Monday, March 12, 2007

Brunei-Menumbok ferry service soon

By Za'im Zaini and Sonia K

Barring a few technical problems that need to be ironed out, Brunei will soon have facilities in place to ferry vehicles to Menumbok in Sabah and Labuan.

Minister of Communications, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abu Bakar, while replying to Council member Awang Haji Bakar's query on the issue at yesterday's Legislative Council meeting, said under the BIMP-EAGA plan Brunei has a ferry terminal in Serasa that will try to connect with Menumbok, Sabah and Labuan.

"The infrastructure is complete but there are still some technical problems including docking vehicles onto ferries on our side. The Menumbok side is ready. Once our side is completed and an operator found to handle, Bruneians will be able go to Menumbok and that will reduce the congestion in Kuala Lurah," the minister said.

After five days of deliberations in the Legislative Council, the Speaker of the Legislative Council, Pg Indera Mahkota Pg Anak (Dr) Kemaluddin announced that the Legislative Council meeting was adjourned to a date to be notified later.

The minister replying to another query by Dato Paduka Awang Haji Puasa on the impact of AirAsia on Brunei's national carrier, said the budget airlines is allowed to fly to Brunei under the bilateral agreement between Brunei and Malaysia because AirAsia is recognised as a designated airline by the Malaysian government and thus is given 1,435 seats per week. Malaysian Airlines, however, uses only about 500 seats and so the rest of the seats are used by AirAsia.

The minister also agreed that passenger numbers have gone down in RBA since AirAsia started flying to Brunei but after a detailed study it was found that the decrease was not significant.

"In terms of profit, AirAsia has an advantage of bringing more than 4,000 passengers every month and RBA shares 46 per cent of the profit for handling charges at the airport and rent. RBA's profit from July last year to January this year from this share of profit was $315, 290 and the overall income for Brunei was $688,827.97," he said.

Meanwhile, the National Budget has been approved by a unanimous vote after the end of deliberations among Council members on the supply of Bill 2007/ 2008 named the Supply Enactment 2007/2008, which is an act to supply money from the consolidated fund for the financial year 2007/2008.

The $4.6 billion budget will be enforced on April 1, 2007.

The morning session kicked off with issues raised on e-Government projects. Council member Dato Paduka Awang Haji Idris asked on the progress of the e-Government that was being studied and what was the outcome of the study. He also raised the issue of digital divide in the country.

Awang Dato Paduka Awang Haji Puasa on the other hand raised the issue of the percentage of Bumiputera involved in e-Government projects and enquired about the training of government personnel to support e-Government projects and when could the public conduct dealings with the government online.

Pehin Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abu Bakar, in his reply, said the digital divide in Brunei is not serious.

With regards to the study on e-Government, it began last year in May and ended in August. The study showed the need for integration and standardisation for ministries implementing the e-Government, the minister said.

"It is the aspiration of the government to see locals or local companies get involved in e-Government projects, especially in spin-off projects. Expenditure for these projects can create capacity building. What is desired here is that local companies should develop themselves not only locally but also internationally," the minister added.

The minister cited the example of the Land Transport Department providing online services that could be in operation by the middle of this year.

The minister, also in his deliberations, mentioned the issue of tenders, where in 2006, 177 tenders were received and of that 46 tender projects are currently being implemented, 56 have been finished, 11 have been awarded, 15 are waiting for approval and 12 awaiting evaluation.

Towards the end of the morning session, YAM Pengiran Setia Negara Pengiran Dr Haji Mohd Yusof raised the issue of allocation for development, which is $900 million.

The Minister of Finance II, Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Rahman, said the expenditure for development is provided to accommodate capital expenditure, such as on infrastructure for the people, to develop agriculture, fisheries, enterprises and infrastructure on schools, roads, civil aviation and ports including capacity building of human resources, which has an allocation of $20.7 million.

Source: Borneo Bulletin

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