ASEAN economies, including Brunei, need to start investing in “the right places” to reach its economic potential, the second minister of finance said on Thursday, citing infrastructure projects and MSMEs.

ASEAN — a 10-member bloc –is predicted to become the fourth-largest economy by 2030, after China, America and the European Union.

“This is where the banking industry plays a pivotal role to offer opportunities for us all to invest in our future,” YB Dato Seri Set Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah, said during the opening of the two-day 48th ASEAN Banking Council Meeting.

YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew (6th R) in a group photo with members attending the 48th ASEAN Banking Council Meeting on Thursday. Photo: Hadthiah Hazair/ The Scoop

“MSMEs make up almost 90 percent of business activity in the region… With the right investments and support from the banking industry, we can nurture [them] so that they will grow into multinational conglomerates in our region,” the minister said.

Citing a recent report from the Asian Banking General Meeting, Dato Amin Liew said that between 2016 and 2030, it is estimated that the Asian region needs an estimated $1.7 trillion annually to support infrastructure projects.

“We need to support rapid urbanisation and regional connectivity to add impetus to further economic activity and trade between nations.”

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Rebounding oil prices, construction projects boosting Brunei’s GDP

On Brunei’s economic outlook, the minister acknowledged the positive trend due to recovering oil prices.

However, he stressed the momentum needs to be intensified by focusing on FDI projects involving sectors which has potential such as “technology and creative industries, tourism, downstream oil and gas, business services, and halal manufacturing”.

Meanwhile, in a presentation to attending members of the council, IHS Markit economist Rajiv Biswas, said that it expects Brunei’s economy to improve in the near future, with an estimated GDP growth of 5.8 percent in 2019.

“[This is thanks to] strengthening global oil prices and new chemicals projects,” he said, noting that construction projects will also support Brunei’s economic growth.

“The Brunei government has increased the pace of construction activity on Pulau Muara Besar to have it ready for a major foreign- financed oil refinery project. Several road and bridge projects are also underway,” he noted.

Recently published GDP statistics by the Department of Economic Planning and Development showed modest growth in the construction sector at 6.5 percent during the second quarter of 2018.