Every time I write an article, I make two simple assumptions: First is that You, my dear reader, understand English. And secondly, you are at a point of life where you can adequately support yourself financially. The biggest flaw of this assumption is also just as simple. That is not everyone in Brunei understand English and not everyone are financially buoyant.
In Brunei, we have many perks and subsidies the government gives to the population. This includes cheap petrol, subsidised rice and sugar and no income tax to name a few. So with so much perks, by right everyone should be doing fine right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Going about our day, we usually get distracted from the fact that some people are simply not able to sustain themselves and their dependents. This may arise from problems of socioeconomic origin but could simply be from drowning in debt! Fortunately for us, and Brunei being a welfare state, the government offers financial assistance to those struggling so make ends meet.
This assistance is rendered through JAPEM.
What is JAPEM?
JAPEM stands for Jabatan Pembangunan Masyarakat which translates to the Department of Community Development. It is a department under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and their focus is to assist members of public with regards to a wide variety of issues.
Monthly Welfare Assistance
From what I gather, one of the services provided by JAPEM is the Monthly Welfare Assistance. This program aims to “help alleviate the burden of an individual or family who are living in difficulty and helplessness”. Basically, the government assesses you for things such as expenses, number of children, whether minimum living conditions are met and so on. If eligible, the government will pay out a sum of money to help sustain the family.
Who can apply?
This assistance is open to Yellow IC holders a.k.a. Bruneian citizens who:
- live in difficulty and have children (below the age of 18 years) who are still in school
- have no income / Pensions of any kind (Service / Derivatives / Old Age) / assistance from government agencies or non-governmental agencies.
- are approved by the Government Medical Officer if they are suffering from any disease that does not allow to work.
How to apply?
If you are eligible to apply, the application can be made by:
- submitting to the Director of Community Development Department either by letter through Penghulus / Heads of Kampong (Village Heads), or
- visiting the headquarters of the Department of the Community Development or branch that is available in every district.
What happens after?
Once your application is processed, a designated officer will investigate and assess the situation. After that it’s pretty much waiting to see if you qualify for it.
Alternative welfare assistance
If for whatever reason you are not qualified under this program, there are alternative programs that are open to Muslim citizens. These are under organisations such the Brunei Islamic Council or Majlis Ugama Islam Brunei (MUIB) and in worst case scenarios, you can apply to receive zakat. Zakat is the giving of alms to the poor and needy; it is one of the five pillars of Islam (the others are declaration of faith, prayer, fasting in Ramadan and Hajj).
Many us are OK financially and the cost of living in Brunei is relatively cheap. However, we cannot ignore the fact that not everyone is born equal. Thus, there are some that cannot support themselves financially. The Government of Brunei is kind enough to offer financial assistance to those in need. But with our current economic climate, how sustainable is it?