Brunei needs to engage in more public-private partnerships (PPP) and embrace digitalisation in order to spur economic growth, develop infrastructure as well as create employment opportunities, speakers at a business forum said yesterday.

Although the sultanate has already started taking on a number of PPP projects, “more needs to be done”, said the Canadian chief of mission to Brunei Darussalam.

“PPP achieves sustainable long‐term investment and provides a solution to the country’s reliance on its oil and gas resources,” said Caterina Ventura, adding that it will also help address Brunei’s infrastructure gap.

Since adapting this model, she said that Canada is now a world leading PPP ecosystem. “These projects have saved governments $28 billion. More importantly, PPP projects (in Canada) are creating 115,000 jobs and generating $5.2 billion of additional wages on average every year.”

Ultimately, the Canadian high commissioner said, with greater infrastructure capacity, Brunei could mobilise available capital and attract more foreign direct investment across many sectors to help meet its National Vision 2035.

Towards meeting this goal, the CEO of BAG Networks Haslina Taib, stressed that businesses in Brunei have to shift towards being “online”, pointing out the potentials of a digital economy.

As of December 2017, the global online population stands at 4.1 billion, two billion of which are in the Asia region. As the internet penetration rate grows, it becomes crucial for local businesses to start thinking digital.

Haslina said:

In the UK, five per cent of total employment has been created online. If we translate this into the Brunei perspective, five percent of total working population would equal to 10,000 jobs being created.

Digital economy refers to the economic activity from online connections. Some of the world’s largest businesses — such as Alibaba, Uber and Amazon — have grown on the back of rapid human connectivity through the internet and mobile technology.

The main benefits for businesses to go online include being able to offer better and faster services, savings on overhead costs as well as more customer spending and higher revenue. Meanwhile, for governments, Haslina cited process improvements, transparency and accountability resulting in ease of doing business and increased data security for business transactions.

The speakers were presenting their topics during the Brunei Malay Chamber of Commerce (DPPMB) fourth World Cafe’ Forum yesterday which carried the theme “Accomplishing the National Vision”.

The annual forum has become one of DPPMB’s flagship programmes where members of the business community take part in a dialogue with various stakeholders and get insights from industry experts.

“In the last five years since the first World Cafe’ dialogue, we have seen significant developments in national strategies aimed at helping businesses such as the introduction of Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) in 2016,” the DPPMB president, Dr Hj Kamaruddin Dato Seri Paduka Hj Talib said.