His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has called on parliamentarians to be unafraid to air opinions and suggestions that may bring positive change to the country.

Speaking at the opening of the 14th session of the Legislative Council (LegCo) this morning, the monarch said he wished to see more effort in diversifying the economy; increases in national rice production; strengthening of local talent and expertise; and better enforcement of tobacco and waste management laws.

“As a country that is still heavily reliant on oil and gas, we need to take a more active role in diversifying our economy. Although global oil prices have begun to recover and have somewhat stabilised, this is not enough to tackle slow economic growth,” His Majesty said.

HM the Sultan addressing members of the Legislative Council during the opening of parliament. Photo: Infofoto

He reminded his government to be mindful of the national fiscal balance.

Austerity measures alone without putting in any accompanying effort will no longer suffice. In order to boost our GDP, we need to explore fields which can no longer be ignored.

His Majesty said one of the fields that should be explored with “utmost importance” is the agricultural sector.

“We need to be independent and become self-sufficient in rice production. Work on this until we see results,” he urged.

On the topic of Brunei’s oil and gas reserves, His Majesty stressed the importance of good management.

“Don’t just be proud of our oil and gas wealth, we also need to be good at managing it. Despite having discovered oil and gas a century ago, our local people still lack maturity when it comes to its management.”

His Majesty noted that the energy sector continues to be reliant on foreign consultants and expertise, calling on relevant parties to reduce this dependency.

“We need to take a closer look into this matter. I do not doubt that Brunei is capable of producing competent youth to take on higher positions [within the oil and gas sector]. Find out what has gone wrong here,” he said.

Senior government officials attend the opening of the 2018 Legislative Council. Photo: Rudolf Portillo

The monarch added that development will not run smoothly if there are areas of mismanagement, saying it is important to properly enforce existing laws and regulations.

“Simply having the laws and regulations in place will not change anything if they are not respected and enforced.”

His Majesty pointed out that persistent littering and illegal rubbish dumping still plagues certain areas of the country and called for an increase in fines to nip the problem at the bud.

The Legislative Council is Brunei’s annual session of parliament held over a fortnight in early March.

The council comprises a total of 36 members, including His Majesty the Sultan; His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office; the 14 cabinet ministers; and 20 appointed members which include state dignitaries, grassroots leaders and representatives from various professional, social and religious groups.

WATCH: The opening of the Legislative Council for 2018