By Azlan Othman
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday outlined the country's vision to achieve zero poverty level and the need to attain a 'developed' status in terms of standards in paddy plantation.
In his 'titah' at the opening ceremony of the first meeting of the fourth session of the Legislative Council at the new Legislative Council building in Jln Kebangsaan, the ruler said since the country attained its independence, the per capita income of the population has been encouraging. Ten years after independence, it shows an upward trend.
"No doubt it contributes to the rise in living standards and welfare of the people. For instance, in 1994, the per capita income was BND$23,502 which rose to BND$47,964 in 2006. Based on this data, the poverty level should be brought down.
"Has it not crossed our mind that one of the aspirations of the 2035 vision is to achieve zero poverty in this nation? I am convinced that Brunei could achieve this aspiration and that the Legislative Council could play a role in achieving it," said His Majesty.
"The other mission is towards upgrading the living standards through various developmental projects, especially those involving the socio economy. The economy lies in the context of managing the source of wealth of the nation, which among others, is the contribution from the agricultural sector.
"No doubt, agriculture is a crucial field in economic diversification. Countries worldwide depend on agriculture in providing food, be it through producing or by importing.
"The objective of agriculture is to fulfil the needs of the population while at the same time be traded locally and globally in the form of commercial agriculture. The issue is, to what extent is our nation's agricultural growth? Are we experiencing a positive growth?" asked the ruler.
"Once in a while, I see in the media, leaders and government officials going out to paddy fields along with the people. What can be figured out from such an experience? For instance, have our paddy plantations achieved a developed level of standards? If the answer is yes, encouragement should be given to upgrade it. If it is not, guidance is crucial. I believe the Council members could discuss the issue jointly," said the monarch.
Touching on this year's meeting, His Majesty said, "Today we have made history in the development of the Legislative Council as this year's meeting is held at the new building, which becomes the pride and an avenue for consultation between the government and the people in fulfilling their responsibilities formally and in a proper manner.
"This is where the representatives can give ideas to develop the nation. Since the Council was reinstated on September 25, 2004, we have received overwhelming feedback and comments. We must seriously take note of all the views. I regard the Council as the Consultation 'Syura' to frame beneficial strategies in helping the government to consolidate the existing system, which we have inherited from generations.
"I will follow the events of this Council meeting while at the same time hope that it will be a platform to generate new and significant ideas. It is hoped that this meeting could run as we have aspired for and manage to achieve all the objectives including the obligation to discuss the expenditure for the financial year 2008/2009.
"Hence, it is hoped the Council members would be far sighted in their deliberations by emphasising on strategic issues that are beneficial to the community and for future direction of the nation," said His Majesty.
"The quality of discussion would be determined by its characteristics that are substantive, progressive and based on thorough and accurate factual analysis.
"Recently, we outlined a long term plan entitled Brunei 2035 vision. The plan outlines policies and development plan strategies for the next 30 years. I hope that with such a vision, our objective to generate highly knowledgeable and skilled Bruneians could be fulfilled in order to enjoy a dynamic and sustainable economy, which is our priority.
"In the context of economy, such a vision stresses on a profound upward trend and to provide job opportunities that are needed by the nation," said the ruler.
His Majesty also hoped that the members could diligently carry out discussions with total dedication under the leadership of the speaker. "I am convinced that the session would run smoothly, properly and (end) fruitfully," the monarch said.
Also present at the ceremony were His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and HRH Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah.
Earlier, His Majesty and other members of the royal family received a royal salute upon their arrival.
His Majesty then inspected a guard of honour mounted by personnel of the Royal Brunei Police Force and signed a plaque signalling the official opening of the new building.
- Borneo Bulletin
(5th Mar 2008)