BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Home Affairs has earmarked funds to rehabilitate Bandar Seri Begawan after tabling a total budget of $130.35 million for the 2021/22 fiscal year.
The budget allocation is a two percent rise from the ministry’s budget of $127.7 million last year.
During the Legislative Council sitting on Friday, the home affairs minister said the budget will be channelled into improving national productivity; provision of facilities and infrastructure; and producing competent and employable human resources.
Without disclosing the budget on Bandar Seri Begawan redevelopment, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said there are ongoing public-private partnerships (PPP) to revive the capital city.
The rehabilitation works involve three state-owned buildings — Bumiputera Trade and Commercial Centre, the multi-storey car park and the Local Employment and Workforce Development Agency building.
The government is holding discussions with P Cube Sdn Bhd and Darussalam Assets on the revitalisation project, which is being implemented in different phases.
“Another ongoing PPP project is the relocation of Tamu Selera vendors to a more spacious and comfortable location on Jalan Kumbang Pasang,” said YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar.
The minister said it is hoped that the infrastructure upgrade would eventually attract domestic and foreign investors and in turn create employment opportunities for locals.
Outstanding property taxes amount to $54 million
Building owners still owe the government $54 million in property taxes despite efforts being taken to address the issue, YB Pehin Dato Hj Abu Bakar said.
“We have sent bills, reminder letters, SMS reminders, introduced online payment services and taken legal action against offenders, but we have yet to reach our target,” he said.
The minister added that the municipal boards in all four districts have collected building taxes worth $8.02 million and $4.82 million in arrears up to February 2021.
Property tax is imposed on land and buildings situated within any municipality of the four districts.
All property types, including residential, commercial, industrial and recreational properties are liable to taxation.
Sharp fall in One Village One Product revenue
Mukim and village consultative councils have reported large losses in their One Village One Product (1K1P) revenue, declining 34 percent year-on-year due to COVID-19 curbs.
The minister said the councils earned $523,285 from 1K1P as last year’s ban on expos and bazaars had significantly reduced their sales activities.
However, the councils produced 46 more 1K1P products.
The ministry has also introduced a youth entrepreneurship grant that encourages young people to participate in the mukim and village consultative councils’ economic activities.
The grant serves as a catalyst in increasing more economic projects at the grassroots level, creating more employment opportunities and improving the quality of 1K1P products, the minister added.
An unspecified budget has also been allocated for the development of the Immigration and National Registration System and National Labour Management System.
Due to be launched sometime this year, the two systems are expected to improve the processing of work permits for foreign nationals and reduce the chances for potential abuse of power.
The minister said the systems would also assist in the implementation of a biometric system at border control posts.