Fasting Month Charity Blues

I was still seething about espeed yesterday morning at the office when my secretary's assistant intercom me saying that there was someone who wanted to speak to me. She said that it's a Pengiran and he sounded as if he knows me very well. Well, one third of Bruneians are Pengirans so that's no help whatsover. Anyway, I asked her to put him through and there was this guy pretending as if he knew me from god knows when and asking whether he can drop in at 9 to see me about something. I said I was fairly busy but if I could have his full name and what he wanted to see me about. He said something about whether I could pay for his mother-in-law's ticket to Singapore as one of his family member or himself or someone anyway, is going to be sent to Singapore. I am not going to fork out my hard earned money to people I don't know and when I insisted for his full name, he put the phone down.

This kind of request is not new. A couple of months back, there was this guy who came over as his car payments were about several months behind and he wanted to borrow money and he promised to pay back quickly as his elaun tambang is due. Once I was waylaid on the way to my car and there was this guy who said he came all the way from Belait and he wanted to see me to see whether he can withdraw his funds earlier but in the meantime could I could help him over lunch. Among us, we can pretty much write a book on the antics of all these people. My minister talks about his favourite - this guy comes every month to his house and limps in front of him and his maid told him that when the Minister is not around, the guy walks pretty fine. My PS told me the story about a whole family who came to see him with some hardup story and everyone who came to see him from the father to the little children had bandages of some sort on part of their bodies. My personal favourite is this guy who came to see me because his car failed the inspection tests as all his tyres are bald and he needed money to buy new tyres. Another told me that he had to sleep in his car at his farm to avoid the creditors seizing his car.

If you think this is a Malay thing, think again. About 9 months ago, a Chinese lady came to see me telling me about how her mother needs to be treated overseas and that RIPAS can't do anything and she needed funds to bring her over. A couple of months later, she came back and said that now she needed funds for a funeral and she says Chinese funerals are pretty expensive. I don't mind giving money to the needy but please, some of these requests really take the cake.

I don't know sometimes whether there is this group of people who preys on the senior government officers or these people slipped through the welfare net. Or as someone puts it bluntly, these are just people who think they can get away with it by brazenly asking for money. I remembered when I used to work at the number one address in Brunei, the number of letters asking for raya money is really mindboggling and will reach the high five figures by the fasting month. I recognised some of these requests and they shouldn't be there. In fact almost all of them had mobile phone numbers and pretty much two or three other contact numbers as well so that we can reach them. Their addresses looked fine to me and there was this one time when we had to go and give the envelopes to them, some of their residences looked so much better than even the senior government officials. It scares me to see the kind of society that we are fostering.

If you were to say, we don't have a welfare system which can help them, you are wrong. The Brunei national welfare system is probably one of the more generous one in the world. You don't have to contribute to it nor pay any tax to be included in the system. If you think you are hard up and have no other means of support, you can contact the Community Development Department and asked to be given welfare. If you can convince them, every month you will get $200 for yourself, $200 each for every wife that you have, $65 each for every child that you have, $60 each additional education allowance for every child that you have between the ages of 5 and 18 and there is no maximum ceiling. If you happen to have 3 wives and 10 children, you can make out a pretty decent living. The last time I checked, more than 6,000 people in Brunei are the recipients of these allowances. On top of that, we also have the Yayasan and the Baitul Mal who also give out assistance to welfare needies. For the non-Malays, the various Chinese associations also give out assistance.

I remembered reading S@S's blog a couple of days back about a few children being exploited by their parents went around restaurants selling snacks. I remembered thinking a bit cynically at least these kids sell stuffs. The adults who came to see us with their sob stories don't even bother to do any business whatsoever. I don't even know what's the point of today's blog. I guess just to let you know that there are people in our $42,900 per capita GDP economy that probably need our help, or maybe not. Depends on how cynical you feel or charitable you feel. Remember this is the fasting month - good deeds go a long way but there are also others who will want to take exploit that.


Anonymous said…
We have free education,
We have free medicine,
Why don't we have free money??

If life was that easy we would all be in heaven. Some people just don't want to work. I feel for you Mr BR sir.

There should be limits
Anonymous said…
Interesting blog Mr BR! I share the same experience when I used to work with one of the big shots before and this particular guy (quite young and healthy looking) keep on coming asking for cash because he did convince my boss few times with his story about his family problems and all sorts! I guess if we stop giving them, they will stop coming because this particular guy at one time didn't come back again after I gave him my piece of mind that If I were him, I better find job or 'apa saja rezeki yang halal' rather than begging every once in a while because I am pretty sure the giver is not genuine in parting with his cash either! I remembered in one of HM's speeches something like that "Adalah lebih baik seseorng itu berkerja mengambil kayu, lalu kayu itu dijualnya daripada meminta-minta kerana belum tentu dia akan diberi". These words came from our great ruler who really love his subjects and why can't these beggers learn some lesson from it and jadikanlah ia sebagai panduan untuk menjalani hidup seharian. Mind you Raya is coming soon and I am sure lots of beggers will come personally or writing letters asking for donations! Common on our religion didn't ask you to beg for money in order to celebrate Raya.
Anonymous said…
I'm all for charity, but it's sickening to know that charity here is being taken advantage, by those who seek charity themselves! What's even more sickening is that charity is that this is done in the most honorable of months, Ramadhan. My one disappointment in these people is their lack of honesty.

Think for a moment. How can someone who owns a few handphones, some cars and a luxurious home get so poor? In fact, how can anyone get so poor, here in Brunei?

When seeking for charity, please make it for charity's sake. Charity is made for to continue on living, and not to pay for your irresponsible debts. Your debts are your own. Don't involve others.
Anonymous said…
When you say Free education: The fees are free....but for non bruneians it is not so free (the kesian ones are the ones yang bininya orang brunei). And on top of that some need to buy their own workbooks, excercise books, school bags, pencils, mathematical set, colour pencils, school uniform, shoes (kalau jenis murah inda samapai setahun rosak tia), socks, tudong, money for lapik meja, curtains in the classes (teachers always asks for these)

and then is $200 really enough in a month for each wife an$60 or is it $65 for each kid? Prices of goods increases lah from year to year....

With beras, minyak makan, electricity, milo, gula, susu manis/fresh milk (they need calcium too), tea, roti karing, water, books, stationary, washing liquid, fresh vegetables, fresh fish (they need fresh food for their kid's brain to prosper not Indomie!), shampoo, soaps(if your kids come to school smelling bad and clothes not so white, would you like that? or woul they even want to go to school and be stared at?)...seriously...enough kan with that amount to buy good nutritional food? I myself a family of 8 with half of us still having "Gigi Susu" $1000 is hardly enough to but the necessities. If we are living in the 70's or 80' maybe it is enough. I dont want to feed the kids with just sardines or ikan masin everyday so that we could save more, the kids need nutritional food fresh eggs meat, chicken and its not because we want to fatten them up but it's for the brains. If they have good brains and healthy body they can study well and hopefully get a good future.

Of course if any one of you reading this thinks i am are welcome to give any feedback...

There have been kids who i met not wearing shoes to school as they can afford it but the mother's plight to have the kids an education and hopefully to help their family in future. At least the little kid doesnt mind going to school (of course eventually the school helped to provide the kids with shoes and bag..siapa jua tahan meliat). But for some kids who are already poor...going to school was a torture because of being poor and coming to school hungry and they get treated differently by others that they lost their interest and feel down. I tried assuring them to hang on and finish up their studies at least O levels, but it was hard i guess my psychology skills was not good enough

Anyway, i do agree there are some who take a ride on other people's generosities...but my point is there are a lot of genuine people out there who needs help.
Anonymous said…

mr anonymous, i think your point is valid cos 1000 for family of 8 is definitely just about struggling there. But dont you work? getting benefits is one thing as it definitely relieve the family monthly expenses. But dont push it! I m not a Bruneian despite born here and all (and that is another story). Like MR BR said, Brunei govt is pretty generous in terms of benefits compared to UK or other countries.

Just that i sometimes felt one just need to learn to be pleased. Family of 8, 2 or 3 wives, seriously. If you think you cant afford to support them, why? why? why have so many children and for every 3 or so minutes of pleasure comes a life-long support. Not only to yourself but to your whole family. Ever heard of family planning. Im sure that cost less.

I really honestly dont know how some families living on benefits or on low wages with so many children go through everyday. Okie. even for those on reasonable pay, where maybe only the father works and mama maybe parttime or housewife. Food and nutrients is one thing, and like mr anonymous said: clothes? going out?

I know Brunei population is not growing much, but definitely this is not a way forward.
Anonymous said…
Maaan hearing all these stories just makes me wanna slap some sence into these beggers. They should learn how to be greatful. I for one never give charity to people unless they are indeed in a worrying state - like the homeless or truely disabled. Those asking money for depts, tikets, car-payments, recharge cards, house deco, raya, and other non-nessasities can just kiss my (insert obsanity here).

I suggest you all to not accomodate such people. It will just encourage such behavior and they will prey on more people thinking "if it worked on him.. it should work on others..."

If you wanna give charity then its better you send your money to people who relly need it. Like the people in war torn counties and those living under extreme poverties.

- rant over -
Anonymous said…
brunei!!! what can i say... and u forgot to mention all those years during the tadarus era at both istanas where people brought along their small babies just to get $10 each... imagine some of these small babies kana pihit in between the crowds just for $10 a night, it's not even worth it... and some parents even dressed their small daughters in cara melayu, cut their hair short, just to make them look like boys and join the dads to the tadarus... so therefore, am not surprised if there are some people out there who knock on ur doors to ask for easy money... not even the org basar2 face this problem, my family who is org bawah2 also face the same problem where sometimes by the end of the months, some people (neighbours mostly) knock on our door and borrow money to buy minyak kereta, kad easi etc etc... taraf hidup sama saja, if we can save money, why can't they?? i think it has to do with the mentality org brunei yg suka pinjam money and nda mau usaha sendiri...
Anonymous said…
to think back all these things, i think it's not wrong to give out our money to those who need it, i mean if they are really poor or in need, but of course with good reasons... but to help them to buy easicards, tayar kereta, repair rumah or whatsoever are not very good reasons... i'd rather giveout my money to help org yg kan bali susu anak, baras... coz i know if we dont help, the children will starve... tapi one thing about the people in brunei ani, durang ani sanggup kapeh hujung bulan, asal jangan mati gaya... bapa, mama, anak sorang2 ada handphones, baju barkatuk berkisi tabal tabal... sanggup berhutang and then bila nda cukup usin hujung bulan, pinjam duit orang... *sigh* not being emotional here, i mean, it's really hard to diffrentiate whether these people are really kapeh, they borrow money from u, but when we look at their standard of living, they are more lavish, even my living is not lavish, bruneians shud learn how to manage their finance... jgn dalam otak kan bergaya and compete sama org saja... tapi kapeh, hari2 makan sardine n pusu... think of the education of the children, they need healthy food to have healthy minds, good schools to mingle with good children... just my 2 cents
Anonymous said…
As you put it, one could write a book about this occurrence - in neverending volumes. It really is unfair exploitation of the concept of charity. And it is unfair to the one being requested for funds because they're tested as to whether to turn these people away, or relent and give a certain amount in the name of helping out a fellow citizen.

And what amazes me is they have the gall to swing by and brazenly ask for money, but drive shiny cars with current license plates and the like! I agree with what one anonymous said about 'apa saja rezeki yang halal' and HM's speech. Better an honest living than fostering this community as a mainstay for years to come.
Anonymous said…
Hi all, til some few months ago I was hardly aware of such problems here in our Abode. I was enlightened by a few upperclassmen, and was appalled at the extent of it.

I used to blame the upbringing and education system, thinking perhaps we were never taught financial education. Maybe the country has spoilt us to the extent that we think we can get away with not trying. But I'm guessing that the truth of the matter is that many people are simply lazy and greedy. There's no blaming the system. When one is already 'tua bagak' they ought to also be 'berakal'. Kesian the children of these so-called 'beggars'. Spoilt ingrates more like.

Of course some people are just not so lucky and require help such as benefits and 'kebajikan'. There are also some people who came from nothing but worked hard and became somebodies.

Anyway, at the end of the day, if you cant afford the phone, do you need it? If you can't afford a Lancer, don't get it! If you have a house but no money, don't renovate! If you can hardly afford one wife, don't be so 'kind-hearted' as to take another one one. When will we shed this practise of 'Keeping Up with the Jones's'?

We Bruneians are a very blessed people indeed. Its time we count our blessings.
Anonymous said…
Its pretty annoying knowing all these, but its a fact, a sad fact. and i think most of them are spoilt. They had been spoilt for so long and they dont want to do anything about it BUT to make sure that they continue to be spoilt!!

Its the mindset of these ppl that make them feel they are poor. (lets not take air-conds as examples)"oh!they have astro,we need to have it too, or else, it wud mean that we are poor!"

Barangkali these ppl need financial education, i dont know if its too late..but what about financial planning?these ppl are not deadbroke, perhaps we need to educate them how they can use their money properly, expose them to the financial world,like,investment,stock markets,etc etc!!and include stuff on how to come up with feasible sure most of you readers have plenty of cemani ani,if nada urg buka mata durang,durang nda kan sadar,rite?so,how about it?or do we already have this stuff?hehe...oh,maybe banks,for one, should show their positive side,rather than encouraging loans,y not encourage savings? Im just worried about how their kids turn out to be in the will be even sadder to know that its a 'generation' thing..Nauzubillah..
Anonymous said…
Let's put it in this ways, we're too used to being "Spoon Feed". And thus, there are people who can't even try to find money in a proper way but yet thinks it's other people's job to give them the money.

Personally, I think I'm lucky to be born in this land because it's peaceful and the government in generous. But, I certainly hopes this doesn't apply that we all can just sit back at home and wait for money to fall from the sky.

We got to try to stand at our own feet.
Anonymous said…
Try first hand experience in having these people at the front gates of your home. Not that we are declined to "sedekah" but to see them every other week with their grandchildren etc.There's the usual suspects every now & then.Sometimes you do give them but money dont grow on trees.The more you give, the more frequent they come.

Raya is coming soon and expect an invasion. Some people in Brunei exploit the generosity of others.

These people hard to say if they are genuine but if they are, hope good fortune will come to them.
Anonymous said…
Consider the individual earning an income for work equal to the amount of benefits he would receive if he were not in work. Based on the non-trivial assumption that an individual prefers leisure more than work, he/she might as well take the benefits option since there is less effort (and more leisure) involved. And continuing with this non-trivial assumption, he/she would continue to take up this option up to the point where the excess amount of money beyond the amount of benefits he would receive from work at least compensates the individual for the amount of effort exerted during work.

The above scenario should hold true for all rational, profit-maximising individuals. In Brunei however, we are not taught to be rational, profit-maximising individuals. Instead, we are taught (and expected) to be socially responsible individuals.

Unfortunately, limitations in the education system mean that not everyone is a socially responsible individual. Families, the political climate, the availability and feasibility of business opportunities, and many other factors, all play a part. So blame the system.

Brunei is a welfare state. And in Brunei, the definition of a welfare state is that needs such as basic healthcare and education are provided for and many goods subsidised. No matter how heavily in debt you are, there will always be someone to bail you out (i exaggerate to an extent, but where is the incentive to save there?). People claiming every single benefit that they can get is a rational, profit-maximising individual. So blame the people (for being rational).

There is a lot of literature out there which talks of the failure of the welfare state in other countries despite its good intentions.

I’d like to believe that the welfare state we are in could still work, but history and the experiences of other countries suggest this is rather na├»ve and that we should progressively move away from our definition of a welfare state into one where ‘output per worker’ moves closer to ‘income per worker’ (with 'welfare' catering only to the needs of those unemployed and working below a certain level of income).

Our nation is blessed with a vast amount of natural resources, but it will not last forever. A huge chunk of the income from this is allocated to maintain the living standards of the current generation. Perhaps maybe, we should share and spread this affluence to future generations in the spirit of social responsibility.
Anonymous said…
At least they ask instead of stealing. Every Raya, a guest will be very unfortunate to lose their shoes. People visit houses and while the hosts are busy attending to guests, some of them takes the opportunity to take what they like when leaving the house. Sudah dibagi duit raya, ambil kasut org lagi. When will it ever be enough. And it's happening right here in Brunei. sigh... sedih la...
Anonymous said…
i think a lot of us lack the understanding of what hardship really is. the government has helped us so much that what poverty is here is merely middle-class in most parts of the world. as much as i'm inclined to charity, i'm also wondering how many of them are really in dire need of our financial assistance. then again, how to tell the real deals from the fakes? for now, my money is going to PETA...
Anonymous said…
Each year during hari raya, there will be kids who are being sent by their parents to just pop by house to house and cash in some green packets. Their parents will wait in their car nearby. I find it absurd but it's hard to blame these people entirely and someone got to give them some help and teach them that there are other bettr ways to earn a living. Like social services? Seriously i wouldnt want to blame them, though i do wonder what exactly goes in through their mind. And how desperate they need their money. Or they might need it to pay off some bills or use it for belanja sekolah for the coming new year and they know with these ways they can earn money. like i said some people out there are really struggling and to understand them is to go see where they live and why there are really broke.
Anonymous said…
Talking about duit raya, I was quite upset about some of the youth while I brought relatives with 3 young children to visit the palace during the Hari Raya Open day. These youth gestured that we were there for the money, I was very insulted and extremely upset if all of us is not in the car, I will stop him and asked about the gestures.

I hope those youth are one of your reader, and realised that we are genuinely wanted to visit and check out how the Royal family look like in real person and appreciated the beauty of the palace. We are not there for the money.
Anonymous said…
Talking about charity brings me past happy and sad memories. It was 9 years ago, and I was newly-wed.

My wife was a housewife, and my financial status was at its worst as most of my savings was spent on the wedding reception itself.

One Sunday morning, I went to an Indian restaurant in Gadong, just sat there did nothing. Then, came this stranger and he sat next to me. He ordered two "teh tarik", one for him and one for me.

The way he talked, I presumed he is a Malaysian. He was a friendly chap and we only talked about "Brunei Sunday News".

Before he left, he gave me $2000 cash! I didn't ask for it. He told me that I was a good listener. I didn't know what to say! He just left and gone...

Sadly, I didn't get his name and address. I'm forever indebted to this stranger. Was he an angel? Only God knows.

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