angela Merkel and Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General.

The three-day convention was also attended by 130 countries’ representatives.

Also in attendance was Pehin Datu Panglima Colonel (Rtd) Dato Paduka Haji Abdul Jalil bin Haji Ahmad, the Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to the Republic of the Federation of Germany, Awang Haji Mohd Rozan bin Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yunos, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, as well as senior officers at the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

The convention discussed access to sports as rights for all people, with emphasis towards involving more women and people with special needs.

It was also aimed at encouraging investment in sports through the implementation of quality programmes.

Attendees also discussed the issues of sports integrity involving ‘match-fixing’, illegal gambling, drugs and corruption in sports.

Pehin Dato Seri Setia Haji Hazair raised that Brunei has never backed out from supporting the UNESCO conventions in tackling issues in the bid to eliminate discrimination against women and people with special needs in sports, and reassured the Sultanate’s pledge to cooperate with member countries in ensuring that the ethics and integrity of sports are not violated.

Pehin Dato Haji Hazair also said that Brunei gives the opportunities to people with special needs to participate in sports by providing the right environment and amenities to help them focus on developing their skills and abilities.

The minister also reassured Brunei’s long-standing effort in giving the same support, be it financially, spiritually or physically, to all sportsmen and women in general.

The conference of MINEPS V also saw the Berlin Declaration passed, which presses countries to increase their commitment to international agreements relating to physical education and sports.

This is to ensure the declaration’s effective execution and supervision in Cooperation with the Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sports (CIGEPS).

Inspirational Quotes