Interview: Pehin Dato Abdullah Bakar
What progress has been made in achieving the Ministry of Communication’s 2008-17 strategic goals?
PEHIN DATO ABDULLAH BAKAR: The strategic plan of the ministry was set to create a sophisticated society with excellent communication and transportation networks to position Brunei Darussalam as a competitive nation for whatever future role it wants to play. If we look at the modern socio-economic trends today, we know we have to become competitive to attract foreign investment and promote Brunei Darussalam as a place for doing business. We have put in monitors to track our goals and measure our performance in carrying out the national economic development plan, Vision 2035.
Among the main projects identified within this strategic timeframe are our 2012-17 goals, that include: laying out a fibre-to-the-home network; bolstering the Brunei Darussalam Maritime and Port Authority; corporatisation of ports into a commercial entity; road safety projects; a land transport demerit point system; bus/taxi franchising; and transport standards enforcement. We are now half way through our plan, and in the next five years we will try to improve our performance and delivery on these key objectives.
With road fatalities on the rise, what is the government’s strategy to improve safety?
PEHIN DATO ABDULLAH: We have joined the UN’s 2011-20 Decade of Action for Road Safety plan to reduce road fatalities. Our focus has been on improving education, enforcement, engineering and emergency response. We believe the main reason behind the accidents is the driver. The secondary causes are from the poor quality of vehicles and roads. So, the long-term solution will be to improve education. Our strategy is a multi-sectoral approach, and the Brunei National Road Safety Council comprises many relevant stakeholders and has been working tirelessly to reduce fatalities. We launched our blueprint in May 2011 by underlining more than 35 initiatives and programmes with a goal to reduce deaths and injuries related to road traffic accidents on the roads. Our motto, “towards safer mobility and safety on the road”, speaks for itself.
Our attention for the next few years will be focusing on improving drivers’ attitudes and on increasing the safety of vehicles. Other efforts by our stakeholders include continuous upgrades to the level of safety of our roads, establishment of the Centre for Road Safety Studies to conduct research that would establish evidence-based policy and strategy, enhancing our emergency response time to accidents where there have been injuries, enforcement and education, as well as around-the-clock road safety awareness programmes by non-governmental organisations and our partners from the private sector. For the past two years, we have introduced traffic calming measures to teach drivers to be more vigilant while in school and residential areas.
We have also introduced a new driving school curriculum, a video on road safety tips targeting the education of schoolchildren and the demerit point system, which adds negative points to a driver’s record for offences committed, targeting all types of drivers.
With these initiatives, programmes and greater reliability of drivers on our roads, we saw drops in the number of accidents, injuries and deaths in 2012.
Although we are happy with our progress, there is still more to do in making our roads safer.
What transport initiatives are in place to enhance Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, PhilippinesEast ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) integration?
PEHIN DATO ABDULLAH: We are working closely with regional stakeholders to hammer out agreements to facilitate integration. We must increase our connectivity to other ports, and our rates must be more attractive for people to come. To create a transport hub you need to create scale, therefore we must create maritime links to Brunei Darussalam and make sure Muara Port has connections for goods to be shipped here.
We want to bring goods here and with the Ministry of Finance we encourage ships to establish routes.
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