Introduction:

A survey titled “Perception of LegCo and Government of Brunei 2020” was carried out from 8th-15th March 2020 by The Amo Times with the purpose of gauging the public’s perception of the LegCo institution and the Brunei Government. The survey aims to enhance public engagement online as well as to provide general suggestions to improve national institutions based on the People’s feedback. As part of the blog’s continued pledge to promote transparency, readers can access the full responses here. Below are the overall analysis and report of the survey results.  

Survey Results:

1. Demographics

88 responded to the survey. The majority are male (72.7%). 81.8% of the respondents live in Brunei-Muara district. The major age group is between 22-34 (70.5%), followed by 35-55 (25%) and the rest (4.5%). At a minimum, 74% have a degree. 42% of the respondents earn between BND$0-BND$9,999 per year; the remaining 58% earns $10,000 and above per year, with four respondents earning $100,000 or more per year. 62.8% are fully employed, whilst the rest are either studying, interning, or unemployed. More than 50% of the respondents work in the private sector, 23% working in the public sector, 4% in the third sector or NGO, and 19.4% answered N/A (i.e. unemployed). 

2. Perception of LegCo in 2020

28.6% of respondents think LegCo members represent their interest. Meanwhile, only 19.9% think LegCo members have the capacity to influence state policy. When it comes to supporting LegCo members, 34.9% expressed their support. Overall, 27.8% of the respondents would have an overall positive view of LegCo in 2020. Calculations are based on weightage based on the score the respondents gave. See below:

Table 1: LegCo Perception Index Calculations 2020
Table 2: LegCo Perception Index 2020

2.1 Public Feedback of LegCo members (n=66 responses):

Figure 1. Word Cloud of Feedback to LegCo 2020 Members

The survey responses have been individually and carefully analysed. Next, they are aggregated and processed using an online Word Cloud software, wordclouds.com, with keywords generated in the cloud. The bigger the word, the more prominent the ‘theme’. Finally, using qualitative deduction, here are the four key recommendations the public has for the LegCo members:

  1. Lack of representation is a huge issue that needs fixing. Minorities, stateless individuals, and youth need more representation in parliament. Hence, LegCo members need to work hard in representing their interest. As a suggestion, Townhall sessions should be regularly organised before and after the LegCo meetings.
  2. LegCo members need to raise real issues and solutions in parliament, instead of self-censoring themselves or to choose safe topics, or worse, ask irrelevant questions. Key issues need addressing include statelessness, minimum wage policy, unemployment problems, an oversupply of foreign labours, lack of Bruneianisation drive in Brunei’s GLCs, high unemployment of educated people, issue of corruption, and more. 
  3. Respondents were not happy with LegCo members reading off scripts. The underlying issue here stems from the high expectation by the public for LegCo members to look and act competent, prepared, and direct (not evasive) in addressing issues. They also suggested LegCo members to give facts-based evidence to addressing national issues, not empty polemics.
  4. Finally, people are unhappy with the “no budget”, “we need more research into this” or “I will look into this situation” excuse. Normally if this happens, the issue will be “forgotten”. Instead, if the government do not like a proposal, then ministers should provide counter-arguments to it on-the-dot. Otherwise, just reject the idea outright so people do not start hoping for something they will never get.

2.2 Ideas respondents want to raise in LegCo 2020 (in the future), (n=70):

Figure 2. Ideas that LegCo 2020 Members want to raise

Using a similar methodology to the previous point, the top five issues that need to be raised are as follows:

  1. The government needs to diversify the economy through a tide-lift-all-boats-approach, one which both generates broad-based economic growth to various sectors while producing suitable job opportunities for all. The general perception is how despite the rise in FDIs, shared prosperity is not felt by the population, especially among the young.
  2. Brunei needs to reduce unnecessary restrictions and regulations on businesses and society that may shoo away foreign investments and discourage entrepreneurship. The constraints imposed on the creative industry by MOHA’s permit system, for example, continually hamper the creative industry from fully and effectively blossoming here in Brunei.
  3. The education system needs change to make Bruneians regionally and globally employable, highly skilled, and relevant to the demands of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Certain education may be out-of-date and is in need of serious re-calibration so as to avoid academic inflation. Lifelong Learning needs expansion.
  4. To further accelerate Brunei’s 4th Industrial Revolution drive, PayPal’s “receiving payments” system has to be introduced. Gig workers, Youtubers, entrepreneurs, and other groups would finally be able to get payments from customers abroad, hence opening up doors for Bruneians to go global in the digital marketplace. If Ali Pay has already been introduced, PayPal should not be a problem at all.
  5. Minimum Wage needs to be introduced to produce a fair and equitable society, making it worthwhile for Bruneians to make a living and climb up the social ladder. The high numbers of illegal immigrations in Brunei depress the wages and salaries, which unfortunately spoils the market for Brunei’s labour market. A feasibility study on minimum wage has to be carried out to ascertain the possible impact of the policy 

2.3 Top Five Positive aspects of LegCo (n=26):

  1. Whenever the Sultan delivers a Titah calling upon the government officials to embrace the whole-of-nation approach and the need to root out corruption. 
  2. The proactiveness of the youth YBs in being engaging with the general public 
  3. Young YBs engagement online using SocMed tools, such as IG, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter. 
  4. Whenever policies that are being debated at the MMN relates to and affects them.
  5. When there is a ‘straight forward character and a good model’ like YB Dato Amin Liew who “tries his best get things done. I also like the emphasis on the unemployment issue, this is a very important matter, not least because I’m directly affected by it.”

2.4 The respondents’ nominee for the next YB in Brunei (n=24):

They are Pg Aki; Yazid Yusof; Dr Wida; Keeran Janin; Vanessa Teo; Dk. Kemariah binti Pg. Duraman; and Abdul Malik Omar.Two redditors Sec5 and Jechan85 are also included. 

3. Perception of Government of Brunei

3.1. Rating Score of Ministries by Respondents:

Table 3: Overall ranking of Ministries as of 2020
Note: The overall score is weighted at 0 (Needs major improvement), 0.25 (Could be better), 0.5 (Satisfied), 0.75 (Highly satisfied).

Figure 3: Ministerial Score

3.2 The top ten focus areas by the government

The top areas needing the most attention are:

 Top Five Last Top Five
1Unemployment and Lack of Opportunity10Negara Zikir 
2Diversification of economy9Climate change
3Government accountability8Mental health issues
4Stateless issue7Greater involvement politics among youth
5Poverty and inequality issue64th Industrial revolution
Table 4: Top 10 areas the Government need to attend to (Table)
Note: The overall score is weighted at 0 (Not at all important), 0.25 (Somewhat unimportant), 0.5 (Somewhat important), 0.75 (Extremely important).
Figure 5: Top 10 areas the Government need to attend to (Graph)

3.3 The policies the respondents in favour of:
The 145 health line, i-Ready, MPEC’s establishment, privatisation of govt facilities and parks, TD123 national line, government scholarships, free medical, no plastic day policy, Temburong bridge, Ease of doing business, Bandarku ceria, Work Health and Safety Policy (2009), E-government, FDI (Hengyi), Strata Title, and dialogue session with TelCo prior to UNN drive.

3.4 Policies the respondents are unhappy with:
i-Ready (cases of exploitation), Statelessness’ continued plight (failure to follow UNHCR standards), 30-50 year olds being ignored (they are jobless too), Stray Dogs remaining as an issue, bad employees being placed somewhere else (not firing), Surat Pemberitahuan Kementerian Pendidikan bilangan 18/2007 (time to revise and allow phones in school), SPN21, closure of diner during Friday prayer times or daytime Ramadan (perhaps allowing non-Muslims to operate), MOHA entertainment red tape, failed PKK Programme, no workers union, no budget transparency for ministries, land title transfer issue, Bandarku Ceria (difficult for businesses), low/no tax on agri-food (competitors undercuts local agriculture), Ali-baba business culture, curtailment of minority land (land code bars non-Malays owning land), a constant subsidy of fossil fuels; and failure to subsidise renewable energy.

3.5 Issues the respondents want the ministers to know and solve:

  • Government need to create jobs, introduce minimum wage, and labour rights need to be strengthened
  • For DA to push for Bruneianisation drive among top management of its subsidiaries (Shena, BIBD, RBA, and UNN)
  • Transparency of financial projection plan for each ministry, more stricter budget approval. there was a case, of national e-learning project that was performed around 2009-2012 but was not utilized, so budget just gone like that.
  • Give citizenships to those who have live here for more than 2 generations (ethnic chinese , indians and europeans for example) in exchange for their talents to lead Brunei to greater heights. Statelessness should be based on UNHCR guidelines.
  • Set up agency to capture, neuter, and manage stray dogs
  • SPN21 needs to be stricter; retention system needs to be re-introduced. 
  • Open up more job opportunities in MOE i.e. Admin Assistant or Teacher Assistant so they can help the teacher.
  • Toxic office politics in MPRT needs to be addressed. 
  • Improve and normalize public transport among public
  • Stamp out corruption 
  • Allow for old matters to be raised in LegCo to follow-up and keep people accountable. 
  • Have proper law and regulation of cycling in highway (or ban them)
  • “I bought a unit (House) with loan in Pangkalan Batu, it is a terrace house. I have already finish my loan with the bank. For six years, I have rent it to the penjara, I have not received any rental from them and the land title is not out yet.” (You can contact me at am.hajiomar@gmail.com if you need help, as I can probably forward you to the right people)

4. Limitations of this Study

Whilst good care has been taken in producing this study, several limitations remain. First, the study is not representative of the national population given the low respondent count (n=88). Second, they are mostly male youths, thus women and people from other age groups are underrepresented in the study. Finally, people mainly from the private sector answered the survey. As such the study is not representative of the entire population of Brunei Darussalam. The redeeming quality of this survey is how it is probably one of its kind ever made in Brunei, so there is plenty of room to improve in the next surveys. 

5. Conclusion

The study gauges the public’s perceptions of the LegCo institution and the Brunei Government. Based on the results of 88 respondents, only 27.8% have a favourable view of the LegCo institution. The top most voted ministry is MoH and the top most voted issue need addressing is “Unemployment and Lack of Opportunity”. The underlying issue that made these institutions unfavourable among the respondents is how there are persistent issues that have yet to be solved, namely Statelessness, a weak labour market, the absence of Minimum Wage, PayPal, and many others. Feasibility studies can be executed ascertain the impact of the said policies. If the government cannot do any of these policies, this study recommends the government to be candid in stating their objections while providing reasonable counter-arguments. Overall, there is a lot of room for improvement.

6. Addendum

In the online survey, I asked the public how the survey could be improved. The following are the suggestions and answers in reply.

  1. We need another type of survey that can be filled any time before & after the LegCo because of newer issues after the LegCo every year.  Ans: One of our young YB does an annual survey to gauge public opinion, but I am not sure how it goes. On a related note, I will see if I can do this survey every year from this year onwards. If there is positive reception to this project then I will continue.
  2. Publish it in full, via Reddit and any other platforms. Let the voice of the people be heard. Ans: I’ve shared it in my blog, open for all to see and judge. Now do your part by sharing this article to your community.
  3. Voiced out the findings. Make a website on this. Do a report. Anything.  You got your findings and don’t let us down.  Ans: See previous point. 
  4. By actually having the minister or any relevant government authorities actually taking the people’s opinion into account. Ans: It will be under the Government’s sole prerogative to take action or not. 
  5. Should get more information from public, in honesty and listen to their problems and improve their welfare….this is the first time we can voice out problems citizen face, thank you. Ans: The power of the internet gives people like you the chance to make your voices heard. So keep on voicing out.
  6. Have a list of government policies with a link, I could only address ones I remember the most. Ans: I try to make the survey short and to-the-point, but I will take it into consideration for the next surveys (if there is demand for this type of surveys anyway).