BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Increased participation of women and youth in business requires legal and regulatory reform to make it easier for SMEs to thrive, the Commonwealth Secretary-General said on Wednesday.

Speaking to Brunei media on the sidelines of a Commonwealth youth meeting, Patricia Scotland said regulatory frameworks governing small-to-medium enterprises could make or break the success of a business, or be a barrier to economic participation.

“The sorts of rules that we have to implement on trade and other matters are really important because SMEs are governed and led by young people and women,” she told The Scoop.

In Brunei, more than half of small businesses are owned by women, and 56 percent of applications for micro-financing are taken out by women.

Baroness Scotland said Commonwealth trade currently stands at about US$585 billion but they want to boost that figure to US$2 trillion by 2030, which requires greater economic participation of youth and women.

Baroness Scotland is in Brunei for the Commonwealth Youth Meeting for Senior Officers (Asia Region), which runs from August 27 to 29.

The three-day meeting — which involves senior officials from Brunei, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, and Sri Lanka — will focus on regional youth issues to improve the livelihoods and well-being of young people in the Commonwealth.