Minister calls out SMEs to ‘step up to the plate’

National 3 minutes, 2 seconds

BELAIT

THE Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office challenged the country’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to step up to the plate and contribute to the nation’s economy as it faces the impact of dwindling oil prices.

Current oil prices have especially affected the oil and gas industry, Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Mohammad Yasmin Hj Umar said in his speech delivered by Energy Permanent Secretary Dato Paduka Hj Jamain Hj Julaihi at the Brunei Shell Joint Venture (BSJV) SME event in Seria yesterday.

“In this economic climate, SMEs need to be innovative and use technology to find more efficient ways of doing things and delivering their projects. SMEs should also find ways to contribute to the nation with your business.’’

The minister urged all SMEs not to give up even in this time of low oil prices and uncertain economic environment.

YB Pehin Dato Hj Mohd Yasmin said he firmly believes that the future is still bright for Brunei, but the environment now requires the hard work, innovation and collaboration of all those concerned – the government, the operators and the SMEs.

The minister told The Brunei Times it is pertinent now for all parties – public and private sectors – to work in tandem and in unity to push through and succeed.

YB Pehin Dato Hj Mohd Yasmin also told SMEs not to “get distracted by social media chatter and viral rumours”, and that honesty and openness in communication with the government is crucial. SMEs also need to be willing to learn, grow, be transparent and more innovative in order to reach a status where they can compete effectively domestically and regionally, YB Pehin Dato Hj Mohd Yasmin said.

The minister assured that the government will continue to provide business opportunities and development assistance, for business opportunities and development assistance for SMEs to survive in this environment.

Referring to the local business development (LBD) in the oil and gas industry since 2010 to 2015, he said local content spending has been boosted from 15 per cent to 54 per cent.

“As for employment, there are now 16,495 locals working in this sector out of around a total workforce of 26,205 – which is around 63 per cent against less than 50 per cent in 2010,’’ he said.

The minister added that for the first time since 2012, 43 local companies have been awarded contracts by BSJV companies, worth a total of $921 million. Apart from his visits to SMEs every two weeks, YB Pehin Dato Hj Mohd Yasmin said the Energy and Industry Department at the Prime Minister’s Office (EIDPMO) will continue to be an active facilitator in driving LBD to ensure better communication between the department and the industry. “The government’s objective is simple, which is to make Brunei a pro-business country. In order to diversify Brunei’s economy to non-oil and gas sector, it will require new government and private investment in this sector. The government investment would focus on creating a conducive business environment and having the required infrastructure,’’ he said. The government, the minister said, is working hard to ensure that opportunities will be available for SMEs to continue and develop their business.

“We are focusing on increasing out foreign direct investment (FDI) – two major examples are the petrochemical project in Pulau Muara Besar and Brunei Fertilizer Industries in the Sungai Liang Industrial Park, which will open several opportunities for local SMEs,’’ he said. The minister said the FDI Committee announced by His Majesty is central to these efforts, and the right FDIs will provide returns to the government and ensure benefits for local SMEs and employment for locals.

The Brunei Times