Minister of Energy and Industry Pehin Dato Hj Yasmin. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Brunei has climbed to 56 out of 190 economies for ease of doing business, according to a World Bank report released yesterday.

It marks an improvement of 16 places from the 2016 ranking of 72 — with Brunei named the “most improved” country for the third year running. Just three years ago, Brunei was ranked at 105.

The improvement reflects a series of government reforms aimed at improving the business climate, said Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Mohammad Yasmin Hj Umar, the minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office (EIDPMO).

Speaking to media upon the release of the World Bank Doing Business Report 2018, the energy minister said while the report assesses the domestic business environment, it also has a direct impact on attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country.

Where Brunei ranks for each indicator in the ‘Doing Business’ report. Source: EIDPMO

Over the past four years, Brunei has been implementing a series of reforms to attract FDI and encourage the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), in a bid to diversify the economy away from oil and gas.

Sustained low global oil prices has seen government revenue fall by 70 per cent in the past three years.

According to statistics from the Economic Planning and Development Department, FDI into non-oil and gas sectors increased from two per cent in 2012 to 32 per cent in 2015.

Key regulatory reforms have improved ability to obtain credit; ease of starting a business; protection for minority investors; and enforcing contracts.

Key reasons for improvement in ‘Doing Business’ ranking. Source: EIDPMO

“We are moving into the right direction… And we will do better and we will work hard on this,” said Pehin Dato Hj Yasmin, who chairs the Ease of Doing Business Committee.

Brunei now ranks fourth in ASEAN behind Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. It ranks eleventh in Asia Pacific, ahead of global giants China and India.

New Zealand was ranked the overall best country to do business in, followed by Singapore and Denmark.

Top 10 countries to do business in, according to the World Bank. Source: World Bank

The indicators where Brunei performed poorly are registering property; trading across borders; and paying taxes.

These areas require more efficient, streamlined processes and “innovative business regulations”, said the minister.  

“The reasons for the decline is due to an increase of procedures, time and cost… Some of the reforms will also take one or two years for the impact to be realised or felt by the private sector,” he said.

Trade remained an area of particular concern, Pehin Dato Hj Yasmin added, due to port inefficiency. Brunei ranked 144 out of 190 economies for trading across borders.

Key indicators where Brunei’s ranking has fallen. Source: EIDPMO

The Doing Business Report is released annually by the World Bank and measures the regulatory environment and efficiency of 190 economies.

For EIDPMO’s breakdown of Brunei’s performance in the report, click here. For the full World Bank report, click here.