BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The privatisation of state-owned entities continue to be a main priority for the Ministry of Transportation and Infocommunications (MTIC), with the corporatisation of the Postal Services Department set to be implemented this year.

Tabling a $53.7 million budget, YB Dato Seri Setia Abdul Mutalib Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Hj Mohammad Yusof said that in the 2019/2020 fiscal year, the ministry’s main priority is to implement initiatives that will foster the growth of both the transportation and the ICT sectors in the country.

During the session, the minister mentioned two important initiatives that the ministry will be working on this year including: expanding its privatisation initiatives to other departments under the ministry’s purview as well as enhancing the nation’s cyber security.

Though no timeline has been set, YB Dato Abd Mutalib said that the ministry will be working with Darussalam Assets in preparing business and human resource management strategies for the transformation, ultimately hoping that the private postal service entity would become a facilitator for e-commerce.

Minister of Transport and Infocommunications, YB Dato Abdul Mutalib, delivering his preamble during the Legislative Council session on March 20, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

He noted that the expansion of the ministry’s privatisation initiative has yielded encouraging results, citing a reduction in operational costs and an increase in productivity and efficiency as just some of the benefits.

According to the minister, since merging the Ports Department and the Marine Department into a regulatory body called the Brunei Darussalam Maritime and Port Authority (PBMP), a 20 percent cost reduction was recorded by PBMP in the 2018/2019 fiscal year.

“Under operations of the Muara Port Company, the number of containers managed in 2018 reached a record volume of 113,125 TEUs [twenty-feet equivalent unit], the highest [number] recorded since 2013”.

With the privatisation of postal services to be implemented this year, MTIC has already set its sight on privatising airport operations at the Brunei International Airport (BIA) in light of the growing number of airport passengers.

Though YB Dato Abdul Mutalib did not disclose the timeline, he added hat the process will involve the separation between the function of the Department of Civil Aviation as a regulator and management of airport operations.

“Based on the Airport Master Plan 2008, we have a projected target of three million airport passengers by 2032 [and] according to statistics provided by BIA, they recorded a 4.8 per cent increase to 1.88 million passengers in 2018.

“In light of this, we expect to reach the projected number of passengers sooner than expected”.

The establishment of a land transport authority and a civil aviation authority were also mentioned briefly during the session, however no further details were given.

Touching on ICT development in the country, the minister noted a number of initiatives to transform the country’s ICT sector, including the establishment of the National Cyber Security Centre — a governing body that will monitor and coordinate national efforts in combating cyber crime.

He said that to realise the country’s goal in achieving the status of a smart nation, a safe and secure system should be established, therefore aspects of the nation’s cyber security is one of the main priorities of the ministry.

“Currently the Internal Security Department is acting as the Cyber Security Centre [and] in the meantime they are working closely with IT Protective Security Service Sdn Bhd.

“In this regard, Brunei National Cyber Incidents Response Center (Brucert Services) will start to run extensively nation-wide by the second quarter of this year”.

Other initiatives that were touched on during the minister’s dialogue:

  • A budget of $10.5 million allocated towards transforming the public transport system through technology based solutions like the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) set to be implemented second or third quarter of next year.
  • The upgrade of public transport system expected to open up 500 to 700 job opportunities in the next five years.
  • The Maritime and Port Authority (PBMP) will be opening up 38 posts this year.
  • DART — Brunei’s first ride-sharing company — is expected to require a thousand drivers in the next five years, with its mobile application racking up 32,000 downloads and 30,000 users.