Setting the stage for change

Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam as the ASEAN chair will host two major events this year – the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2021 on October 25 and the ASEAN Business Awards 2021 on November 5, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) revealed.

Speaking to the local media, Chairperson of ASEAN-BAC, Brunei Darussalam and Legislative Council member (LegCo) Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty binti Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Abdul Rahman said, “We will let Brunei businesses hear from world leaders who will talk live in Brunei Darussalam and expose our small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to these world leaders and corporate figures to encourage local entreprenuers and see what is beyond Brunei Darussalam. There are a lot of opportunities for our SMEs.”

A kick-off event was held on July 7 with the launching of the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2021 and ASEAN Business Awards 2021.

The ASEAN Business and Investment Summit is Southeast Asia’s premier annual forum that brings together the heads of state, presidents, prime ministers as well as business and thought leaders of ASEAN and its global partners.

It is a unique platform to hear how the key issues facing the region are being addressed and to discuss how to ensure the opportunities in ASEAN’s vibrant economies are reaped sustainably and inclusively. The coronavirus continues to impact lives and livelihoods across Southeast Asia.

The pandemic has caused the world to stop, rethink business models and social contracts and reconsider the future of work and education. This year’s theme ‘Building Our Sustainable Digital Future’ will focus on how it can build back better and recover stronger, together.

It was shared that Brunei is delighted to be hosting the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2021 and showcasing its leadership and Chairmanship of ASEAN to the world. The hybrid event will be online and in person. It will be a pivotal event at a crucial time where the public and private sectors can come together and identify ways to promote inclusive sustainable growth in a digital age.

In addition, two ASEAN Business Roundtables will take place in August and September, enabling a deeper dive into topics ahead of the summit.

The roundtables will be held online and focus on Fintech in August 2021 and on Education in September 2021 with the theme ‘Skills for a Digital Age’.

Meanwhile, the ASEAN Business Awards have been established for over 10 years and aim to recognise outstanding key enterprises that have contributed significantly to the ASEAN region.

Yang Berhormat Siti Rozaimeriyanty said that as Brunei Darussalam aspires towards a dynamic and sustainable economy, the development of micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is an essential component of the national vision.

According to Brunei’s economic blueprint, the number of MSMEs increased by about 3.4 per cent from 2015 to 2019. More effort is needed to integrate our local MSMEs into the value chain which will maximise in-country value.

Reiterating facilitation of MSME development as one of ASEAN-BAC priority areas is to strengthen their role in increasing their accessibility to finance and market – further pushing towards inclusive ASEAN and enhance the region’s economic integration as well as connectivity.

She said that it is through a spirit of collaboration and a whole-of-nation approach at the heart of our recovery efforts that we can overcome the challenges and build a resilient stronger future together. The ASEAN-BAC chairmanship theme this year – ‘Recover, Stronger, Together, Sama-Sama’ – reflects the unity of ASEAN and the need for collaboration in these difficult times.

Launched in April 2003, ASEAN-BAC was set up with the mandate to provide private sector feedback and guidance to boost ASEAN’s efforts towards economic integration.

Aside from providing private sector feedback on the implementation of ASEAN economic cooperation, the council also identifies priority areas for consideration of the ASEAN leaders.

Accordingly, ASEAN-BAC’s activities are primarily focussed on reviewing and identifying issues to facilitate and promote economic cooperation and integration.

ASEAN-BAC members are appointed by their respective governments comprising high-level chief executive officers (CEOs) of companies from each member country and represented by three members per member country, with one representing the interest of SMEs.

Government focal points, at the ministerial level, have been assigned to assist ASEAN BAC to fulfill its mandate. In carrying out its objectives, ASEAN-BAC holds regular meetings across ASEAN member countries and engages in various ASEAN level forums to meet with government and private sector representatives so that all stakeholders concerned have the full understanding, acceptance, and ownership of the ASEAN integration process.