Brunei working to ensure no one is left behind

James Kon

Brunei Darussalam remains committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in parallel with Brunei Vision 2035 to attain an educated and highly-skilled populace, with a high quality of life, and a dynamic and sustainable economy.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah noted this in his keynote address at the opening of the Voluntary National Review (VNR) Workshop for Brunei Darussalam at The Rizqun International Hotel.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew also shared several major initiatives carried out by the Brunei government, specifically in the field of economic development.

Echoing the SDG’s principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ and the call for collaboration among the global community, he said, “Brunei Darussalam’s economic policies are aimed at ensuring inclusive and sustainable growth that creates employment and improves living standards for all. Being a small economy, we support open regionalism, as well as a stable, transparent and mutually beneficial multilateral trading system which we continue to advocate for, through cooperation with our trade partners.”

To ensure long-term economic sustainability, he said, “Brunei Darussalam continues to pursue its economic diversification efforts through five main priority sectors, namely (i) Downstream Oil and Gas; (ii) Food; (iii) Tourism; (iv) Services; and (v) ICT. Increasing activities in these sectors will boost the growth of our industries, create employment and improve our GDP.”

He stressed on maintaining a conducive eco-system which is important in order for Brunei Darussalam to attract quality foreign direct investment, and encourage more local entrepreneurship.

“We continue to encourage our micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to venture and participate in regional and global value chains which is made possible through our Free Trade Agreements, as well as entrepreneurship initiatives implemented by DARe (Darussalam Enterprise), including the ones targetted for young entrepreneurs.

He highlighted that over the past years “the Brunei Government has been focussing on developing its supporting infrastructure as part of efforts to continuously improve the standards of living of its people and ensure that no one is left behind.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah at the event. PHOTOS: JAMES KON
A section of the attendees

“Recently, we embarked on the initiative to modernise our telecommunication infrastructures that is aimed at ensuring competitive and efficient telecommunication and Internet services. Through such efforts, our people can expect substantial improvements in the availability and quality of telecommunication services at more affordable prices. This would not just result in greater access to mobile networks and Internet connectivity for everyone in the entire country, especially for those living in the rural areas, but also can reduce the cost of doing business for our entrepreneurs.”

Another major development that he cited is ensuring inclusiveness and connectivity with the construction of the Temburong Bridge that will improve mobility for residents, tourists and businesses alike between Temburong and other parts of Brunei Darussalam.

He said, “This will open up more collaborative opportunities in other sectors such as eco-tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and culture.”

Acknowledging that people are one of Brunei’s greatest assets, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said, “We are therefore committed to invest in them for our future, by maintaining inclusive policies such as access to quality education, healthcare; financial inclusion; and improvements in labour productivity. Under its ‘Vision 2035,’ Brunei Darussalam emphasises equal opportunity for women in the workforce and our economic development.

“Women today represent 59 per cent of the total workforce and 53 per cent of the civil service in the country. More women are now being employed in traditionally male-dominated sectors such as aviation, engineering and maritime. In the business sector, we continue to see women’s active participation, where more than 50 per cent of MSMEs owned, run and fronted by women entrepreneurs.

“Individuals and civil society have also been supportive of government initiatives to boost economic empowerment among women such as the Brunei Women’s Business Council, Brunei Womenpreneur Network (BWN) and also their networks with other regional and international women associations,” Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said.

To care for the underprivileged, the minister revealed that a centralised database system for welfare programmes is being developed.

“This programme is aimed at improving the effectiveness of our welfare programs, so that those who truly need help will receive it,” he said.

In a bid to protect the environment, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said, “The Brunei Government has come up with initiatives such as ‘No Plastic Day’ with the aim of reducing the use of plastic bags in major supermarkets on Saturdays and Sundays. Last year, the initiative was extended to the whole week.”

The listed efforts “are expected to improve our people’s welfare and quality of life, not just for current generations but also for our future generations, in line with the 2030 Agenda. Achieving them is not an easy feat. Given the complexity and enormity of the process and potential impacts, working towards SDGs requires holistic and comprehensive approaches and initiatives that are efficient, sustainable and well-coordinated among all relevant stakeholders.

“The government, private sector and members of society should remain united and continue to collaborate to ensure no one is left behind and that everyone can enjoy the positive spillovers from economic growth.”

With only one decade to go until 2030, he stressed, “Our efforts and actions towards achieving the SDGs need to be strengthened and deepened. No one country individually can resolve the challenges towards achieving the SDGs. The world we live in is increasingly interconnected and is constantly changing. Our economies, value chains and financial systems are increasingly interlinked and so are the threats and challenges. Negative externalities cannot simply be contained by national borders and firewalls. Multilateral action and cooperation is critical.”

As a responsible member of the international community, he said, “Brunei Darussalam will continue to work together with the United Nations (UN) and other regional and international partners for mutual prosperity. Brunei Darussalam will participate in its first ever VNR session this July. This shows our utmost commitment in achieving the SDGs.”

Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy (Fiscal) Dato Seri Paduka Awang Haji Ahmaddin bin Haji Abdul Rahman, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy (Economy) Dato Seri Paduka Dr Haji Abdul Manaf bin Haji Metussin, permanent secretaries and government officials attended the opening ceremony.

The UN was represented by Katinka Weinberger of the Environment and Development Division, UN ESCAP, as well as other officials from UN ESCAP and UNDP.