Brunei needs to zero in on few winning sectors

National 2 minutes, 9 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

CLEAR guidelines are needed for the business community to know which specific sectors the government wants to develop as winners in its economic diversification goal, a banker said yesterday.

"The government needs to plan a framework to allow private sector to determine the relevant sectors" that it wants to see flourish, Tareq Muhmood, chief executive officer of HSBC Brunei, told The Brunei Times.

And if it wants this to work, the government will have to zero in on a few sectors or "business initiatives" where it wishes to see winners emerge, he added.

Such clear guidelines can also make it easier for businessmen to develop and establish niche markets, he said.

Business areas that the government may look into as potential winners are tourism, halal food production and halal certification services, Tareq said.

On the other hand, the business sector should not be too dependent on government support to see their enterprises succeed.

"The private sector also has the responsibility to make things happen," Tareq said. "You sit and ask why the ministries are not doing this and that, but that is not in our control. You have to look at what is in our control and work on it."

The private sector, he explained, can be more pro-active by holding brainstorming sessions on relevant topics such as through the chambers of commerce. A group effort is more effective in either developing a sector or proposing ways to address concerns that affect business growth.

"In other countries what I have seen is that these chambers (of commerce) are used for private sectors to share and agree on ideas and then as a coherent whole they try and facilitate change," the HSBC Brunei chief said. "I haven't seen much of that here ... These sectors can make life and the economy easier."

Forums such as the Asia Inc National Business conference held last year allow the business chambers to raise issues that potentially lead to positive action.

"These chambers (of commerce) can allow things to be added as well as agree on required action plans," he said, citing as example the drafting of plans relating to legislative issues. Certain legislative issues related to business development that businessmen would like to see passed or acted upon can be done by stronger joint efforts of chamber members in seeking for dialogues with relevant government agencies.

"It could help the private sector tremendously, these are one of the real keys of opportunities that need to be developed," he added. This could lead to more effective results from economic diversification efforts, he added.

The Brunei Times