| James Kon |
APPROACHES to address the continued challenges faced by the country in 2018, especially with regard to the increase in unemployment among locals and the need to rapidly develop industrial sectors were outlined by Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mat Suny bin Haji Mohd Hussein during the dialogue session between the Ministry of Energy, Manpower and Industry (MEMI) and Legislative Council (LegCo) members yesterday.
In his opening remarks, the minister highlighted the rebounding of Brunei’s economy and the expected continuation of this trend this year, as mentioned by 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 in the titah to welcome the New Year 2019.
“2018,” the minister said, “also brought a number of challenges to the country; among these was the volatile movement of oil prices. Therefore the MEMI played a vital role in strengthening regulation in the production of oil and gas to preserve the main source of revenue for the nation”.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mat Suny also raised the issue of rising unemployment in the country.
“The rate of unemployment has increased from 6.9 per cent in 2014 to 9.3 per cent in 2017, according to the Labour Force Survey published recently by the Department of Economic Planning and Development (JPKE),” he said. “Meanwhile, the gross domestic product (GDP) from the non-oil and gas sector is at its lowest level, contributing only 42 per cent to our total GDP last year.”
The minister stressed that growth in all sectors of the economy is needed to generate employment opportunities. He noted that every year there are about 6,500 new jobseekers entering the labour market.
“Thus, generating employment opportunities and new approaches in systematically filling up job positions with a local workforce has become the main focus for the ministry this year,” he said.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mat Suny said that the ministry has rolled out a “Bruneianisation Directive” for the oil and gas sector since June 2018, aimed at ensuring operators in the industry carry out effective succession planning to absorb locals into high positions within the sector.
“This directive Insya Allah, will be expanded onto the non-oil and gas sector this year,” he said. “Locals need to be mentored and given encouragement as well as opportunities to become leaders and drivers of the nation’s economic progress across all sectors.”
The minister also said that the ministry aims to render its support to bring about rapid development of the local industrial sector.
“There are still challenges from the implementation aspect and also in terms of effective planning to speed up economic production in order to contribute to the nation’s development.
“Therefore last year, the ministry gave priority to update the structure, functions, as well as areas of focus to bring positive impacts and raise efficiency in the way we carry out responsibilities and tasks within the ministry,” he said.
The minister added that the MEMI is currently in the progress of preparing its five-year economic diversification plan, with the blueprint scheduled to be launched this year.
Under this plan, the ministry “aims to create a diversified and sustainable economy led by the people of Brunei Darussalam for the prosperity of the nation,” he said.
“The ministry will also give its focus to regulating and managing the country’s hydrocarbon reserves effectively and maximise the value of the energy sector and ensure the sustainable development of the downstream energy and other industry sectors to reduce any adverse effects on the nation’s revenue resulting from deterioration in oil prices,” the minister continued.
“This is of the utmost importance to open up new job opportunities and generate continuous positive economic effects to bring benefits to entrepreneurs and local workers.”
The ministry, he highlighted, will also monitor the procedures in the appropriate supply of human resources, especially locals. In addition, a focus will also be put on strengthening the ecosystem for all matters contributing to long-term economic development.
The minister recalled that last year, the ministry launched the Safety, Health and Environment National Authority (SHENA) to monitor health, safety and environment issues in the country, “to ensure safety and prosperity at work”.
He noted that the Brunei Darussalam Electricity Authority was also established to improve regulatory oversight on the generation, installation and use of electric power supply for the well-being of the people.
“Support for entrepreneurship will also be looked into and strengthened further to empower local entrepreneurs,” Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mat Suny added.
“To uphold His Majesty’s titah in conjunction with the New Year 2019, we should increase our participation in global networks. Therefore, attention also should be given to increase the competitiveness and export capabilities of micro, small and medium Enterprises (MSMEs).”