Monday, 14 May 2007

Brunei Darussalam Welfare System

south east asia map

This post is originally intended as a continuation from about Brunei Darussalam, 'Wealthy Nation'... A friend of mine was rather interested in the Brunei Darussalam welfare syastem after watching the videos, and I decided to make a post on it and share only now...
Actually I realized not many people know where Brunei is located, including West Malaysians, much less realize that Brunei is a fully-fledged welfare state. As a sidenote, Asia does not have many welfare states, which includes Kuwait, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Brunei Darussalam is the only country with a generous welfare system among ASEAN members.

brunei map
 A larger version of the map of Brunei.
Brunei is approximately 10 times the size of Singapore, 
with an area of 5,765 km square, 
but only has a population of approximately 380,000.

Brunei's welfare system can be summed up in 2 words: OIL & GAS!!! At the turn of 20th century, Brunei was an economic backwater relying on agriculture and fishing, until the oil struck in Seria on 5th April 1929 transformed Brunei into one of the most prosperous nation in the region.

Since then, money began piling up, and there wasn't a fast enough way to spend it. In 1955, the then Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien III, 28th Sultan of Brunei, promulgated Brunei's welfare model in the First National Development Plan (NDP), catching the people in the country by surprise.


 The Billionth Barrel Monument in Seria
                         The Billionth Barrel Monument in Seria and a nodding donkey beside it

Brunei provides generous welfare benefits for her citizens and residents. Note there is a clear distinction between citizens and residents in many aspects, that'll be another post for another day. 
 The Brunei citizenship benefits, The welfare includes:
  • NO TAXES: Brunei does not require her citizens and residents to pay any form of taxes to finance the welfare benefits of the state. There are NO income tax, NO Goods & Services Tax (GST) or Value-Added Tax (VAT), NO licence fees for television sets etc. The only tax I remember paying for was the Road Tax for our cars.
  • FREE EDUCATION: Brunei citizens enjoy the privilege of free education in public schools in the Sultanate from primary level right up to tertiary level. Promising students are sent abroad to UK and Australia on Brunei Darussalam Government scholarship. On top of that, the government generously provides an allowance of SGD1000 per tertiary student per month, regardless of whether they are in local or overseas tertiary institutions. Unlike Malaysia, education in Brunei uses English as the medium of instruction and most students possess at least a GCE O Level or GCE A Level certificate.
  • FREE HEALTHCARE: Brunei citizens are entitled to free medical services. They do not have to pay for consultations with any doctors, nor do they have to pay for any operations or surgeries performed. However, Permanent Residents are required to pay a nominal consultation fee of a few dollars. In the case that a Brunei citizen requires a very specialized treatment that is not available in the Sultanate, he/she will be sent overseas to Singapore or UK to receive treatment, being that all expenses are borne by the government. Accompanying family members also have their expenses paid for by the government. For expecting mothers, pre-natal checks are completely free. After birth, the government would generously provide free milk powder and tonics.
  • PENSION SCHEME: Since the First NDP in 1955, the government had placed a heavy emphasis on taking care of the elderly in the country. Pension rates had been revised recently, and all citizens and residents above the age of 60, are now entitled to SGD250 per month, funded directly from the government's coffer! On top of that, residents also have a Workers' Provident Fund, or what is locally known as Tabung Amanah Pekerja (TAP). Apart from that, widows, orphans and invalids are also entitled to handouts.
  • HOUSING SCHEMES/SKIM PERUMAHAN: Since independence in 1984, the government had been actively advocating a policy to ensure that everyone has a right to own a house. If you are a couple with no assets, you will be entitled to a free land with no strings attached. The government will even provide a very low interest loan to build your dream house. Civil servants, however, will be entitled to an interest-free loan instead. A typical house costs only around SGD100,000 to SGD200,000 to build. Otherwise, you can always opt for readily-built houses from the government, and if you are starting a family, you can pay interest-free installments of a few hundred dollars for over 10 to 20 years. Thereafter, the house is yours forever, unlike the 99-year HDB lease in Singapore and you can bequest it to your descendants. The benevolent monarch is so concerned about the housing welfare of his citizens/rakyats that he personally hand them the keys to their new house. Some pictures of houses in Brunei below:
 brunei Government Housing
  Government Housing - Ready-made units(left), Non-ready made(right)
  Private Houses in Kuala Belait
  Private Houses in Kuala Belait
  Private Houses in Kuala Belait
Another house - think is Perumahan in Kuala Belait

  • SUBSIDIZED PETROL AND AMENITIES: Many things that we Bruneian locals take for granted day to day are actually heavily subsidized by our dear government. Being an oil-producing country, we enjoy one of the lowest petrol prices in the region - SGD 0.53 per litre. For the same amount of petrol, Singapore costs around SGD 1.74 to SGD 1.90 and Malaysia costs approximately RM1.92. Apart from that, we also enjoy low water and electricity tariffs, prices which had been unchanged for the past 40 years since 1960s. With water tariffs as low as SGD0.11 per cubic meter, we have one of highest rate of water consumption per head in the region.
  • SUBSIDIZED FOOD: The Brunei government also attempts to make food cheap and affordable for all. The government imports plain fragrant rice from Thailand and sells to the population at cost price. As most food supplies in Brunei are imported, to offset the cost of imported food like beef and mutton, the government owned a huge cattle ranch in Wileroo, Darwin, Australia. The entire ranch is larger than the whole of Brunei, with an area of 5,859 square kilometers. This ranch is responsible for ensuring fresh beef and mutton supply to the Brunei populace at low price.
  • SHELL-FARE: Shell Petroleum Brunei Shell Petroleum Brunei is one of the largest employers in Brunei's labor market. It is actually also part of Brunei's welfare system, but under the disguise of corporate welfare. Shell in Brunei is like a mini-state of its own. It has its own recreation club (BSRC) and Health Center (with free dental) FOC for its employees and their dependants. Not only that, they even have provides their own housing for their employees (expats, BSP and BLNG staffs). Shell Brunei owns a myriad of houses around the district - from the Canadian Houses in Panaga (so called because the houses are Canadian-styled and timbers are imported from Canada) to housing estates beside the sea in Kuala Belait. Shell is concerned about welfare of its employees, and provides allowances such as housing allowances, transport allowances etc. If your dependants study in a private school, Shell will take care of your dependants school fees and education allowance.
  • FREE COOKING GAS & EXCELLENT ROADS: Cooking gas is absolutely free in Brunei, actually, in my town, Kuala Belait, and Seria probably. Due to close proximity to the oil fields in Seria and Shell in Panaga, cooking gas is actually PIPED into our kitchens! There is no need to purchase the cumbersome gas cylinders. Turn on the stoves as you would turn on a tap, and VOILA! We have got gas and currently it is still FOC! Since we are an oil producing nation, it is imperative the we have an abundance of asphalt - a by product of crude oil during refining. Apparently, the asphalt has to go somewhere, and thus we see new roads being built and roads/highways being paved and then re-paved from time to time. It would be a real challenge to find badly-weathered roads in major towns.
Roads: Highway leading to BSB(Left), Road to BSB(Belait)

Roads: Highway leading to BSB(Left), Road to BSB(Belait)
  • FINANCIAL BAIL OUT: There are cases where people who had gotten themselves into debt got bailed out by the government. I remember reading somewhere that, for some unknown reasons if you took out some loans financing your studies abroad and somehow managed to convince the authorities that you are unable to repay your loans/debts, the government can lend a helping hand and bail you out of your debts. However, whether this bailing comes with any ensuing conditions or not I do not know.
Despite being a welfare nation, Brunei does not readily give handouts to unemployed masses. This is to prevent corroding the work ethics of the society and to ensure that no one fall one into welfare trap - whereby people live on welfare handouts than be gainfully employed.

The above list is most probably not be a comprehensive list of the Brunei welfare. There could be other welfare benefits which I am not aware of.

Sometimes, I feel lucky to be born in Brunei, though I am not a citizen YET. Probably won't be blogging till next Wednesday, after I finished my first exam - Advanced Data Management. Wish me luck!!!

source :
http://ykwang84.blogspot.com/2007/04/steady-welfarism.html

16 comments:

  1. Well, the welfare can be summed up in 2 words that is Free and Subsidised like you said. Oil and gas is the summed up of Revenue.
    Dr consultations do cost $1.

    Nice read, again. Good luck for your exam.

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  8. It's was nice to live in there

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