BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei must take advantage of the economic opportunities within ASEAN by building e-commerce and strengthening intra-regional trade, the monarch said in a televised address on Monday.

While Brunei’s economy is forecasted to expand by 5.8 percent in 2019, after several years of negative growth, His Majesty warned against complacency and laziness, saying there are still many challenges the country faces.

With the ASEAN single market projected to become the world’s fourth largest economy by 2030, the country must redouble efforts to boost trade with its Southeast Asian neighbours, he said in his New Year’s titah.

“Developing the economy includes participating in the global network to increase productivity and opportunities,” he said. “The ASEAN region is moving fast towards economic growth… We must work towards the process of building the ASEAN Community itself, so we can ensure success for present and future generations.”

With the ASEAN e-commerce market predicted to grow from US$30 billion in 2016 to US$200 billion in 2025, the monarch urged stakeholders to embrace digital technology and lift industry standards so Brunei can reap the reward of ASEAN’s massive growth.

This means Brunei must enhance its cooperation with other countries, His Majesty said, adding that advances in technology will “challenge our conventional skills”, requiring us to invest in lifelong learning.

While the focus of the titah was on ASEAN and international economic cooperation, the sultan also reiterated the need to prioritise food security and self-sufficiency through agriculture.

”This is the target or goal that we want to achieve. We will keep at it until we succeed. The relevant parties in the government have to understand this, there are no more reasons to ignore it.”

It is important to ensure that Brunei moves forward consistently, and not take a step back, he said, so the nation does not become afflicted by “lazy syndrome”.