Birthday bonanza from His Majesty
By Azlan Othman

Government servants especially of lower rank were treated to a special thank you gift by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam when the benevolent ruler announced a special increment in their salaries, yesterday.

"I am grateful to note that government revenue and financial standing have improved lately. As an expression of gratitude for the contributions made by the public service, especially those at mid and lower levels, I happily announce the issuing of a special pay rise in the form of accelerated increment specifically for this year only.

"For those who are currently in government service details of their salary increase will be announced though the Prime Minister's Office circular. For staff in Division Four and Five, their living cost allowance will also be increased. For those on a daily pay rate, I wish to announce that their annual increment is set to increase to a more appropriate level," His Majesty announced yesterday.

This much-awaited topic over the years was the highlight of His Majesty's titah at the audience and investiture ceremony to mark the 60th birthday of the caring monarch at the throne room of the majestic Istana Nurul Iman.

His Majesty also underscored the need for more openness towards economic diversification and not to rely on foreign imports for commodities that the country could produce.

"I hope the upcoming pay increase is used wisely as possible and saved for unexpected needs. And retailers are reminded not to take advantage of this as a reason to increase prices."

His Majesty also stressed on peace and security in his titah.

"Peace and security underpin everything. As such all members of society should cooperate with law enforcement agencies in a bid to reinforce peace and security. Bear in mind that issues on security encompass all aspects of life: it is not confined to protection from crime, but it also covers social well being, job security, health and community and family life in general," His Majesty added.

"I am confident that with the will to uphold peace, we will become law-abiding people and a beacon of unity and harmony that produce peace and security. This is our service to the state and society and humanity because we can no longer bear to witness the suffering experienced by those who have lost peace and security. Examples can be found in many parts of the world today.

"Nothing is more meaningful than the effort to uphold peace. Hence it is important for us to take a forward-looking approach to ascertain that both are upheld and maintained effectively," the Monarch said.

"Ever since we achieved Independence in 1984, our nation-state has acquired membership with several regional and International organisations. Such membership enables us to participate. We also envision a region and a world of peace in terms of politics security and economy. By the will of Allah, such a dream can be fulfilled when the relevant organisations remain intact with their own aspirations.

"We should prepare ourselves with the appropriate skills if we were to compete with others in all aspects. Competition is set to begin when we acquire the necessary skills whereby such skills will spark proactive thinking.

"This is how we build an advanced and competitive nation. It must be stressed that every progress is a gift from Allah the compassionate and the merciful. Never forget this; always refer to the history of advanced Muslim civilisations in the past that have perished because they have forsaken religious obligations. Never forget the valuable lessons from the past even though many have forgotten this. But in Brunei, we should never lose sight of it; we should learn from it because history never lies," His Majesty observed.

Touching on the nation's prosperity His Majesty thanked Allah the Almighty for keeping Brunei prosperous and peaceful and allowing its people to enjoy a high standard of living.

"One of the major priorities is to ensure that proceeds from oil and gas continue to benefit the citizens," His Majesty said. "A tendency for openness towards economic diversification is also essential if we were to reinforce national survival, bring in foreign investment, and implementing a policy of green environment 'bumi hijau' effectively, the Monarch added.

"It is not appropriate for us to remain complacent simply because we are accustomed to importing everything including fruits and vegetables, when all such produce could be grown in our own nation-state. This is incompatible with the characteristics of a developing nation-state. As such, we should overcome this: we must strive to improve and stem the perception that our current resources are adequate, His Majesty said.

The Monarch cautioned the nation not to be overly dependent on the oil and gas wealth, as noone knows how long such a natural resource may last.

"We must not avoid expecting the unexpected; we do not know for how long our oil resources and financial viability would last. In 2005 alone my government spent B$166 million as subsidy for transportation fuel," the Sultan cautioned.

"We must plan further and that includes acquiring a productive and professional human resource. It is equally essential for the administrative machinery of government to plan better in a bid to produce a satisfactory outcome. As such, the public service is tasked to facilitate development, which includes the implementation of relevant policies.

"All forms of impediments in policy implementation should be studied and overcome promptly. Coordination should be reviewed constantly and upgraded on a regular basis.

National prosperity and hardship is our responsibility.

My government strongly takes into account the cost of living and current economic condition, His Majesty observed.

"Even though health and education development are available for free, my government thanks be to Allah is still capable of meeting the outlays without inflicting extra financial burden on citizens,

"My government remains resolved to continue to strengthen our finances in the form of fiscal consolidation though prudent financial management so that our well being remains uninterrupted, by the will of Allah," His Majesty said.

The Monarch also took this opportunity to thank both members of the public and private sector, the security services and those living in urban and rural areas for their efforts in arranging this year's birthday celebration.

The monarch also thanked the members of the national - level celebration committee who have worked very hard to organise the festivities for the benefit of everyone. - Borneo Bulletin (16th July 2006)