BRUNEI-MUARA – With the non-oil and gas sector contributing only three percent to the nation’s total exports, the Minister of Manpower, Energy and Industry called on Bruneian MSMEs to be more export-oriented and play their part in economic diversification.

YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mat Suny Hj Md Hussein was speaking at the launch of the MSME Festival — the biggest event organised by Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) so far — on Thursday morning at BRIDEX Hall which showcased more than 200 Bruneian businesses.

“We have entered a global era that brings with it new challenges and opportunities. The sustainability of businesses in the long-term will depend on their capability to penetrate the international market,” he said.

Based on the Economic Census of Enterprises 2016, the minister said that 96 per cent of locally owned businesses in Brunei are MSMEs (5,128 out of the total 5,342) and they contribute about 35 percent of the overall revenue generated by Bruneian businesses.

With MSMEs employing over 115,000 people, the minister said he was confident they could be a driver of economic growth and job creation.

But local MSMEs need to be more competitive, export-oriented, and strengthen the quality of their products, he said, noting that Bruneian businesses have to strive for niche markets to set themselves apart from competitors.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mat Suny also called on DARe to work with entrepreneurs to increase participation in the downstream oil and gas, food, tourism, services, ICT and manufacturing sectors, where participation from local companies has traditionally been low.

CEO of DARe, Javed Ahmed, giving his welcoming remarks at the Brunei MSME Festival on March 28, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

DARe CEO Javed Ahmad said the main objective of the festival was to provide local MSMEs with market access, while also promoting business reforms from the public sector and opportunities in the private sector.

“We also took the opportunity to invite foreign distributors so that ‘Made in Brunei’ products may be marketed in their respective countries”.

In a recent interview, Javed said it is still challenging for local businesses to enter export markets.

“If you have something unique to offer, you can charge a higher price, but if you don’t, then your pricing has to be competitive,” he said.

“When we talk about pricing, we also have to take into account the cost of other things; transport, customs and excise duties, when you add all these together, will the product still be competitive?”.

Noor Azian Romlan, director of the Sabah Regional Office of the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation, said companies’ lack of export readiness is often a factor in their failure.

“Most of us entrepreneurs, we are eager to enter the international markets, having our products sell overseas. But often, we don’t know the markets, the competition in the market, the import regulations,” she said.

“In business, you need to know the playing field”.