BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Market vendors and small business owners will receive $300 for three months as part of the government’s economic relief measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

The financial aid is also extended to taxi drivers and tour guides whose source of income has been affected since tourists cannot enter the country due to a travel ban imposed on March 24.

A statement from the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) Secretariat said the $1.93 million payout will be distributed among 2,154 people identified by the council’s task force.

The welfare assistance, which will start in April, is also rendered to non-Muslims.

On April 13, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah in a titah announced that financial aid will be given to market stall operators, while acknowledging that small businesses and low-income workers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The government last month unveiled a $450 million economic stimulus package to help businesses survive the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with measures such as loan payment deferrals, wage subsidies and social security contributions.

The MUIB welfare aid recipients are made up of small business owners, self-employed individuals and low-income workers officially registered under four ministries – Ministry of Home Affairs; Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism; Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) and Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

MUIB said the welfare assistance funds were derived from its General Administration Fund, which collects money from religious services such as halal certification and permit fees; revenue from Syariah courts; bank interest; shop rentals; sale and acquisition of government land and money from Baitul Mal as well as unclaimed assets.

The bulk of the financial aid will go to market vendors registered under the home affairs ministry, with $1.72 million to be distributed among 1,910 market vendors.

A total of $72,900 will be shared between 81 tour guides, while $104,400 will be handed out to 116 taxi drivers, ride-sharing DART drivers and speedboat drivers registered with MTIC.

Forty-seven small business owners under MCYS will receive a cumulative welfare assistance of $42,300.

In his capacity as MUIB president, Minister of Religious Affairs YB Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Awg Othman handed over the mock cheques to the four ministers on Saturday.