Sultan's call to strengthen SMEs timely
By Azlan Othman

The call made by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to enhance and strengthen the small and medium sized entrepreneurs is timely, as the nation seeks to diversify the economy and strengthen the private sector.

The issue of promoting SMEs in the Sultanate was discussed during the Legislative Council deliberations of the 2007/2008 budget expenditure in March.

One of the key points highlighted was that the main cause of business failures for SMEs was not because of the lack of models. Instead, it was due to the lack of financial management expertise and knowledge in the field of technical, marketing and business management.

Several schemes have been introduced and implemented from time to time to assist the private sector. However, the achievement records of the support scheme to the entrepreneurs implemented by the government has yet to achieve the target, as only a small group of entrepreneurs have been successful in their business.

Towards enhancing the involvement of the private sector in diversifying the country's economy, several allocations were made for relevant agencies to activate appropriate programmes and projects to further strengthen the private sector.

These include implementing entrepreneurship programmes for the small and medium sized entrepreneurs to ensure that their businesses could be widened and become competitive in enhancing their business management field such as the provision of business plans, financial planning, financing strategies, incubation programmes and so on.

In the 2007/2008 budget expenditure, some $138.4 million were allocated for agencies directly related to expanding the entrepreneurship in the Sultanate.

Small and medium sized entrepreneurs could also benefit from the spin-off effects created by attracting Multi National Corporations (MNCs) to invest in the country.

In addition, every ministry and department has been encouraged to open up more opportunities to the SMEs by identifying activities that could be implemented through outsourcing.

This would not only enhance the country's economy on the whole, but also strengthen the private sector in this country.

Furthermore, it could upgrade the efficiency of departments and help to reduce the size of the public service in the long run.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources provides assistance to SMEs through the Entrepreneurial Development Centre in Sinaut and Business Incubator Centre in Kg Anggerek Desa.

Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) also plays a role in supporting the SMEs, particularly technoprenuers, through the SME Innovation Centre.

Official statistics revealed that in 2002, out of 6,817 companies established, 72.9 per cent were small entrepreneurs, while 25.5 per cent were medium sized entrepreneurs. - Borneo Bulletin (17th July 2007)