His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday attended a roundtable dialogue with business leaders from China investing in projects in the Sultanate.
The monarch, accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen, took questions from the Bank of China (Hong Kong), Hengyi, Huawei and Beibu Gulf on investment opportunities, ongoing projects and economic reforms in Brunei.
The dialogue, hosted as part of the 14th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (CABIS) at the Liyuan Grand Metropark Hotel, was moderated by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng. CABIS also runs concurrently with Brunei’s status as Country of Honour at the 14th China-ASEAN expo.
Here are the excerpts from the dialogue.
CEO of Bank of China (Hong Kong) Yue Yi asked about Brunei’s efforts to create a more favourable business environment for foreign companies investing in Brunei as well as local micro, small and medium enterprises.
His Majesty: My government has embarked on numerous reforms to improve the country’s business environment. We have done this by enhancing our efficiency, reducing the cost of doing business, and strengthening our legal framework.
These past few years, our emphasis has been on implementing initiatives designed specifically to help businesses succeed. We have created a body whose members include business people to assist in the development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in Brunei.
We understand the importance of easing the process in starting a business. That’s why we have established a Business Support Centre, represented by 16 different government agencies, to help guide start-ups and new enterprises adapt to the business environment.
Alongside this, we have streamlined the foreign investment approval process, which will help to fast-track decisions. As part of our pro-investor stance, we also have comprehensive intellectual property laws to ensure that your innovations are protected worldwide.
In the interest of promoting transparency on our trade regime, we launched our National Trade Repository last year. This is an online portal that provides companies with trade-related information on Brunei, including the country’s trade and tariff regimes.
I assure you that my government remains committed to creating a pro-business environment in Brunei Darussalam, by working with key players in the industry for the benefit of both foreign and domestic companies.
Chairman of Zhejiang Hengyi Group Co., Ltd Qiu Jianlin asked about HM’s expectations and requirements for the Pulau Muara Besar project – a multi billion dollar refinery and petrochemical plant it’s investing in and developing.
His Majesty: The upstream oil and gas sector has been an integral part of our economy for decades. We are now focusing our attention on developing the downstream sector. We are pleased to partner with Hengyi, in establishing a refinery and petrochemical plant.
We acknowledge and appreciate your role in the development of Pulau Muara Besar. Your project is important, in helping to secure the supply of petroleum products for our domestic needs. It will also provide employment opportunities for our people. I hope we will continue to work closely together.
We want to ensure that aspects of the project will be executed successfully, and with the highest regard to safety and care for our environment.
We expect this project to create other spin off ventures for our Micro, Small and Medium enterprises. At the same time, we also hope that it will help us develop the skills and competencies of our people.
Chairman of Guangxi Beibu Gulf International Port Group Co. Ltd Zhou Xiaoxi, whose company has established a joint venture with Darussalam Assets to set up the Muara Port Company said they hoped His Majesty would support their initiatives.
His Majesty: We appreciate your commitment in helping develop the Muara Port. Its strategic location presents significant potential as a gateway to international trade and to support the growth of economic activities.
With your company’s long-standing experience in this sector, our vision to become a regional transhipment hub can be realized. We established the joint venture with Beibu to help us improve cargo handling efficiency and reduce costs.
This has allowed us to reduce port charges, and pass the savings on to our businesses. Last year, we reduced container charges by 36%. This is part of our efforts to reduce overall logistics costs and to benefit businesses.
Ideally, there are many opportunities for us to work together towards positioning Brunei as a regional Logistics Hub. We welcome your continued commitment in this very important sector, which is crucial towards our economic diversification efforts.
We also welcome others who many also be interested.
Huawei Technologies’ Co. Ltd Wang Hui asked about the development digital economy and connectivity in Brunei.
His Majesty: We too share the same aspirations as our ASEAN neighbours in becoming a digital economy nation. It has become a key strategy in our national economic development plan.
We want to develop our digital connectivity, so our people can take advantage of the many opportunities it offers. E-Commerce is one of the areas where we are helping our companies expand their reach to support the growth of our industries.
We want to provide infrastructure that can remain relevant, and ensure a secure ecosystem for economic activities. Technology, however, changes rapidly and it has become quite a challenge for governments to keep up.
Therefore, we recognize the need to work closely with industry players like Huawei. With your knowledge and expertise, we appreciate your suggestion and advice on how we can reach our digital economy aspirations.