Competitiveness no longer an option for Brunei

National 2 minutes, 26 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

Brunei lags behind even in region; more efforts needed to make it competitive, says deputy minister

BEING competitive is no longer a choice but a priority for Brunei to succeed in achieving social and economic development, as small economies like Brunei's run the risk of being "swamped" by bigger and stronger economies, said the Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister's Office.

Brunei's current level of competitiveness still lags behind other countries and well-synchronised efforts must be made to make it competitive, said Dato Seri Paduka Eusoff Agaki Hj Ismail yesterday.

"We all need to align our goals, communicate our objectives, share our implementation concerns and together build our capacity to respond to the ever-changing environment that will continuously challenge our mission," he said during the Brunei Economic Development Board's Stakeholders Forum at Sheraton Utama Hotel.

It has been illustrated that Brunei was still lagging when a Monitor Group study ranked Brunei 26th out of 81 countries in its Microeconomic Competitiveness Index in 2003, he said.

This is further substantiated when the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business showed that Brunei is ranked 78th out of 178 countries, "sadly lower than some of our neighbouring countries", he added.

"Having said that, we must not be pessimistic because these rankings can be improved by devising mechanisms to overcome the challenges and causes for our poor performance," the deputy minister said.

He stressed that competitiveness must be a "multi-stakeholder undertaking", whereby — policymakers, implementers in the government, and economic players in the private sector — are involved to achieve favourable results in the global economy.

"It is also imperative that the decision-making processes are improved by strengthening coordination among the relevant government agencies," the deputy minister said.

"For instance, streamlining and re-engineering processes and procedures to overcome the issue of red tape," he said.

Furthermore, Dato Eusoff also called for a more prudent and strategic management of Brunei's non-renewable resources, due to its fluctuating prices which have a profound impact on Bruneians' welfare and future generations.

Brunei's continued over-dependence on its oil and gas industry is one of the country's major challenges, thus the importance for economic diversification and attracting foreign direct investments, he said.

"We, with our limited resources cannot afford to have initiatives and programmes which are fragmented."

He said that building close partnerships in collaboration with key stakeholders in the government is pivotal in implementing national development programmes.

"We need the private and public sectors to work together. We need a harmonious partnership; a sense of belonging.

"We need to create new opportunities in terms of both business and employment which are compatible with the local environment," he added.

The deputy minister remarked that sound national economic policies will be seen as guidelines for local and foreign investors, providing them the confidence to make investment decisions in Brunei.

"Policies on public-private partnership as such, are crucial for boosting private sector involvement in the socio-economic development initiatives," he said.

The Brunei Times