Increase i-Ready Allowance to $1,500 per month

(Pic courtesy of The Smart Office)

i-Ready is arguably one of the best and most cost-effective ways to prepare our youths for the job market. It is also a far-sighted policy that seeks to address the growing distress facing highly educated young people in the country.

A way to build on the success of i-Ready is to consider increasing the allowance to $1,500 per month.

Graduates feel that having the amount would sufficiently compensate for the work and qualifications they have. Moreover, they would utilize the money as a stepping stone to be more self-reliant by not focusing on government jobs but rather starting their businesses or working abroad.

Some aspire to work abroad in international organizations such as the World Bank, United Nations, ASEAN Secretariat, Google and more. They certainly have the skills and education for these posts, but they are unable to make that jump due to the lack of income which made them remain in Brunei Darussalam.

This is sad because, with sufficient income from their i-Ready allowance, they could have worked in these companies, come back with the knowledge and skills, and create top-class services and products for the country. In effect, they can become world-class Bruneians that can create world-class companies.

Certainly, i-Ready costs money. As of 2017, more than 2,000 people are actively enrolled in the program costing the government roughly BND$19m yearly to operate. One may consider this a lot but if we take into account the published national budget for the fiscal year 2018/2019, it only represents 0.36% (out of BND$5.3bn) of the country’s national expenditure.

It is a drop in the ocean.

Now compare this by the approximately BND$2bn + of the national budget spent on government salaries and wages yearly. Indeed, if it is in good time where employment is plenty for our gradutes, we do not need an i-Ready. But then, we have the highest youth unemployment rate in ASEAN (Xinhua, 2019). Unemployment affects everyone in society.

For the numbers, check this post and analysis by the blogger below (Myn’s Desk, 2016):

Ironically, there are few who look down and even outright opposes the i-Ready programme. I replied to them that they better check their social privilege(Here’s a simple case study). Not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouths. I also remember some people saying that in order for people to get a job in the 60s-90s, all they got to do is to give out a photocopy of their ICs to the relevant ministry and then ta-da! They are given a job!

So, the investment in i-Ready is not asking a lot. We just want it to be fairer for this generation. Our i-Ready graduates want opportunity for self-advancement too, as the previous generation had been afforded in the past.

If the government follows this advice, it would cost the government $36m per year, which still represents a small percentage of the national expense and in relative to the civil servant salary and wages spent yearly. By further injecting money into this effective program, it can uplift our graduates to aspire and attain bigger success in the international arena and make them less reliant on the government.

It is certainly way cheaper than absorbing the 2,000 graduates into the public sector or GLCs.

Therefore, I recommend increasing the allowance as a path to take. The policy to invest in our highly educated young population should be seen as an investment and rightfully so, as they will be the ones that will take this country forward by 2035 and beyond.

Whilst increasing the allowance may not automatically solve the unemployment issue, to borrow again the words of American Technopreneur Andrew Yang, the policy can set the stage to address more significant issues later on.

Finally, to paraphrase a well-known quote, even in a time of fiscal austerity, an investment in our people is more than just an “expense”.

What do you think? Should the i-Ready allowance be increased or not? Vote below now:

See also: “Increase Old Age and Disabilities Pension to $350 per month”

(The blog has been updated)

If you like this writing, do consider supporting my work through Patreon. Donate and help make an impact in Brunei society!


  1. Well I see your point, but you need to be aware that the country’s revenue is not stagnant, indeed it is decreasing from time to time due to oil prices. I guess you did not see this…

    So decreasing revenue with more expenditure??


  2. Dear phailin159,

    Unfortunately, not everything can and should be measured with money. Consider the cost of mental health that graduates face during prolonged periods of unemployment and under-employment. A few disclosed to me their experience in facing suicidal thoughts for the lack of opportunity to move up the social ladder. That mentioned, $1500/month is not even enough to buy a house, let alone set up a family and have kids. People have aspirations. And given that this post actually went viral just shows there is a deep-rooted unmet expectation among our graduates to aspire for bigger dreams, that unless met will only exacerbate their mental health. Can you measure the cost of this?


  3. Instead of simply increasing the allowance of every apprentice (not everyone deserves a “raise” to be honest, from personal experience), why not create a system whereby the apprentice is to prove him/herself worthy of getting more allowance? For example, the employer and apprentice can agree on a attainable goal/accomplishment to be completed within a specified period of time and only if the apprentice is able to perform satisfactorily will he/she be eligible for a “raise”.


  4. Hello Anonymous! That could be a great idea too. Why don’t you set up a blog (using wordpress) and elaborate your thoughts on the idea? (This includes everyone reading this now). Sharing your thoughts on this comment section will not give you justice to explain your position given the limited space afforded here.

    I also like to hear your reasoning as to why some people deserve a raise more than the others. More specifically, on what basis do you evaluate the candidate? If you are an employer, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how i-Ready has helped/hindered the growth of your company too.

    Maybe to close the entire article, I’d like to share some final thoughts. There are lots of wonderful suggestions given by people all over Reddit (r/Brunei –, Linkedin ( and Facebook to improve the idea. I am happy the article can generate lots of positive discussions that can help bring us closer to the center.

    From a democratic perspective, however, perhaps much to the dismay of those who oppose the idea, the “Yes” vote has won by a large margin. To those who read and voted, I’d say congratulations for participating in this important conversation.

    There will be hopefully more of these kinds of topics that will be written soon. Just make sure to subscribe to my website!


  5. To increase the allowance could be good for the unemployed because for them to survive could be enough but it might give negative impact to our contry because by having the allowance, most of the company may not giving the actual salary where it shows that they are not committed to employ them, yet they having free employees from the government


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