BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Banks have approved 39 percent of 622 loan deferment applications from businesses that sought financial assistance amid Brunei’s most serious COVID-19 outbreak, according to figures from the Ministry of Finance and Economy.

From August 7 to September 15, financial institutions have rejected 18 businesses and individuals that did not meet the criteria to defer their loan repayments.

Disclosing the data in a press briefing on Saturday, the second minister of finance and economy said 350 applications were still awaiting review from banks.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said 17 of the 18 rejected applications involved individuals who requested to temporarily stop the payment of their debts, such as housing loans.

“The 17 applications received were [for deferral of] personal and housing loans. Ten of the applicants were rejected because they are government servants and their income is not affected.”

Other applicants who were denied financial aid included private sector employees because their earnings are not affected, he added.

“So it is not like what the social media has been saying – there is no blanket disapproval [for applications]. The bank can’t just give approval to everybody.”

Bank loan deferrals were part of MoFE’s relief measures for businesses affected by the economic impact of COVID-19.

Over 70 companies apply for wage subsidy

As of September 7, more than 70 businesses have applied for the 25 percent wage subsidy for over 600 local staff.

The wage subsidy supports private sector employers to continue paying Bruneian employees who earn $1,500 and below.

The minister further said about 60 companies sought to delay their Employees Trust Fund (TAP) contributions to over 600 employees.

Companies that qualify for the TAP and SCP deferments are required to repay the government within one year after the deferral period.

Restaurants have been hard hit by the pandemic, with a second wave of infections forcing them to close to dine-in customers since Aug 7. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

848 jobs created since second wave began

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said JobCentre Brunei has recorded 848 new vacancies in the energy, wholesale, retail, accommodation as well as food and beverage sectors since the second COVID-19 wave began.

These jobs were created because people left their jobs and companies need to find new workers, he said.

The minister said some companies may have found a niche market, and needed more employees as they seek diversify their business.

He added that sectors such as energy, transport, education and manufacturing were also hiring a small number of employees. 

In the same period, 149 employees quit their jobs, including 40 who found new jobs or decided to pursue further studies.

Official figures showed that only eight people have been laid off during the current COVID-19 outbreak, but this figure does not reflect scores of people who have been put on unpaid leave. 

This article was updated on Sept. 19, 2021