By Azlan Othman
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday visited the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) in the capital. His Majesty was accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The Royal guests were warmly greeted by the respective officers and members of the BEDB staff, who felt truly honoured and inspired by the visit. During the visit to the BEDB, His Majesty was briefed by the Acting Chairman of BEDB, Mr Timothy Ong and the CEO, Mr John Perry with important matters dealing with the BEDB's strategy and projects aimed at expanding employment and business opportunities for the people in this country.
The BEDB briefing focussed on the development of Sungai Liang as a world class industrial park envisaged to house world-scale petrochemical projects including a methanol plant and a fertiliser plant with potential for spin-off industries and all the utilities needed to support these activities. An essential element of the Sg. Liang development is the creation of the Sg. Liang authority, which will have full responsibility for the site. A true One Stop Agency, which is of fundamental importance to investors.
The strategy to develop Pulau Muara Besar (PMB) as a global port, export processing zone and manufacturing centre was elaborated at the briefing. PMB is also envisaged to host the development of an aluminium smelter and the many spin-off activities related to this industry. ALCOA, who has entered into an MoU with the BEDB, is of the belief that PMB has the potential to establish Brunei as the regional centre for the aluminium industry, with all the inherent benefits.
These two developments are expected to create new investment of US$4 billion, over 7,000 new jobs and huge business opportunities for local small and medium sized entreprisers (SMEs). The briefing also included the BEDB's initiatives to support local SMEs through the development of Brunei's first SME Innovation Centre at Anggerek Desa near the capital. The Centre, which is scheduled for completion in July this year, will have facilities and mentoring programs for 21 local and joint venture IT companies.
The centre has a mission to provide both technical and logistical support to local young technoprenuers to further explore business opportunities in ICT related areas such as networks security, software development and management information system and commercial games amongst others.
After the briefing, His Majesty toured the BEDB's offices, namely the Planning Coordination, Business Development such as SME Development, Innovation Centre & Public Outreach Unit, Corporate such as Logistics, Administration, Account, International Division such as Sungai Liang Industrial Park and also met the staff.
Mr. Timothy Ong, the Acting Chairman, said, "the BEDB is very honoured and encouraged by His Majesty's visit. We are inspired to work even harder towards our objective of expanding employment and business opportunities in Brunei".
The BEDB, reestablished in November 2001, has been tasked by His Majesty's government to diversify's the country's economy and create employment opportunities for its people.
The BEDB has since embarked on a two-pronged strategy to attract FDI into Brunei. In the essence, the strategy involved the creation of two new centres of commercial development and thereby broaden the base of socio-economic development in Brunei.
- Borneo Bulletin
(24th Mar 2006)