Brunei foresees strong economy despite COVID-19 crisis, says minister

Azlan Othman & Izah Azahari

Brunei Darussalam’s economy is forecast to be strong and able to record a respectable growth rate this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic. This is supported by development in various industries and in the agriculture sector in the Sultanate which have shown positive growth over the past two to three years.

This was highlighted by 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 yesterday in response to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook report since the pandemic shut major economies this week, and predicted that Brunei Darussalam’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth to be 1.3 per cent this year.

In its forecast early this year, IMF said for 2020, it has projected the country’s GDP growth at 4.7 per cent.

“As a result of the pandemic, the global economy is projected to contract sharply by minus three per cent in 2020, much worse than during the 2008-09 financial crisis.”

“The Managing Director of IMF commented that if the COVID-19 crisis drags on, the potential impact on the global economy is worse than what they have forecast. In the case of Brunei, we are no exception,” the minister said. He said that last year, for comparison, Brunei recorded a 3.9 per cent GDP growth, the strongest in 13 years.

“We see growth in both the oil and gas sector and in non-oil and gas sector. Based on our internal assessment, if we continue the trend in this country (with the exception of few in the tourism sector), many can still continue to operate and people can still go to office and work. We are quite lucky compared to other countries.”

“Based on that assumption, we foresee our economy growth to be strong. Last year, we recorded a 3.9 per cent growth and this year, we will see a positive growth again,”
he said.

The minister said this is supported by the growth in several industries in the country. The ‘Buy Local Produce’ campaign announced yesterday ensures that local businesses and farmers’ income are not affected.

“This initiative will also ensure price stability of agricultural products, such as vegetables and fruits, and promote the continuous cultivation of agricultural products,” said the minister.

Through this initiative, the minister said Ghanim International Cooperation Sdn Bhd and DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) will assist the local businesses and promote as well as supply their products to markets in the country.

The minister revealed that so far, 54 local businesses and farmers who have been regularly selling at Tutong and Seria markets, along with four supermarket chains, have shown interest in participating in the campaign.

“It is hoped that there will be more local businesses and farmers, as well as shops and restaurants who will be able to support and participate in this campaign.

“If the supermarket requirement is met, we can stabilise the supply and demand, and local supermarkets won’t need to solely rely on imported products. We may not have enough locally produced vegetables at this time, but hopefully with this campaign, we can create new opportunities and match the current demand in supermarkets and restaurants,” the minister added.