Blueprint for a dynamic economy in the works

Azlan Othman

The Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) is preparing the Brunei Darussalam Economic Blueprint to achieve the third goal of Brunei Vision 2035, which is a dynamic and empowering economy, Permanent Secretary (Economy) at the MoFE Dr Hajah May Fa’ezah binti Haji Ahmad Ariffin said at the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Brunei Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DPPMB) yesterday.

The blueprint will serve as a guiding principle to align strategic plans, masterplans and policies of government agencies towards achieving the objective. It can also be used by other sectors including the private sector as a joint guide, she added.

A blueprint is needed to help accelerate the country’s economic development by strengthening the private sector as the driving force of the economy. The Economic Blueprint has six aspirations of which, one is productive and vibrant businesses, Dr Hajah May Fa’ezah said.

The country’s non-oil and gas private sector only contributed about 30 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, she said.

“With this aspiration, it is hoped that contributions from this sector will be able to increase yearly.”

Permanent Secretary (Economy) at the MoFE Dr Hajah May Fa’ezah binti Haji Ahmad Ariffin receives a gift from Legislative Council member and DPPMB President Yang Berhormat Haji Abdul Hamid @ Sabli bin Haji Arshad. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN

The national aspiration is to make the private sector the driving force for economic progress. Towards this end, several policy directions have been provided in the Economic Blueprint to help the sector thrive. These include increasing productivity through capacity building, innovation and technology; enhancing networking and taking advantage of overseas market opportunities; preserving the environment and practicing environmentally friendly business; supporting the enhancement of national infrastructure through public-private partnership (PPP); adopting good corporate governance; and using digital technology to accelerate business growth, Dr May Fa’ezah said.

She said it is hoped that these policy directions will be adopted by local companies and incorporated into their business plans.

Dr Hajah May Fa’ezah also said in 2019, the country’s economy recorded a 3.9 per cent growth which was due to the increase in activities in the oil and gas as well as non-oil and gas sectors.

However, on average from 2010 to 2019, Brunei’s economy recorded growth at a minimum rate of 0.5 per cent per annum, due to a decline in the oil and gas sector by 0.8 per cent per year in line with the decline in crude oil production.

On the other hand, the non-oil and gas sector recorded a 2.6 per cent increase per year.

The increase in the existing non-oil and gas sector, however, is not enough to contribute to the country’s overall economic growth, given the small distribution of its contribution compared to the oil and gas sector.

Meanwhile, Dr Hajah May Fa’ezah said the number of micro small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the country was about 6,000 in 2019, which is an increase of an average of 3.4 per cent per annum in the last five years from 2015 to 2019. However, the number alone is not an accurate measure of progress of MSMEs in a country.

Some other indicators should also be considered, such as the annual results obtained by MSMEs in the country, the number of jobs generated for locals and the type of local products which can be marketed locally and have the potential to be exported.

She said to achieve this aspiration, the government has identified five priority sectors expected to enhance economic growth and provide spillover effects to economic development as a whole, namely the oil and gas downstream, food, tourism, Info-communication and technology (ICT), and services.

The MoFE is also providing industrial roadmaps for the priority sectors, she added.

“These sectors have been selected by taking into account the existing competitive advantage and comparative advantage in the country. These include the availability and capability of infrastructure, the availability of natural resources, manpower resources and a conducive environment for these industries to thrive, have a high potential to develop other sectors and further open up enterprise and business opportunities to local companies available,” she said.

“Nevertheless, the government will continue to explore other future growth activities, where appropriate, to develop the country’s economy.”

Legislative Council member and DPPMB President Yang Berhormat Haji Abdul Hamid @ Sabli bin Haji Arshad and DPPMB Vice President II Haji Mohammad Hanafi bin Pehin Orang Kaya Digadong Seri Diraja Dato Laila Utama Haji Abdul Rahman were also present.

DPPMB is a non-government organisation (NGO) established on February 16, 1966. At 54, it is one of the oldest organisations in the country. The 50th AGM was held at JobCentre Brunei hall in Beribi which also coincided with the launch of DPPMB official website.