Sunday, July 4, 2010

From 20.4 to 15.6...

It's been 2 years since we last posted, and we've been wondering, over the past 2 years, do you think we as a country have progressed economically, socially and well 'politically'?

There are alot of questions that have been swimming in our heads. For example,

Should the fact that today's news showing our GDP dropping by almost 30% from 20.4 billion to 15.6 billion worry us? According to DBR here, quoting from an IMF report, we've gone back to 2005 GDP levels.

Should MOF's strong push for more personal debt control in 2010 be read as a sign that we're getting to a personal financial precipice?

Is the new ministerial reshuffle going to be more of the same (musical chairs?) or will it bring better accountability and some gutsy decisions to move the country forward?

So our question again... should we restart this blog? hmmm... Sound off on the Comments section below...

Very interested to see if people are still following this blog at all

Are blogs still the in thing?

13 August 2008 was the last post from this blog. It is almost 2 years now. Are there still visitors to this blog?

Are blogs still the in thing for Bruneians or are we following the news through Twitter and Facebook?

Should we restart this blog?

Let us know...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

MIA: where have we been??

Hello all,

Apologies for being away for so long, it's almost 2 months now since our last post! so what happened?

Well, we've been busy with work, and we either stupidly lost the password to this site or forgot what it was (yes stupid I know cosall of us use the auto save password function in explorer and then forget all about it) and then my computer was reformatted, so all my files were all over the place - basically a whole host of events conspiring to make it difficult to blog.

In any case, we're back and glad people are still visiting. Hopefully in the next few days, we'll be able to post something up to discuss.

For those of you who voted for money laundering discussion, we apologise for not being able to discuss about it yet. We'll pick something from the media and discuss and debate soon.

Until the next posting.....

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Oh Meritocracy, where art thou?

The other day I read a posting on Rogue Economist's blog touching on the issue of meritocracy and it sparked an emotional stirring in me, enough for me to get on again to contribute a little of my thoughts on it and also share our experiences with meritocracy, or rather lack of meritocracy in our current system - both government and private sector alike.

Meritocracy is both a politically and socially sensitive issue in our country - in fact in any country of diverse ethnicity. For Brunei, like it or not, as Rogue Economist puts it "has yet to prove that it's a nation of meritocracy, where people are rewarded for their contribution (regardless of the age) and not for their length of service or worse, for certain 'birthrights''.

Her words are poignant and important, especially now when you have more educated Bruneians than we have ever had since the discovery of oil back in 1929. Only 50 years ago, Bruneians were not well educated, and we would be hard pressed to find a Bruneian who could read or write. But today, we have literacy rates of well over 90% and more and more tertiary education graduates are joining the work force everyday. While we do not speak out in public about these issues, we know glass ceilings exists along age, gender, social status and racial lines for most people. And if there's one thing about educated and truly competent people, it's that we all want to be judged based on our competence as well as our ability to deliver and perform. So is meritocracy something our Bruneian society can and is ready to embrace and accept?

"Meritocracy defined: The concept of meritocracy is defined as attributing employment or promotion to objective personal merits of competence, qualification, performance and aptitude without any subjective consideration such as race, colour, ethnic or religious belonging or political affiliation" (source: International Development Research Centre)

Meritocracy has been likened to the progeny of democracy, i.e. meritocracy is an important part of an inclusive society and that 'while it (meritocracy) recognizes the value of full participation within society, it also advocates the importance of including meritorious hierarchy into the social and political landscape. It is a system that states that society should be structured around human ability rather than wealth or aristocratic privilege' (see here for source and more thoughts on meritocracy by the author).

Most of us know that aristocratic privilege is still a strong factor in Brunei's labour market, and that many very competent people without the right 'attributes' be it gender, race, father's name or title, have been either excluded or sidelined for more 'suitable' candidates. But unless at some point in our country's development, we, or rather, the people in power and leaders show sufficient character to level the playing field for all Bruneians, competent people will continue to be sidelined and demoted to nothing more than bit roles and extras in Brunei's economic development stage.

The one other thing true about educated and competent professionals is this: we don't wait around if the system discriminates against us - as competent people do, they just find greener pastures to move on to, sometimes very reluctantly, as believe it or not, most of us educated and competent Bruneians do want to help our country grow. This is something for all of us to think about - that if meritocracy is an important part of our ability to move forward as a country and society, then if not now, when? When should we accept meritocracy as our future system, and allow competence, ability and performance to become a yardstick for each and every individual in our country?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Will you buy a $20 pack of cigarettes?

Thank you for NOT smoking

Recently Bruneians have had a significant policy issue to deal with in their daily lives. First and foremost, the Tobacco Order has unleashed a flurry of exchanges between citizens and government, through media portals such as, and Borneo Bulletin. The issue isn't just confined to us only too. In today's article in Borneo Bulletin titled Yudhoyono sued over tobacco treaty, the article reported that 4 NGOs are suing the Indonesian president for failing to protect the welfare of Indonesians - amidst the increasing cost of food and fuel, cigarettes remain the cheapest around the region and its net effect is increasing tobacco related health issues, further pushing millions of Indonesians into poverty.

While Bruneians aren't exactly in the same situation, we nonetheless should take heed from this scenario - Bruneians will continue to spend on relatively cheap cigarettes while destroying their health, amidst potentially increasing prices in food, and other material goods - in fact today's Borneo Bulletin already highlighted the increased in CPI in the past 3 months. The Brunei authorities have done everything they can to make the Tobacco Order work, setting up task forces and putting up signs. But 2 very critical component of any effort to reduce tobacco consumption alludes the authorities political will to enforce: 1) pricing, and 2) placing disturbing pictures of the effects of smoking on packaging of cigarettes to discourage smokers. As most develop nations progress in their anti-tobacco drive, these measures have been taken up.

So why did the authorities not introduce higher pricing for tobacco as part of the Tobacco Order? Given that we can safely assume that increasing the price of cigarettes will, with almost 100% certainty, affect the sale and consumption of cigarettes, we can only guess as to why pricing hasn't been adjusted upwards. Perhaps it is to placate the smokers in our society, or perhaps adjusting the pricing of cigarettes is more politically sensitive and therefore requires a more measured approach and intervention. Note: yes we do hear the counter argument that increasing the price may just encourage smuggling and the black market for cigarettes, but regardless of this occurring, increasing price will have the net effect of reducing ease of consumption of tobacco for younger Bruneians as they are less likely to take up smoking if they cost alot and approaching the black market for a pack of cigarette may just be too inconvenient for any youth to contemplate.

The second step in which Bruneian authorities can introduce into the Tobacco Order is to require importers to include 'gory' pictures of health effects of smoking (we need to confirm whether this is already in the Order). Most countries have these graphic warning labels, and personally we can attest to its successful effect of stopping you right in your tracks when you reach to buy a box of cigars, you also get a picture of someone's cancerous lungs on display, or a picture of an aborted foetus - not a pretty sight, yes we know, but neither is dying from lung cancer due to smoking. WARNING: click here, here and here to see sample of these pictures but you have been warned, they are EXTREMELY disturbing.

So will the authorities make the tough call and take the more paternalistic and more committed approach and introduce more effective policies to control the spread of smoking? And if so, when? What we don't want is to see all the song and dance of anti-smoking by various government ministries, but at the end of the day in practical terms, smoking remains unabated and allowed to continue to grab a hold of Brunei's next generation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Showing our maturity as a debating society

Having had this site up for the past few months, we've had a great time in trying to promote a good sensible discussion over the affairs of our country. We believe, and still do so strongly, that through open discussion and debate of issues, that we could 1) promote our tolerance for differing opinions on issues - a tolerance we feel is unfortunately sorely lacking in our country and 2) to play the devil's advocate on various issues, to spin issues to show the other side of the coin/story and by doing so to give people a different perspective which otherwise may not be apparent. However today our wish to encourage this has been stumped by very irresponsible individuals who used this site to go on some childish huffing puffing which did not add anything constructive to discussions relating to our country's economy or well being.

In light of this, we've changed our tag line to highlight that despite the freedom accorded to us by our government to set up blogs and websites detailing our opinions - from social news to food preferences to sports of all kinds, we must do so responsibly and maintain social decorum. Otherwise we'll degenerate to nothing more than a bunch of intellectual hooligans where the loudest individual is heard even if their words or debate is damaging to our society. The nature of open debate, discussion and analysis will unfortunately mean that some people may disagree with the points raised, but isn't that the whole point of it all, i.e. to show people differing perspectives in a world that isn't simply black and white but contains shades of grays and a thousand other colours? Devolving our discussions into mindless deriding rants of a vilifying nature is uncalled for and unnecessary, and only goes to show that we still have a long way to go to actually reaching a level of social maturity to handle ourselves with respect and dignity when it comes to different opinions, backgrounds etc.

When this site was started, we encouraged everyone to 'Discuss. Debate. Analyse. For a brighter future for Brunei'. Now we would like to encourage people who choose to visit this site to respect our rules and to 'Discuss. Debate. Analyse. Responsibly. For a brighter future for Brunei'.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle - Eggs poached

Not sure what the appeal is, as most of us have never tried a turtle egg before, but as this stories show, it seems Bruneians still have an acquired taste for turtle eggs - a protected species (i.e. the turtle).

The news release mentioned that the eggs were brought into the country for sale, at a value of over $4k. Question is, where are these eggs being stolen from? If we're to protect the species, not only do we have to stop the demand of them in Brunei but also work closely with our neighbours to stop the theft of these eggs and manage sanctuaries for turtles.

I wonder what punishment will be dished out to the local that was apprehended. Will it be strong enough to act as a future deterrence to him and others?