BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — The Ministry of Finance and Economy has unveiled the Brunei Darussalam Economic Blueprint, which sets goals to help the country move from a highly dependent oil and gas economy to a dynamic and sustainable economy. 

The economic blueprint, which was released on Wednesday, acts as a guide for achieving Wawasan Brunei 2035 targets.

It also aims to provide more meaningful and high-value employment opportunities as well as harness the latest technology in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Four main national goals have been identified:

  1. High and sustainable economic growth that is not affected by any economic uncertainties;
  2. Economic diversification to increase the contribution of the non-oil and gas sector;
  3. Macroeconomic stability, including moderate inflation, fiscal sustainability and trade surplus;
  4. Low unemployment rate.

The document stated that the country’s heavy dependence on oil and gas is reflected in its low economic growth and high unemployment rate.

“The importance of this blueprint is more apparent considering that we have yet to fulfill the four national economic outcomes with the country experiencing low economic growth compared to neighbouring countries in recent years,” it added.

The 38-page economic blueprint has also outlined six aspirations essential in achieving the goals.

Productive and vibrant businesses

Five priority sectors have been targeted for growth: downstream oil and gas, food, tourism, info-communications and technology (ICT) and services.

Since 2010, the non-oil and gas private sector grew 2.6 percent on average. However, its overall contribution to national GDP was less than 30 percent.

To create productive and vibrant businesses, the blueprint calls for Bruneian-owned businesses to be ambitious and driven to grow through increased collaboration and explore new market opportunities.

One of the strategic priorities outlined in the blueprint is promoting internationalisation of companies by facilitating and assisting local business to export their products and expand their operations overseas.

Brunei’s number of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) increased 3.4 percent from 2015 to 2019.

Skilled, adaptable and innovative people

The blueprint also outlined five strategic priorities to ensure Brunei’s workforce is ‘future-ready’.

One of the strategies include ensuring people are receptive and adaptive to global trends, while giving full support to national initiatives.

There is also a need to instill creative, entrepreneurial and innovative traits across society to ensure that businesses and the people can develop new technologies, ideas and products.

In 2019, a total 147,442 locals were employed. Of that figure, 49.5 percent (73,023) worked in the public sector.

Brunei’s unemployment rate stood at 6.8 percent in 2019, with its highest jobless rate at 9.3 percent in 2011 and 2017.

Source: MoFE

Open and globally-connected economy

Brunei will be positioned as an investment and trade-friendly destination to establish new trade opportunities and attract FDIs.

More market access opportunities will be sought to improve assist local businesses in expanding to foreign markets.

Exports of goods and services account for about 60.5 percent of the total GDP in the last 10 years.

As of 2019, FDI stock in Brunei amounted to $9.6 billion.

Sustainable environment

Brunei will remain mindful of the preservation of the environment in pursuit of economic progress, including venturing into sustainable development such as green technology and the blue economy.

The blueprint stressed on the importance of promoting research, development and innovation to develop and adopt eco-friendly and resource-efficient technologies; and limiting land and environmental degradation in any economic development activities.

Seventy-two percent of Brunei’s land area are covered by pristine rainforests while 20 percent of its total sea area has been designated as a marine protected area.

High quality and competitive economic infrastructure

To ensure businesses have the capacity to grow, the blueprint states that providing quality and competitive economic infrastructure is critical.

Having a well-connected, reliable and convenient land, sea and air transportation network can facilitate efficient movement of goods and services as well as people, it added.

Better digital infrastructure will also improve readiness and accessibility as well as the country’s quality of life, productivity, inter-connectivity and staying relevant in the fast-changing economic environment.

Good governance and public service excellence

The country also aims to improve its public service delivery by ensuring transparent and accountable governance.

This means free flow of information as well as responsible decision-making and enforcement involving governmental institutions, the private sector and civil society organisations.

The economic plan stated that it is necessary to have a strong legal system with updated laws and regulations to promote a conducive business environment.