| Lyna Mohamad & Ishan Ibrahim |
CONNECTIVITY is one of the main objectives to be achieved in narrowing the development gap within the BIMP-EAGA region.
The region’s socio-economic development can be boosted by providing efficient and safe transportation of people and goods.
Minister of Communications, Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdullah bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, underscored this in his speech at the 9th BIMP-EAGA Transport Ministers Meeting at the ICC in Berakas yesterday.
Statistics last year showed that between 2009 and 2012, cross border movement of people by road has increased significantly with Brunei recording a rise of 28 per cent while Malaysia registering a whopping 322 per cent surge.
In Indonesia, there were over 200,00 cross border movements of passengers in 2012 and between 2009 and 2013, foreign tourist arrivals had been growing at an annual average rate of seven per cent (5.1 million in 2013 compared to 3.2 million in 2009).
Domestic tourists continue to be the backbone of the BIMP-EAGA tourism industry accounting for 70 per cent of the total tourist arrivals in 2013.
This progress, the minister said, are results of a number of transport Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that had been signed, namely the MoU on the Expansion of Air Linkages, the MoU on Cross Border Movement of Buses and Coaches, the MoU on the Establishment of Efficient and Integrated Shipping Services and the MoU on Transit and Inter-State Transport of Goods.
Yet, we should not be complacent despite such progress, and there is still more work to be done particularly in the area of institutional development of transport regulatory framework that needs to be addressed fast and effectively, said the minister.
This is due to the fact that most of the transport procedures and rules including standards are still saddled with too much duplication, inconsistent and non-transparent procedures involving too many agencies, which could not only stifle the facilitation of seamless movement for people and goods but also the participation of private sector, the minister added.
According to him, compliance with international safety standards is another key aspect and this is imperative to increase passengers’ confidence and ensure competitiveness in the industry.
On this note, he called for all transport efforts and initiatives undertaken to be aligned with international best practices, the Master Plan of Asean Connectivity in particular.
“It is our obligation to also implement effectively the directives of our leaders on how to move forward the Transportation Agenda in order to support the greater coordination among the four pillars of BIMP-EAGA, namely connectivity, food basket, tourism and environment,” he added.
The country, through its Communications Ministry, strives for the best to ensure that the development in its transportation sector is strategised to complement regional and international development and one good example for this is the recently-completed “Friendship Bridge” that was launched by both leaders of Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia.
A recent development in the country is the completion of the Land Transport Master Plan, which is an initiative that resulted from the in-depth studies and consultations on the current trend and preference of its transport users. The plan has also identified strategies towards a more sustainable transport system in the country.
The minister also highlighted other developments in Brunei Darussalam that are in the pipeline including the Brunei International Airport modernisation project, the 18.6km dual carriageway on the Telisai and Lumut highway as well as port infrastructure upgrading projects.
At the same time, privatisation and corporatisation policies are being pursued to improve governance in the rendering of transport services and to facilitate further private sector participation, the minister added.