His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam expressed gratefulness that the nation is able to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and urged ministries to work together to ensure the pandemic will not bring a negative impact to the economy.
In a titah last night to mark the monarch’s 74th birthday, His Majesty said, “Alhamdulillah, I am thankful to Allah the Almighty for the blessings that enable us to celebrate my 74th birthday in peace and prosperity. I sincerely thank and express appreciation to all parties who sent birthday greetings to me and my family.
“This year, the celebration has to be different as the world is still grappling the coronavirus pandemic. But we are grateful that our nation is able to contain the pandemic. Alhamdulillah, at present, schools, business premises, recreational areas and so on have been opened in phases. However, we are required to adhere to instructions from the authorities, particularly the Ministry of Health (MoH), as a precautionary measure.
“Everywhere, people are occupied by the coronavirus’ impact on the economy, especially on the global oil prices.
“In this context, my government will ensure that its effect will not give a negative impact to the nation’s sustainability, in its effort to establish a conducive environment to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and in strengthening the nation’s fiscal.
“The Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) under the Ministry of Finance and Economy should not act alone, but work closely with the ministers concerned to strengthen the nation’s economy,” His Majesty said.
The monarch also said the oil refinery and petrochemical plant at Pulau Muara Besar has exported oil produced from the facility. This large-scale project hopes to contribute to the gross domestic product (GDP) and increase local employment.
“The international ammonia and urea plant is expected to be operational at Sungai Liang Industrial Park and handled by Brunei Fertilizer Industries Sdn Bhd by the second quarter of next year. In this context, I have consented to the formation of the Petroleum Authority of Brunei Darussalam as the technical body for the Ministry of Energy to monitor the oil and gas operations and to supervise upstream and downstream sectors,” the monarch said.
In line with current trends, the use of online platforms including artificial intelligence and big data analytic application has contributed towards enhancing innovation and productivity, such as BruHealth.
“I am of the opinion that digital technology has the potential to stimulate the nation’s economy. It is timely for the nation to have its own digital masterplan, especially when we require digital services that cover learning, business and governance these days that are capable of turning Bandar Seri Begawan into a Smart City.
“I’ve consented for the Digital Economy Masterplan 2025 under the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications,” the monarch said.
His Majesty also said, “Alhamdulillah, following cooperation between the government and private sector, the unemployment rate dropped last year. Based on the Labour Force Survey 2018, the unemployment rate was 8.7 per cent, while in 2019, the rate had reduced to 6.8 per cent. I am convinced that the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) which was set up in November last year continues to jointly assist locals in acquiring jobs.”
Speaking on primary resources, His Majesty said, “Alhamdulillah, my government through the relevant agencies will continue to work to ensure food supply in the country is sufficient and guaranteed.
“I hope that entreprenuers, farmers and fishermen will take the opportunity to increase production to attain food security and sufficiency,” His Majesty said.
One way to fulfil its safety and needs is through constructing a bridge connecting the Brunei-Muara District and Temburong District. Now that the bridge has been used as a facility eagerly awaited, it is without doubt that the bridge is a sign of modernisation for Brunei Darussalam.
“Especially on this sign of modernisation, it reminds me of the Architect of Modern Brunei.
This reminder gives me inspiration to name the bridge Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Bridge with a hope that through this, it will bring blessings,” His Majesty said.
The monarch also said, to mark his birthday, the National Welfare Scheme (SKN) will be used for those wishing to acquire welfare assistance, either through the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports or Brunei Islamic Religious Council.
“With the implementation of this system, information on people seeking assistance will be kept so that no one is left behind and at the same time, to avoid any loopholes in providing assistance. The system will become the basis for planning in the form of training for their benefits,” His Majesty said.