Welcome to my private journal generally on Brunei issues. Any opinions expressed are in my personal capacity. All rights to the articles are reserved.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You want to work till 60?

The article below on Brunei Times today elicited a lot of talking this morning. As a government finance man, I can imagine the many financial benefits it will bring to the public finance. On the flip side I can also imagine many difficulties including among others to many junior colleagues having to wait longer to be promoted. Me? I look forward to my retirement age at 55. What about you?

Brunei’s Retirement Age To Be Raised To 60 Soon?
By Yazdi Yahya

Bandar Seri Begawan - If the study by various government agencies determining if the retirement age should be extended is in the positive, then the retirement age for civil servants in Brunei could be pushed to 60 years in the near future.

The issue of raising the retirement age has been raised in last year's Legislative Council meeting, especially in view of the fact that life expectancy in the sultanate is now at 74 years.

A member of the council spoke on the matter suggesting that studies should be made to examine the impact of increasing the retirement age from 55 years to 60 years, a move which sections of the local workforce would welcome warmly for several reasons.

There has been a growing concern towards the issue of the retirement age in Brunei that the mandatory retirement age of 55 years was too early.

The shift of age structures in developed countries has had a profound effect on their political, economic and social conditions.

An ageing population, resulting from better health care and better living conditions has led researchers to examine the effects of the aged - especially in terms of social security.

The extended tenure would ensure these experienced employees continue to contribute to the nation's development. Currently, a significant part of the workforce is under the Employers Trust Fund (Tabung Amanah Pekerja), similar to the Central Provident Fund in Singapore and the Employees Provident Fund in Malaysia.

A former prominent figure from the public service department, who declined to be named, agreed that by increasing the retirement age, in some cases where the experience is needed, would provide them with more time to mentor the younger generation.

He added, "Thirty years ago, if someone were 55, they would be considered old but now, with higher life expectancy rates, the potential contribution would still be considered high, especially .as I feel that people nowadays are still active at 55."

He also highlighted that the extra years would give civil servants, under the TAP scheme, the chance to earn more money as there have been cases where retirees under the TAP scheme do not have enough at the end of the day. With extra money, it would also reduce government spending on social security schemes.

The implication of such a move would help provide better social security, especially for retirees. The extra earnings would be useful, once retired, especially to support their medical needs because older people who would need more healthcare. But questions may be raised on whether the people will want to continue working after 55.

Whether the retirement age is increased or it be made compulsory can affect the productivity of workers. Factors such as tiredness and lack of motivation should be considered before introducing such a change. Moreover, as a significant part of the local workforce is employed by the government, extending the retirement age would increase government expenditure.

If Brunei's retirement age were to increase to 60, the government would need to commit more funds (five years worth) for employee benefits.

Countries such as Singapore, with a retirement age of 62 and Philippines, at 65, have a higher retirement age than Brunei.

So why is Brunei not headed in this direction. Firstly, Malaysians and Singaporeans are mostly employed in the public sector and extending the retirement age does not affect government spending as much. In Brunei, the move would increase spending significantly.-- Courtesy of The Brunei Times

Monday, November 12, 2007

Found - New Water Gas in Brunei

From Offshore Oil and Gas News (at last something good to distribute):

Brunei Shell delighted with shallow water gas find

Filed from Singapore
11/12/2007 9:48:22 AM GMT

BRUNEI: Brunei Shell Petroleum Co. Sdn Bhd has found gas in the Bubut structure located just seven kilometres (four miles) from the shoreline and only 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the Brunei liquefied natural gas (BLNG) plant. Gas was found in an exploration well drilled by Premium Drilling jackup Deep Driller 2 in deep, high-pressure sand reservoirs.

Brunei Shell will be re-evaluating the nearby Danau structure drilled in the 1970s. Appraisal work will be conducted in both fields to define the full potential that could be tapped for an integrated development of and early production from the two fields using the facilities at the BLNG plant.

Brunei Shell is expecting Bubut-Danau to emerge as a third offshore gas production hub, after the existing Ampa and Champion gas fields. Brunei Shell's Managing Director, Dr. Grahaeme Henderson said the shallow water discovery is important to fulfilling the company's LNG sales contract, given its proximity to the BLNG plant. He also said the company is confident of bringing the gas field on stream 'in the shorter term.'

Friday, November 9, 2007

Easy Loans in Brunei

The Brunei Times cartoonist has been getting on target. Loans have been an issue in Brunei. The huge loans that has been generated by consumers is quite scary. Some blame the banks for giving easy credits. Some blamed the governments for not giving payrises. Some blamed the government for not providing enough opportunity for businesses to grow so that banks can give out loans to businesses and not to individuals. It may be all these things. But at the end of the day, it is us who hold the ultimate decision whether or not to get those loans.

I have to admit that I too have been suckered. Last July, I splurged on one of those LCD tv because I was allowed to have an interest free six months instalment payments. But mind you, I did not have to pay interest and my tv was on the blink. But at the end of the day, I could have decided not to go ahead and similar to most other financial decisions, it is up to us to decide.

When the government tightened the rules on personal loans, the total loans I have been told did not grow as fast. But what most people have done is to go to credit cards. Now, credit cards outstanding loans have ballooned. And credit cards credits cost more than loans. It's a no win situation. But whatever it is, we should go back to Financial Planning 101.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bus Stops in Brunei

I thought this was an interesting cartoon on Brunei Times. There have been many occasions when buses don't stop at busstops. They stopped everywhere else but at the bus stops. Some poeple put it down to laziness or the chinchai attitude of the driver and the passengers - wanting to be too convenient. Turun saja whenever they wanted.

The thing is not many of us Bruneians take buses. We have many experiences of going on buses - in London or in other countries but back in Brunei, not many have the experience of going on buses. In London, I remembered the bus stops were like 200 to 250 meters apart. I remembered in New York, it was somewhere in that region. The ones in Brunei are like a kilometer apart. The difference is huge and for that reason, that's why passengers stop the buses at whenever they find it convenient. Should we then build more bus stops?

The obvious answer is yes. But then you would also realised that there are many places on the roads where there is not enough space to build bus stops. So that now means that whenever we build roads, we have to remember to given enough space to the bus stops. Perhaps, if we build more bus stops, making them more accessible, perhaps we can persuade more and more people to take buses.