While Brunei Darussalam enjoyed enviable prosperity due to its huge oil and gas reserves, the Southeast Asian sultanate had to restudy its growth model a few years ago when the world price of oil fell sharply. Amid this protracted downturn, Brunei continues on its efforts to diversify its economy.
In 2008, the government launched a long-term national development plan, called “Wawasan Brunei 2035” or “Vision Brunei 2035." With its aim to have a sustainable economy, the government is aggressively developing new sources of revenue outside the oil and gas industries.
“Agriculture and fisheries are seen as attractive and promising industries to be tapped into. While our exports still depend mainly on oil and gas, which account for about 90 percent of Brunei Darussalam’s total exports, we hope to lead the growth of our primary resources sectors and make them significant contributors to GDP growth by
Yang Mulia Awang Yusof bin Haji Abdul Rahman, the head of the country’s monetary body, pointed out that the government has also committed itself to creating a business-friendly environment and improving the ease of doing business through the streamlining of certain processes, regulations and laws.
Over the past few years, the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) underwent restructuring several times as it focused on attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) more swiftly.
“The Brunei Economic Development Board continues to provide assistance and facilitation for foreign direct investment proposals by working closely with relevant agencies, such as the FDI Action and Support Centre (FAST), which is in charge of facilitating investors’ requirements, and Darussalam Enterprise (DARe), which will support these international investments once they are in full operation,” said BEDB Acting CEO Hajah Hasnah binti Ibrahim.
The streamlined process of setting up a business is expected to make Brunei Darussalam more attractive to investors. As the government works on expediting investments, the sultanate is also keen on providing more transparency and clarity.
“Brunei Darussalam has many advantages and has a conducive environment to attract FDI into the country,” said Apong.
The government is also promoting the geographical advantages of the sultanate.
“Brunei Darussalam is a perfect platform and gateway to the ASEAN market. In addition, we provide easy connectivity to the Middle East and China through our ports and airport. Also, our country has a stable political and macroeconomic environment. It has no history of significant natural disasters and low crime rates.
This stability provides a good living environment and means business interests are more secure, making Brunei Darussalam an ideal place for both family and business,” said Ibrahim.
While Japan is one of Brunei’s most important trading partners in terms of oil and gas exports, it is also an important investor. FDI from Japan grew from $14.29 million in 2013 to $24.31 million in 2014.
Japanese companies, particularly Mitsubishi Corp., have been key partners in several joint ventures in the oil and gas sector, including Brunei LNG, Brunei Shell Tankers, Brunei Gas Carriers and the Brunei Methanol Company.
Mitsubishi Corp. created new investment areas in Brunei such as renewable energy and biotech. But the government continues to work on attracting investment in agriculture, biotech and pharmaceuticals, logistics and aquaculture.
“The long-standing economic relationship between Japan and Brunei is well-established with further room to grow across all industries and not limited to collaboration in the oil and gas sectors; particularly with the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement,” Rahman said.
“The agriculture and agrifood, fisheries and forestry sectors contributed between 0.2 and 0.4 percent to our GDP in 2015. The target is to increase the overall GDP contribution to 7 percent by 2035. This can be attained by focusing on increasing the productivity through technology and research,” said Apong.
“With Japan’s new and advanced technology for the agriculture and agrifood, and fisheries sectors, I’m very optimistic we will be able to further attract investment and further strengthen our economic relationship,” he added.