BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Legislative Council (LegCo) on Saturday passed a government budget of $5.86 billion for the 2020/2021 financial year after the Speaker cut short the two-week proceedings due to COVID-19 concerns.

The move to end the 16th LegCo sitting a week ahead of schedule is unprecedented, making it the shortest parliament session since it was revived in 2004.

Legislative Council Speaker YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Laila Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdul Rahman Dato Setia Hj Mohamed Taib stopped discussions on specific budget allocations for each ministry during the final day of the session to give LegCo members enough time to finalise the 2020/2021 financial year budget.

“To save time, any questions from the members will be answered in writing by the respective ministers,” he said.

On Thursday, the council closed the session to the public and restricted the number of civil servants attending the proceedings.

The decision to conclude the session early was made to heed the government’s advice to restrict public gatherings.

As of Saturday, Brunei recorded 40 COVID-19 cases.

The Brunei government is expected to face a budget deficit of $1.47 billion in the 2019/20 fiscal year, despite posting the strongest GDP growth in 13 years.

Brunei is also projected to run into a budget deficit of $1.81 billion in the 2020/2021 financial year, owing to weak global oil demand and prices.

The $5.86 billion budget, which remains unchanged from the previous fiscal year, takes effect on April 1, 2020.

Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said a total of $800 million has also been allocated to fund projects under the 11th National Development Plan.

He said the ministry will constantly monitor the government’s expenditure and fiscal position as well as its existing and future programmes to ensure the government’s fiscal position will remain resilient.

The minister also requested all ministers to exercise caution in spending their budget. 

The government earmarked $15 million for natural disasters and disease control, including dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak and climate change phenomena such as flooding, landslides and forest fires.

Budget breakdown:

  1. Prime Minister’s Office – $431 million
  2. Ministry of Defence – $606.02 million
  3. Ministry of Foreign Affairs – $114 million
  4. Ministry of Finance and Economy – $853.01  million
  5. Ministry of Home Affairs – $127.7 million
  6. Ministry of Education – $753.8 million
  7. Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism – $61.7 million
  8. Ministry of Religious Affairs – $256 million
  9. Ministry of Development – $220 million
  10. Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports – $87 million
  11. Ministry of Health – $383 million
  12. Ministry of Transport, Information and Communications – $93 million
  13. Ministry of Energy- $169 million
  14. National Development Plan – $800 million