Major projects to boost Brunei economy

James Kon

Next year, several huge downstream oil and gas (O&G) projects will commence operations, including the Pulau Muara Besar oil refinery and petrochemical plant, which plans to start full operation by the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020.

The plant has the capacity to process 175,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

There are already several fuels that have started on trial production such as diesel, Jet A-1, Gasoline and Liquefied Petroleum Gas or LPG, with a small amount exported to neighbouring countries.

These updates were provided by Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mat Suny bin Haji Mohd Hussein during a dialogue session with Legislative Council (LegCo) members at the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday.

He said the ammonia and urea plant belonging to another major foreign direct investment (FDI), the Brunei Fertilizer Industries Sdn Bhd (BFI), is expected to provide positive contributions to the country’s economy when it starts operations in 2021.

“Foreign direct investors are tasked with opening opportunities to local businesses and playing an active role in capacity development in aspects of knowledge, expertise and technology,” he said.

The minister said the initiatives conducted by the Ministry of Energy, Manpower and Industry (MEMI), address the issue of unemployment in Brunei.

Speaking on the unemployment rate in Brunei, the minister said, “We saw a reduction of 8.7 per cent in 2018, according to a 2018 Labour Force Survey, compared to 9.3 per cent of the previous year. The trends of local jobseekers are closely monitored through JobCentre Brunei, to better understand the issues of unemployment.

“Around 6,500 new jobseekers annually enter the labour market. The ministry addresses the issue of unemployment by developing all sectors, openings and filling job opportunities with locals, including employment generated through economic spin-off activities systematically and aligning the local supply of manpower with the needs of employers.

“Such developments were seen among local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in industrial areas, with the development of Foreign Direct Investment and the projects that we visited yesterday being important in contributing to the reduced rate of unemployment.

ABOVE & BELOW: Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mat Suny bin Haji Mohd Hussein, Deputy Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry Dato Seri Paduka Awang Haji Matsatejo bin Sokiaw and members of the Legislative Council during the dialogue session. PHOTOS: JAMES KON

“Unemployment must be addressed in a broad and holistic approach, including at the individual level. It is important to instil high morale and determination among jobseekers, with efforts requiring the whole-of-nation approach, particularly at the grassroots level.

“The ministry is working closely with agencies to draft policies and initiatives in the effective succession planning for the non-oil and gas sectors, as well as looking at new policies to further boost spin-off activities and the recruitment of locals. Among these are the Bruneianisation directive and local business development directives for the non-oil and gas sector.

“The MEMI’s mission is a diverse and sustainable economy led by Bruneians, for the prosperity of the nation. We are nearing the end of 2019 which is a good opportunity for Legislative Council members to take a closer look at the achievement under the strategic plan of the ministry and how far things were addressed to ensure Bruneians continue to prosper.

“The ministry continues to focus on the systematic regulation and management of the country’s hydrocarbon; maximising the value of energy sector, the sustainable development of the downstream sector and other industry sectors, to reduce any negative effects to the country caused by turbulent oil prices; opening new employment opportunities and creating spin-offs from economic impact; the supply of local human resources according to the needs of industry; increasing the ecosystem for the convenience of industrial and economic development; increasing the security and quality of electrical services for the public and industry; and instilling the Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) culture into the managing of all activities.

“This year’s crude oil prices have shown a bit of recovery. Crude oil prices, according to Dated Brent, are within USD62 per barrel today. As the main economic sector of the country, the stability of oil and gas sector continues to drive spending and growth in various important sectors of the country.”

The minister reminded that Brunei must be cautious in the use and management of its hydrocarbon resources and other related assets: “The ministry has undertaken several initiatives to protect the nation’s revenue sources from the possibility of shock,” he said.

“This year, the ministry, as the regulator of the oil and gas sector, stressed on the increase of exploration activities to boost hydrocarbon resources and the production of oil and gas, to reap the benefits of rising oil prices. The planned target exploration activities will exceed this year’s target, if current performance continues.

“The ministry also hopes to support the development of the industrial sector with close collaboration of stakeholders and develop a focus cluster by attracting foreign direct investors and providing facilities, as well as industrial sites, to support their activities. These efforts include infrastructure upgrades and the service of industrial sites, and facilitating the application process.

“The ministry, with other agencies, focusses on building local businesses that are competitive, sustainable and export-oriented. This effort will be leveraged with digital technology and technology production that came with the wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“The efforts to guarantee electrical supply security for the long-term planning of energy mix are being reviewed, as is boosting public awareness on conserving the use of electricity and avoiding wasteful and unsafe habits. The Department of Electrical Services also conducts the upgrading and maintenance of the national electric infrastructure.”

Speaking on preserving Brunei’s natural beauty, he said, “The ministry is conducting several workshops to formulate the basis of the country’s climate change policies with the National Climate Change Secretariat.

“Regarding health, safety and environment matters, Safety, Health and Environment National Authority (SHENA) has issued guidelines related to safety in workplace, especially at high-risk construction sites, to protect workers from unwanted accidents or incidents. The country’s development is an issue that needs to be addressed holistically, and we must take in strategic and wider views to move towards fulfilling the needs and further boosting the prosperity of the country’s citizens.”

The dialogue session marked the second segment of the MEMI’s two-day engagement with LegCo members.

The dialogue session is aimed at sharing and disseminating information on the MEMI and the functions, roles and initiatives of its departments. The session was preceded with working visits to several industrial sites, managed by DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) on November 13.

Seventeen LegCo members led by Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Putera Maharaja Dato Paduka Haji Abdul Ghani bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Dewa Dato Paduka Haji Abdul Rahim attended the dialogue session.

Deputy Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry Dato Seri Paduka Awang Haji Matsatejo bin Sokiaw; Permanent Secretary (Energy) at the MEMI Haji Azhar bin Haji Yahya; Permanent Secretary (Manpower) at the MEMI Haji Zolkiflee bin Haji Abdul Karim; Permanent Secretary (Industry) at the MEMI Pengiran Haji Mohd Hasnan bin Pengiran Haji Ali Hassan; Deputy Permanent Secretary (Corporate and Industry) at the MEMI Hajah Tutiaty binti Haji Abdul Wahab; Deputy Permanent Secretary (Energy and Power) at the MEMI Pengiran Haji Jamra Weira bin Pengiran Haji Petra; Chief Executive Officer of DARe Javed Ahmad; and officials from MEMI, Department of Electrical Services, Autoriti Elektrik Negara Brunei Darussalam; DARe; and SHENA were also present.

Presentations on each of the ministry’s portfolios, namely Energy, Manpower and Industry, were delivered by Haji Azhar, Haji Zolkiflee and Pengiran Haji Mohd Hasnan.