Friday, October 31, 2014

Brunei Down on Ease of Doing Business


Fitri Shahminan

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Thursday, October 30, 2014 - BRUNEI is now placed at 101 in the latest World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report 2015, which lists a total of 189 economies.

This is 42 notches lower than its 59th ranking in the previous year.

The Sultanate ranked lower in terms of registering property, getting credit and resolving bankruptcy.

The Washington-based lender said entrepreneurs will need 101 days and go through 15 procedures to set up a new business in the Sultanate.

On the other hand, entrepreneurs in Singapore - which is one of the easiest places to run a business according to the World Bank report - only need 2.5 days to open a business, 31 days to get electricity and four days and $440 to import a container.

Businessmen also need 298 days and go through seven procedures to register a property in Brunei.

In comparison, entrepreneurs who dobusiness in other countries in East Asia and Pacific region will only need 78 days and go through five procedures to register a property. In Singapore, it will only take 4.5 days and four procedures to register a property.

In terms of getting credit, economies are assessed based on their credit reporting systems and the effectiveness of collateral and bankruptcy laws in facilitating lending.

The legal rights index ranges from 0 to 10, with higher scores indicating that those laws are better designed to expand access to credit.

In this regard, Brunei’s score of four is relatively low compared to the average six by other countries in East Asia and Pacific as well as member state of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

On the plus side, Brunei has improved across two of the 10 indicators that were reviewed by the World Bank.

The World Bank said Brunei has made dealing with construction permits easier by consolidating final inspections.

Businesses only need to wait 88 days and go through 17 procedures to obtain a permit for construction activities. This is shorter than the average 134 days in other countries within East Asia and Pacific region, although the number of processes on average is fewer at 14.

The World Bank added that Brunei has also made paying taxes easier for companies by allowing joint filing and payment of supplemental contributory pension and employee provident fund contributions and by introducing an online system for paying these two contributions.

Brunei’s total tax rate on businesses amounts to 15.8 per cent.

In contrast, businesses in Malaysia - which ranked second in ASEAN and 18th globally - pay a total tax rate of 39.2 per cent.

The ease of doing business indicators are: starting a business; dealing with construction permits; getting electricity; registering property; getting credit; protecting minority investors; paying taxes; trading across borders; enforcing contracts; and resolving insolvency.

The top 10 performers in World Bank’s Doing Business Report, in order of ranking, are Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR, Denmark, Republic of Korea, Norway, United States, United Kingdom, Finland and Australia.

For the Doing Business Report 2015, the World Bank has introduced several changes in methodology and scope of assessment from a heavy focus on the efficiency factors towards the assessment of the quality of legal infrastructure within an economy and how they promote efficiency in the delivery of services.

The revision of this methodology, which shifted from the ordinal system based on percentile to cardinal metric ranking system, sees a new scoring structure based on the ‘Distance To Frontier (DTF)’ from the Best Performers / Practice of participating economies.

The use of aggregate values of the overall DTF scoring across 10 ease of doing business indicators is now the basis of new ranking for each of the economies.

Based on the new methodology, Brunei’s rank in the Doing Business Report 2014, was revised to 98th, which means the Sultanate only slipped 3 notches.

The World Bank gave Brunei an overall DTF score of 61.26 in this latest ranking update.

The Brunei Times

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sultan Brunei: Muslims Must Be Courageous


BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Saturday, October 25, 2014 - HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday urged Muslims to be brave and dedicated in upholding and preserving the sanctity of Islam, and make sacrifices in doing good deeds for the sake of Allah SWT.

“By doing so, we will find that (in return) Allah SWT will definitely come to our aid; and this is His promise, verily, Allah SWT’s promise is absolutely true and it will be honoured and never will it be broken,” the monarch said in a titah to mark the Islamic new year 1436 Hijrah.

In the titah, His Majesty noted that Muslims today were weak and have become afraid to show the goodness of Islam and its teaching, placing themselves in a position that is no longer worthy of becoming the best of ummah (community).

This is why it is important for Muslims to learn valuable lessons and examples taught in hijrah — the migration of Prophet Muham-mad SAW from Mekah to Madinah. “Hijrah reveals to us how vitally important it is to have courage (and) the spirit of sacrifice and loyalty,” the monarch said.

“If there was not any courage or if the spirit of sacrifice and loyalty were absent (in Prophet Muhammad SAW and his companion), the great migration would not have become an integral part of the Islamic history.”

The migration from Mekah to Madinah took place in a manner that was most extraordinary – where the journey was beset by a multitude of obstacles and hardships. It is an event full of divine barakah (blessings) as it was done following the command of Allah SWT in order to protect the Islamic aqidah (belief) brought by Prophet Muhammad SAW, and not simply to flee from persecution.

“Just imagine, there were just two persons — Prophet Muham-mad SAW and his companion, Sayyidina Abu Bakar RA — setting out on a journey, whereas their enemies were large in number, persistently pursuing and searching for them everywhere,” said the monarch.

Due to their courage and willingness to sacrifice anything in addition to their strong faith and belief in God, Allah SWT delivered them from danger and enemies. Without Allah SWT’s protection, the hijrah would have met with failure along the way.

The monarch said that a spider would not have immediately weaved its web and pigeons would not have built their nests at the entrance of the cave (indicating that the place had not been entered by anyone) where the two had used as a hiding place, without help and protection from Allah SWT.

In such context, His Majesty emphasised that it is crucial for Muslims to truly understand the concept involved in the event, as it entailed many things that test one’s resolve in leading a truly religious life.

“If we do not have the attitude of such great figures in the history of Hijrah, it is feared that Muslims of today would (continue to) become weak and marginalised, despite the fact that Allah SWT had recognised us Muslims as the best of ummah because of our habits in inviting others to do good and advising against doing bad deeds,” His Majesty noted.

Commenting on this year’s new year celebration theme, “Be Unified in Support of Allah SWT’s Law”, the monarch said that such a powerful and noble phrase needs to be uttered with courage and honesty.

“Celebrating and welcoming the new year in the Islamic calendar is a tradition in this country to reflect on the historical accounts of Prophet Muhammad SAW’s migration from Mekah to Madinah,

(And) I am thankful to Allah SWT for being able to celebrate the coming of new year 1436 in an atmosphere of comfort and harmony,” His Majesty added.

Wishing Bruneians a “Happy New Hijrah Year 1436”, the monarch hoped that Allah SWT will place the nation and its people under His divine help and protection; that Brunei will also be blessed with peace, tranquility; and the people will continue to live together in harmony and solidarity. — Waqiuddin Rajak

The Brunei Times

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Brunei Antiques






Brunei antiques can be quite addictive if one is into it. Take me for instance. I started off with a few pieces handed down by my mother who first got into the habit sometimes in 1980s. She kept them aside and dug them out during my youngest sister's wedding to make way for wedding door gifts in the store room. I realised how much I like them and have continued to the collection since then.

These ones are the latest to be delivered to me at the house which consisted of 6 periuks, 2 pelitas, one table pelita as well as several celapas of different sizes.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Brunei's Affordable Public Housing Bungalows



AsiaOne, Singapore

Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014 - Unlike the high-rise public housing available in various parts of Asia, Brunei's public homes come in the form of landed houses the size of bungalows in Singapore.

Each of these two-storey houses reportedly measures over 330 sq m or 3,552 sq ft in land area. In Singapore, bungalows have a minimum land area of 400 sq m or 4,306 sq ft.

According to a report on Taiwan's Set TV news, the price tag on one of these government-subsidised homes and the land it is built on is around $84,000.

The two-storey homes come with spacious rooms and kitchens and are comfortable to live in.

Homeowners can sign up for interest-free loans of up to 30 years. There is even a 3-month trial stay period with no charge.

- See more at: http://business.asiaone.com/property/showcase/check-out-bruneis-affordable-public-housing-bungalows#sthash.6S3k4Mps.dpuf

This would seem like an extremely good deal to residents in other Asian countries where land and property are a lot more expensive.

Utilities in Brunei are also extremely affordable when compared to its neighbouring countries. One family Set TV news spoke to said that they kept their air-conditioner switched on all day, every day but spent just $8.40 on utilities that month.

In Brunei, most people used to live in kelong-like homes on the water. As a result of this, many were exposed to widespread communicable diseases like cholera and smallpox in the early 1950s. As a result, the government began to resettle these water village inhabitants inland.

To qualify for the National Housing Programme, applicants need to be first-time property owners, at least 18 years old and must have a salary between $ 445 and $ 3,030. The average waiting time for a house is less than 12 years, but the Brunei government aims to reduce this to just 5 years by 2021.

A 2013 ASEAN Conference paper on Brunei's public housing programme said that the Brunei Darussalam government had doubled its budget allocation for public housing from $550 million to $1.141 billion in the past 10 years.

ljessica@sph.com.sg

- See more at: http://business.asiaone.com/property/showcase/check-out-bruneis-affordable-public-housing-bungalows#sthash.6S3k4Mps.dpuf

Thursday, October 23, 2014

US State Department: US Government Agrees Syariah Law Consistent with Human Rights


QURATUL-AIN BANDIAL

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Thursday, October 23, 2014 - BRUNEI must maintain its international human rights commitments as it rolls out the Syariah Penal Code, said a senior US official yesterday.

Shaarik Zafar, the US State Department’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities, said his government believes that Syariah and human rights are compatible, although Washington has expressed concerns about some of the punishments prescribed under the Code.

Zafar, who is in the Sultanate on a two-day visit, met with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and senior religious officials yesterday, to discuss US engagement with the Muslim world, including counter terrorism and Brunei’s introduction of the Syariah Penal Code.

“Brunei has made commitments to international religious freedom and other human rights. The US government is not in a position to say what Syariah law is and what it isn’t. What we do say is that governments that have made a commitment to uphold fundamental human rights have an obligation to do so regardless of what the particular penal code is,” he told local media yesterday.

“We were told that Islam and Syariah are fully consistent with human rights, and we fully agree with that. What we heard consistently today is there is no contradiction,” Zafar added.

The envoy said during his meetings he raised concerns about punishments prescribed under the Syariah Penal Code, such as amputation for theft, stoning for adultery and the death penalty for murder.

“What we’ve been told is the evidentiary standards that would apply are so high that in reality these penalties would never be carried out. This legislation took some time to be developed it’s still going to be taking time to be implemented,” he said, adding that the US will continue to monitor developments in Brunei. “We look forward to learning more and working with the government of Brunei.

The Brunei Times

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