Pay rise brings cheers to public
By M K Anwar

As His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam will be showered with greetings amidst a riot of colour in Tutong District today, His Majesty's subjects, civil servants in particular, will be at work after a three-day break still rejoicing and discussing His Majesty's birthday titah.

Now, all eyes will be on the circular from the Prime Minister's Office that will spell out the salary increase, the first in nearly two decades, to civil servants in mid and lower levels.

News on His Majesty's 60th birthday celebrations were also published by the world media, from America to Japan to Gulf countries, with a special mention about the pay rise to civil servants.

Regional print and television media carried headline news on His Majesty's birthday as leaders from many neighbouring countries attended the glittering ceremony full of pomp and tradition.

But it's the pay rise to civil servants that will be the most talked about subject in the country in the days to come.

"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 services, especially those at mid and lower levels, I happily announce a special pay rise specifically for this year only. For staff in Division Four and Five, their cost of living allowance will also be increased. For those on daily rate, I wish to announce that their annual increment will increase to a more appropriate level," His Majesty said in his titah.

The announcement was immediately welcomed on the streets. Many said they are relieved a pay hike has finally come their way and profusely thanked the monarch for the gesture.

Dyg Suryani Hj Idris, who has been working for the government for more than two decades, said, "I am so thankful to the Sultan for giving us a pay hike. This gesture stands testimony to the caring attitude of His Majesty towards his subjects and his government."

For Hj Lahat Hj Seruji the news came as a relief. The father of five, who has been in public service for 20 years, said, "You don't know how relieved I am as my monthly expenses in educating my children have been such a squeeze on my financial resources."

Many lauded His Majesty's message reminding retailers to be flexible in their business by not increasing the price of goods.

Another significant point in His Majesty's titah was to urge the general public not to rely on foreign imports for commodities that the country could produce. Brunei's fertile soil and climate conditions should be made use of by the people to make the country self-sufficient in many aspects. His Majesty said that this (amount of import) is incompatible with the characteristics of a developing nation-state, adding that we should strive to improve and stem the perception that our current resources are adequate.

As the nation cannot be overly dependant on oil and gas, it's up to Bruneians to act now and realise the vision of His Majesty.

Some private sector staff also welcomed the pay rise and urged the private sector in general to review the salaries of their employees. - Borneo Bulletin (17th July 2006)