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pic courtesy of buba.ac.uk

If there is any advise that you’ll receive upon completing your studies it is this: Work for the government.

I have no prejudice on government jobs but since no one is allowed to voice out this matter anyway, let me state the case that it is okay to be an expat and work outside Brunei even though the contract states you’re ‘bonded’.

Because if Brunei intends to build up a knowledge-based economy, everyone, particularly the decision makers have to realise that the ‘training’ students will receive in government sector would not be adequate.

In fact being ‘stuck’ in the government may take away their self-reliance and independence. Without these qualities there would be no individualists. And without individualists who is it that is going to set up companies and build up the private sector?

This policy, particularly the five-year bond scheme, can be a massive source of discontent that if not studied and adjusted upon could inhibit every bright and ambitious Bruneian into working for the government sector, forever.

Not surprising since they will then be paying a certain debt level, having families to take care off, and the 10% TAP pension plan. By then it will be harder for a majority of the educated class to be self-reliant and strike their own paths.

Because really, the very first path towards having a knowledge based economy is building up a community of independent free-thinking men. The best example would be Abdul Razak’s family of Abdul Razak Holdings.

Arguably they are already rich. But it is more than that. It is because of them valuing their ‘independence’ and having their own personal property that they are able to do whatever they want without having to get ‘validation’ from their sponsors.

But the main thing is that they think and act for themselves.

As a result, Gadong properties, The Mall among many others were created. And this has forever changed the course of Brunei real estate history, a reflection of how individualism could contribute to the economy.

Contrast that to those hooked on welfare programmes, and you’ll get the idea.

So how could we apply this to the Brunei scholarship scheme? How can we build up an individualistic community? The best way is to ‘let them go’ a’la utilising a Laissez-faire approach.

By letting them free-reign to work for foreign counterparts and utilising their free-out-off university energy straight into polishing whatever skills that is required for them to attain a high-income job or enterprise. It is by then that the people would be developed.

It is at this stage that they are in line to achieve their 10,000 hours that once met could greatly improve the society around them. It is vital that students themselves realise what their ambition is. Otherwise the policy is not going to do much anyway but lead to unemployment.

But on the brighter side, this will save energy and time for the government (like the govt. human resource department is doing much anyway) and focus in what it does best: serving the existing unemployed problems. In Brunei Times article, the deputy minister reported that over 18,000 is in that stage.

As for the current policy, don’t get me wrong. That ‘five-year’ bond will still be applied. However the government can utilize them in another time span. Say when the oil and gas running low at year 2035, with the Laissez-faire policy in place, the citizens would already be international bankers, chartered accountants, or partners of large manufacturing firms.

It is at this stage that their help could really help the country out.

Two questions I’d like to pose to you now 1) is the system we put in place enable the creation of highly individualistic Bruneians in a pro-market economy or meek conformists in a welfare state? 2) and provided you discard all the good or pure intentions people say, which system would greatly benefit the nation by the end of the day?

I sense that we are creating a welfare state. That is why it could be hard to innovate from within and around the government and private sector. It is about time that we change in how we perceive our young people and the systems they should be put on.

We want to create individualists. More of Abdul Razak, More of Pehin Ah Kuk, More of Dato Tim Ong.

This is the chance that the government can do that. “An opportunity lost can never be recovered again”.

I long dream to hear decision makers converse like this:

“Datin Adin: What if we train them and they leave?
Pehin Abu: What if we don’t and they stay?”

Just hope it is not too late by then.

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