Minister Rejects Call For ‘Alcohol Zone’
The total contribution from the sectors under the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources only generates one per cent of the Gross Domestic Product in Brunei Darussalam.
This was revealed by YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, adding that the sectors comprise agriculture, fishery, forestry and tourism.
He said this in response to YB Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Goh King Chin’s query on the allocation of $1.5 million to promote the tourism sector.
YB Pehin Dato Goh said, “We must attract tourists from Asia, such as China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. Together these countries represent a total population of at least 1.6 billion. I think the current allocation of $1.5 million to promote tourism is not enough.”
YB Pehin Dato Goh also asked about the possibility of setting up a `special zone’ for non-Muslim tourists to purchase alcohol in Brunei.
“This area will include restaurants and other amenities for non-Muslim tourists only” and emphasized “not for Bruneians”.
He elaborated further saying that these restaurants would not be permitted to sell alcohol without proper permits from the tourists and that these beverages could only be consumed in these ’special zones’. YB Pehin Goh cited the example of other Islamic nations, such as Dubai, who have already implemented such a scheme successfully.
In response, YB Pehin Dato Hj Yahya said that alcohol is not a segment targeted by the ministry for the development of tourism in Brunei, whereas it is more focused on tourists who are searching for peace and tranquility, as well as a healthy lifestyle.
“The ministry lays more emphasis on areas in the development of tourist infrastructure such as airports, visa approval, and upgrading the quality of services in hospitality,” added the minister.
According to the minister, tourism in Brunei is focused on the unique Islamic credibility that the country has to offer and not on “mass tourism” and that the government’s effort to limit and control alcohol consumption is to prevent negative elements taking advantage of the situation.
“These restrictions are in line with the national concept of becoming a country of Dzikir, as well as to promote the Brunei Halal Brand in the Islamic world,” said the minister.
There Are Sober Ways To Boost Tourism
A senior minister's rejection of a call made by a Legislative Council member earlier this week to set up an `alcohol zone' to boost the country's tourism sector received positive public responses.
YB Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Goh King Chin during the LegCo sessions asked about the possibility of setting up a 'special zone' for non-Muslim tourists to purchase alcohol.
He also cited the example of other Muslim nations like Dubai which have already implemented such schemes.
Rejecting the suggestion the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri SetiaAwang Hj Yahya said alcohol is not a segment targeted by the Ministry for the development of tourism in Brunei and that tourism in Brunei is focused on the unique Islamic credibility.
An economist interviewed by the Weekend Bulletin cited several other ways, which he felt, would increase. GDP without the need for an "alcoholic zone" to attract tourists, mentioning that Brunei still intends on sticking to its trademark as a Malay Islamic Monarchy where alcohol is considered 'haram'.
"Firstly, Brunei is renowned for being a Malay Islamic Monarchy. And the world knows that Brunei is a true Muslim country. And for us to allow the sale of alcohol would affect the name and integrity of the Malay Islamic Monarchy. Secondly, income from alcohol is considered ‘haram' as it is a 'haram product'," pointed out the economist.
He felt that if the sale of alcohol were permitted in Brunei, the haram money would multiply in a bad way. He felt that there are many other areas Brunei that cant be targeted to improve its tourism sector.
"One area Brunei should excel in is nature. Our flora and fauna is incomparable with any country in the world our coral reefs are one of the best in the world. And we don't need alcohol to swim, we don't need it to dive, and we don't need alcohol to trek through jungles," he added.
"Brunei is going for the halal meat market. If Brunei were to promote its halal meat market the same year it allows the sale of alcohol, it would contradict each other and would reduce the halal meat market status for Brunei and would affect our market credibility," he said.
A university student did not agree with the minister's comments regarding the issue during Wednesday's LegCo session where he said that his ministry is "More focused on tourists who are searching for peace and tranquility, as well as a healthy lifestyle".
"Even though alcohol is not a segment targeted by the Ministry for the Development of its tourism sector, which is instead targeting tourists who are searching for a peaceful and healthy lifestyle, the ministry still needs to come up with a solution to increase its current contribution of one per cent towards the country's annual GDP.
"The tourism sector says they are targeting tourists who are out for a healthy lifestyle. Where exactly will they direct these tourists?
"Let's face it, if we want to promote tourism, we should go all out to make sure tourists go back to their countries and have something good to say. We can't be half-hearted.
Because at the moment, our tourism industry is not going anywhere and whatever decision the government makes, it still has to come up with a solution to diversify its economy effectively so that it can reduce its dependence on the oil and gas sector," the student said.
A local entrepreneur, said "There are two sides. it depends on the goals of the nation. One of the goals diversification of the economy and tourism plays a part in it."
Brunei Remains Firm On No-Alcohol Policy
The Ministry of Religious Affairs yesterday reaffirmed that the current policy of alcohol consumption and entry into the country will be maintained to ensure the nation's safety.
Pehin Jawatan Luar Pekerma Raja Dato Seri Utama Dr Ustaz Hj Mohd Zain Hj Serudin clarified several issues in his closing remarks at the State Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting, including the need to maintain the current policy of bringing in alcohol into the country.
He said that neighbouring countries who do not have similar policies were enjoying remarkable returns based on submitted tourism datas.
"This is a fact that cannot be denied," he said.
The minister then reiterated the explanation made by Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Abu Bakar on the alcohol policy, which was in line with the nation's objective to remain and maintain the philosophy of Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) as well as the intention to become a Zikir nation.
The policy also goes in harmony with the Sultanate's mission of developing its own halal brand, explained the ministry.
He added that Brunei cannot be corresponded to neighbouring countries in this area.
An establishment of an alcohol zone in the country could lead to other forbidden activities in Islam in the future.
"It (being alcohol-free) can lead to developing nightclubs and then, a prostitution zone and ultimately, casinos," Pehin Dato Dr Ustaz Hj Mohd Zain said, adding that all these factors would destroy the nation in the future.
He went on to say that what people should fear the most was to incur the wrath of Allah (SWT) as these actions are considered as maksiat (acts that are offensive in Islam), where not only the offenders would be punished, but also the public in the nation.
"That is why we need to maintain the nation as a peaceful nation (through the policy)," the minister said.
Minister Slams Proposal To Create ‘Alcohol Zone’
The suggestion for a special zone to serve alcohol to support the tourism industry in Brunei came under intense criticism and disapproval from the Cabinet Ministers at the Legislative Council meeting.
YB Pehin Jawatan Luar Pekerma Raja Dato Seri Utama Dr Ustaz Haji Md Zain bin Haji Serudin, Minister of Religious Affairs, yesterday said, … because the tourists know, when they want to consume alcohol, they can do it more freely in their own countries. Not only can they drink it, they can even take a bath in it too”.
“Today they want this zone, later they may want clubs, then what else? Prostitution zone? Then casino zone,” the minister asked.
“All these elements will bring bad name to the country,” he added.
There was also a call to review the policy on bringing in alcoholic drinks to Brunei, proposed by a representative the previous day, as a measure to curb empty beer cans discarded at beaches, roadsides and recreational areas.
The proposal to create an “alcohol zone” during this year’s LegCo session surprised many public members.
The Minister of Religious Affairs offered a justification for his disapproval and displeasure on the suggestions.
Economically speaking, according to YB Pehin, such an allocation or allowance will jeopardise the country’s prestige in the global Halal market and be counterproductive to the Halal branding of the country. Religiously speaking, it is a transgression against the religion and a sin not only to those who serve but also everyone in the country for allowing it to happen.
While disapproving the proposal, YB Pehin Jawatan Luar Pekerma Raja Dato Seri Utama Dr Ustaz Haji Md Zain acknowledged the contribution of tourism industry towards the economic development that is clearly seen from the economic data of neighbouring countries.
However, he downplayed the need to establish such a special zone stating that the nation’s tourism industry does not rely on alcoholic drinks.
“The tourism policy in this country had been clearly explained by the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, that is to limit the importation of alcoholic beverages into the country is in line with the principal of Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB),” YB Pehin said.
“The policy is also in line with the aspiration of the nation to become `Zikir’, the minister said.
“What we are most afraid of is the wrath of Allah,” the minister added. “The wrath of Allah will not only come for the doer but others as well,” he stated.
“This is why we need to fight to maintain Brunei as a peaceful country called The Abode of Peace,” he concluded.
What do you think? Honestly, this is defeating the idea of diversifying the economy since we have just smashed the idea down before thoroughly weighing the pros and cons on a practical level. Plus I thought tourism is catering what the tourists want, not what we want but through the available means possible? I guess ignorance is bliss in this respect.
- Aziz Idris, Minister Rejects Call For 'Alcohol Zone', Borneo Bulletin, 18 March 2010.
- Ben Ng, There Are Sober Ways To Boost Tourism, Borneo Bulletin, 20 March 2010.
- Fitri Shahminan, Brunei Remains Firm On No-Alcohol Policy, The Brunei Times, 23 March 2010.
- Azaraimy HH, Minister Slams Proposal To Create 'Alcohol Zone', Borneo Bulletin, 23 March 2010.