B R U N E I r e s o u r c e sTM
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On behalf of the Brunei Darussalam Delegation, may I join other distinguished speakers in congratulating you on your appointment as President of this conference. I am fully confident that under your able and skilful guidance this Summit will be both productive and enjoyable.
Today's Summit is indeed of special significance being the first one to be held in the new millennium and also held at a time when social development issues are gaining prominence everywhere particularly in the light of the recent financial crisis that engulfed East Asia. When we met five years ago in Copenhagen, various important aspects of the economic and social development were highlighted. It is important to note that the Copenhagen Declaration have adopted three core themes namely poverty eradication, employment expansion and social integration.
Brunei Darussalam as a developing state, remain committed in ensuring poverty eradication, social integration and productive employment, which will enable our people to achieve sustainable social development. The economic and social structure of Brunei Darussalam is founded upon a solid foundation on which the Malay society, the Muslim Religious faith and the Monarchial political system interact. These traditional values have formed a firm foundation which has yielded a prosperous nation with strong family bonds and leadership which is committed to the raising of the standard of living for all the nation's citizens.
Our current 7th National Development Plan has been outlined to consolidate and strengthen measures towards promoting humancentred sustainable development with special emphasis on:
Although the economy has grown steadily, albeit moderately, as a result of the recent good recovery progress in the Asia region, our Government has exercised utmost caution in its attempt to maintain the quality of life within the country while at the same time working towards the efficient utilisation of its financial resources to enhance the people's standard of living. The social policy programmes have enabled the Government to provide its people with the fundamental demands and needs of society i.e. with the provision of a social safety net encompassing education, health, housing and infrastructure. The government has allocated about 27.5% of the total national development budget for social development programmes, which is indicative of the government's continuing commitment to the overall economic development and prosperity of the people as well as to improve the quality of life for all Bruneians.
In the area of social protection, pensions for the aged and disabled and the monthly assistance allowances granted to needy families and orphans had been revised in July 1998. This incorporates an increase of 30% on the noncontributory pensions and monthly assistance allowances to the needies, and includes for the first time an education allowance for children of needy families aged 5 to 18.
In the field of education, citizens of Brunei Darussalam continue to be given free education from the age of 5 right up to tertiary level on the basis of ability. Our education policy stipulates the provision of at least basic education to all children of schooling age. Schools are provided throughout the country, from urban to rural and remote areas. The national education policy and programs will continue to be geared towards developing human resources who, as agents of development, are responsive to changing needs and the challenges of the future.
Health is a key aspect of quality life not only in its own right but its implication for other aspects of the quality of life. We believe health is an investment and that a healthy population will contribute fully to the economic and social development of the country. Brunei Darussalam has endorsed the Alma Ata Declaration of Health for All by the year 2000 and adopted primary health care as the key strategy to attain this goal. Emphasis has been given to the development of a health care system based on a wide range of preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative health care and support services to meet the needs of the population. Health care in Brunei Darussalam continue to be provided free to all citizens and permanent residents. The health status of the population has improved considerably and Brunei Darussalam has achieved nine out of the ten WHO's target indicators of Health for All.
Unemployment rate is still relatively low in Brunei Darussalam although Brunei Darussalam has not been spared from the effects of the recent financial crisis in its effect on employment. Nevertheless, in order to reduce the unemployment rate in the country, the government continues to create more employment opportunities and take initiatives in providing informal training opportunities primarily for the early school drop-outs and the unemployed so as to help prepare them for gainful employment. On going training programmes have also been conducted at vocational and technical institutions, in the fields of information technology, entrepreneurial and marketing skills.
The economic recovery in some parts of the world is indeed heartening but the recent financial and economic downturn had served to remind us the vulnerability of those economies heavily dependent on natural resources. It exposed many weaknesses in social development. In this context, it is important therefore that we continue to put into place programmes that will ensure that our people can withstand temporary setbacks so that the benefits of economic growth are widely shared by our people.
A significant new player during the last 7 years in the social development in Brunei Darussalam is the Employees' Trust Fund - a mandatory contribution for retirement benefits. Since its creation, this fund is not only proven to be the largest institutional investor in the country but also play a major complementary role in the provision of social protection in Brunei Darussalam today.
Looking ahead, the foremost economic challenge for Brunei Darussalam is the increasing need to diversify our economic base. This is important in order to achieve a proper balance between economic progress and social development in the country.
Many developing countries have liberalized their economies and moved towards open market as a means of generating economic growth. While opening up many opportunities, exposure to global market also poses economic and political challenges. Thus adjustments to the new economic climate are necessary and this change requires time.
We must always remember that countries are at different stages of development and we believe that each country should be allowed to determine the pace of change based on each country's needs, priorities and circumstances. Nevertheless, international initiatives to facilitate the process of integration of social and economic development, should be the focus of our attention in this Summit. The economic and financial crisis in some parts of the world and the political instability in some others which resulted in severe social degradation should also be addressed seriously.
Brunei Darussalam has always attached great importance in promoting closer cooperation with other countries and especially with our ASEAN neighbours, in all areas of mutual benefit especially in areas of social and economic cooperation. We also believe that Brunei Darussalam membership to the United Nation has given us the opportunity to pursue and promote our foreign policies in multilateral forum, particularly in enhancing relations and develop friendship with member countries.
We also strongly believe that a fundamental core in social development is the co-existence of peace and stability. Without peace and stability, there can be few tangible prospects for uplifting social progress and economic growth. In some parts of the world, economic downturns have reduced income and increased unemployment. It may also bring unnecessary gloomy outlook and instability to those unfortunate countries. Therefore Brunei Darussalam has always held the belief that peace and stability are the fundamental and the cornerstone not only for political and economic progress but for social development as well.
I am hopeful and optimistic that the theme of our Summit is relevant to current problems that will assist us to formulate action-oriented agenda of policies and programme on the important role in the social development of each country. It is important for us to be sure in a calculated manner as to the future we are heading to.
We must continue our crucial role in fostering cooperation to put social development at the centre of our commitment. The challenge for the coming years will be to unlock the potential for social development promotion inherent in many sectors of society, among local communities, and within families. There is a clear need to break through traditional boundaries within government sectors, between governmental and non-governmental organizations, and between the public and private sectors. Cooperation is essential; and this requires the creation of new partnership for social development programme between the different sectors of all levels of governance in societies.
Brunei Darussalam appreciates and welcomes the efforts underway in the United Nations towards focussing greater attention on social issues affecting all aspects of life and we look forward to the most fruitful and successful deliberations.
Thank you, Mr. President.
(c) Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports
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