Today, 11 Ph.D students from SBE UBD (including myself) attended an event tiled "The Economic Blueprint of Brunei Darussalam: Looking Ahead" at Radisson Hotel, Bandar Seri Begawan. For me, it was the first seminar-like event I attended in Brunei. The main speaker of the event was Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, CFA (a minister at the Prime Minister's Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II). Since I am new to the Brunei's economy, so was little bit curious about Brunei's economy and I noted some important points from the event as follows.
First, Brunei Government has been struggling to diversify its economy, meaning that it does not want its GDP to be dominated by oil and gasses anymore. Some efforts have been made, such as creating policies to support government and private sectors in food, tourism, and ICT industries. However, boosting private sectors with small number of population is rather challenging. Thus, finding overseas market (export) is definitely the right choice to take. In addition, Brunei has also taken several steps to be less dependent on other nations considering the world is getting more fragile (such as caused by the Covid-19). For instance, Brunei government has built its fertilizer company, named, Brunei Fertiliser Company (BFI) which produces urea and others fertilizers for fulfilling the need of local needs and exports.
Second, the speaker shared us several problems of Brunei, which are the homework awaiting for the solutions. The first problem deals with most of Bruneian's mindset for always depending on the government. Yes, it is nice to have many goods or services in Brunei subsidized by the government, such as petrol (gasoline) and housing. Yet, this may have created people's mindset to always be in the comfort zone. The second problem is related to the capital outflow that is happening due to the increasing interest rates in UK and the US (due to inflation). Amidst the effort of increasing foreign direct investment for supporting the economy, this capital outflow is a serious issue, especially for a tiny country like Brunei.
As any other country in the world, Brunei is facing its unique economic problems that need to be solved. Once it has been striken by Covid-19, but it was successful to tackle it. Other issues outlined above should be addressed and solved properly by government, private institutions, academia, and all parties. To my knowledge, I am quite certain that those issues can be solved, God willing!