(Pic courtesy of The Smart Office)

i-Ready is arguably one of the best and most cost-effective ways to prepare our youths for the job market. It is also a far-sighted policy that seeks to address the growing distress facing highly educated young people in the country.

A way to build on the success of i-Ready is to consider increasing the allowance to $1,500 per month.

Graduates feel that having the amount would sufficiently compensate for the work and qualifications they have. Moreover, they would utilize the money as a stepping stone to be more self-reliant by not focusing on government jobs but rather starting their businesses or working abroad.

Some aspire to work abroad in international organizations such as the World Bank, United Nations, ASEAN Secretariat, Google and more. They certainly have the skills and education for these posts, but they are unable to make that jump due to the lack of income which made them remain in Brunei Darussalam.

This is sad because, with sufficient income from their i-Ready allowance, they could have worked in these companies, come back with the knowledge and skills, and create top-class services and products for the country. In effect, they can become world-class Bruneians that can create world-class companies.

Certainly, i-Ready costs money. As of 2017, more than 2,000 people are actively enrolled in the program costing the government roughly BND$19m yearly to operate. One may consider this a lot but if we take into account the published national budget for the fiscal year 2018/2019, it only represents 0.36% (out of BND$5.3bn) of the country’s national expenditure.

It is a drop in the ocean.

Now compare this by the approximately BND$2bn + of the national budget spent on government salaries and wages yearly. Indeed, if it is in good time where employment is plenty for our gradutes, we do not need an i-Ready. But then, we have the highest youth unemployment rate in ASEAN (Xinhua, 2019). Unemployment affects everyone in society.

For the numbers, check this post and analysis by the blogger below (Myn’s Desk, 2016):

Ironically, there are few who look down and even outright opposes the i-Ready programme. I replied to them that they better check their social privilege(Here’s a simple case study). Not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouths. I also remember some people saying that in order for people to get a job in the 60s-90s, all they got to do is to give out a photocopy of their ICs to the relevant ministry and then ta-da! They are given a job!

So, the investment in i-Ready is not asking a lot. We just want it to be fairer for this generation. Our i-Ready graduates want opportunity for self-advancement too, as the previous generation had been afforded in the past.

If the government follows this advice, it would cost the government $36m per year, which still represents a small percentage of the national expense and in relative to the civil servant salary and wages spent yearly. By further injecting money into this effective program, it can uplift our graduates to aspire and attain bigger success in the international arena and make them less reliant on the government.

It is certainly way cheaper than absorbing the 2,000 graduates into the public sector or GLCs.

Therefore, I recommend increasing the allowance as a path to take. The policy to invest in our highly educated young population should be seen as an investment and rightfully so, as they will be the ones that will take this country forward by 2035 and beyond.

Whilst increasing the allowance may not automatically solve the unemployment issue, to borrow again the words of American Technopreneur Andrew Yang, the policy can set the stage to address more significant issues later on.

Finally, to paraphrase a well-known quote, even in a time of fiscal austerity, an investment in our people is more than just an “expense”.

What do you think? Should the i-Ready allowance be increased or not? Vote below now:

See also: “Increase Old Age and Disabilities Pension to $350 per month” https://amotimes.wordpress.com/2019/06/04/increase-old-age-and-disabilities-pension-to-350-per-month/

(The blog has been updated)

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