Thursday, January 31, 2013

Royalty at Sports Fest in 1970s

Royalty at Sports Fest in 1970s
by Haji Mohd Daud Abdul Rahman
Published in Borneo Bulletin on 19th January 2013

ONE can fondly remember of the days way back when royalties along with state dignitaries would embark to the Padang Besar Bandar Brunei to compete in a Sports Fest. The most favoured games were the tug-of-war, football friendly match and the sack race.

Leading the sporting events were His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Jefri Bolkiah, along with other royal family members.

The sack race was participated by Al-Marhum Begawan Sultan, heads of department and Pehin-Pehin Manteri, whereas the tug-of-war commenced with the team from His Majesty went head-to-head against heads of department led by Allahyarham Pehin Awang Haji Hussin, the Social Welfare Officer. The football match was held between the teams of Wazir-Wazir against the Pengiran-Pengiran Cheteria.

The padang was surrounded by the public and they watched the hilarious costume contest where men would dress up like women. The presentation of prizes was done by the then British High Commissioner, Mr Arthur Withson. Participating football teams would take a group photo with members of the royal family, state dignitaries, and heads of department with their winning trophy. The sports day was held in conjunction with His Majesty’s birthday during that time.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam with his late father Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien in a group photo with head of teams after the Sports Fest in 1970 (Source: Haji Daud Haji Abd Rahman)

Al-Marhum Begawan Sultan in a VIP football match (Haji Daud Haji Abd Rahman)

Al-Marhum Begawan Sultan prepares to take part in the sack race (Source: Haji Daud Haji Abd Rahman)

Tug-of-war between His Majesty’s team and team comprising Pehin-Pehin Manteri in 1970 (Source: Haji Daud Haji Abd Rahman)

Al-Marhum Begawan Sultan is welcomed upon arrival at the Sports Fest at Padang Besar Bandar Brunei (Source: Haji Daud Haji Abd Rahman)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Islamic Banking Growth in Brunei

Economic Update from The Oxford Business Group on 24th January 2013:


Brunei Darussalam: Islamic banking earmarked for further growth
Asia | 24 Jan 2013

The Islamic banking segment strengthened its position within Brunei Darussalam’s financial services industry last year on the back of rising demand that led to the launch of a new bank and major bond issuances. Having moved early to establish sharia-compliant services, the Sultanate is now well placed to carve out a niche for itself as an international Islamic banking centre. However, the industry will need to address a number of challenges, led by a shortage of skilled workers, if it is to fully support the segment’s development.

In mid-October, Standard Chartered Bank Brunei (SCB) said it was mulling plans to introduce Islamic banking products this year to meet increased demand for sharia-compliant banking services in the Sultanate. SCB’s announcement followed the September launch of the Islamic Bank of Brunei, which replaced the International Bank of Brunei as the sole domestically owned bank operating in the country.

The Tabung Amanah Islam Brunei was the first financial institution to offer savings and financing in accordance with Islamic principles when it was launched in 1991, followed two years later by the Islamic Bank of Brunei. They were joined in 2000 by the Islamic Development Bank of Brunei.

SCB’s CEO, Lai Pei-Si, told reporters during a media luncheon held at Hua Ho Manggis Mall in October that launching an Islamic bank was a “logical step to take and logical step to consider because Brunei has an express need for Islamic banking products”. He added that the bank would begin modestly by offering Islamic products, with hopes of bringing “much more comprehensive Islamic solutions into the country”.

In April, the managing director of Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam, Javed Ahmad, said the market share held by sharia-compliant banking was expected to increase to 60% from its current levels of 40-55% over the next five years.

Speaking at a seminar on Islamic finance, Ahmad said Brunei Darussalam’s strengths, led by strong economic and political stability, good infrastructure and government support, meant it was well placed to build a reputation as an Islamic financial centre. “With more aggressive marketing, Brunei Darussalam’s journey towards making itself an Islamic financial hub might become a possibility in the next few years,” he said.

A report prepared in December by global consultancy firm Ernst & Young said the worldwide value of Islamic banking would reach $1.55trn in 2012 and $1.8trn this year. Growth within the Muslim population of Middle East and North African countries and Asia, it added, were key drivers in the increasing demand for Islamic financial services. The Sultanate is clearly benefitting from early participation in the Islamic banking segment, having launched its first Islamic bond, the Short Term Government Sukuk Al-Ijarah programme worth BND150m ($111m) for a three-month certificate in April 2006.

In November, the Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD), which is acting as the central bank, announced the successful pricing of its 82nd issuance of sukuk, or Islamic bond, which was worth BND100m ($122.5m) at a rental rate of 0.16%. The move followed a $100m, 90-day issuance that matures this month.

While Brunei Darussalam is well placed to tap into growing interest in Islamic financial services, observers have highlighted the need for the Sultanate to develop new Islamic banking products if it is to maintain its position in the market.

“Understanding the theory of Maqasid al-Sharia (the objectives of Islamic law) and the defining characteristics of an Islamic bank could encourage the Islamic banking industry to improve and excel in their product innovation as well as financial intermediation that can be linked to economic growth,” Abdul Ghafar Ismail, a lecturer at the Research Centre for Islamic Economics and Finance, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said at a conference in May.

Industry experts believe the Sultanate is working to address these challenges, with a particular emphasis on improving staff training after human resources was identified as a factor that could limit its success in the field. “Having strengthened its operational base and regulatory framework, Brunei is now taking steps to address a shortage of trained industry professionals in the Islamic financial sector by providing on-the-job training and local universities offering bachelors, masters and doctorate degree programmes related to Islamic finance,” said Javed.

The Sultanate’s early entry into the Islamic financial services market has provided it with solid foundations to develop the industry. Experts suggest the sector should now shift its focus to exporting that expertise and consolidating a global role in sharia-compliant banking.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Memories of the Brunei River Regatta

The Brunei Regatta in the 1930s watched by the British Resident (Source: Brunei Archives)

Memories of the Brunei River Regatta
By Rozan Yunos
Published on The Brunei Times on 28th January 2013

After last year’s successful regatta, this year’s regatta at the Brunei River is expected to be an even bigger success. The Brunei Times on 25th January 2013 noted that a staggering number of competitors from Brunei and abroad have already signed up for ‘Regata Brunei Darussalam 2013’ to be held on 3 February - and even more are expected to take part including teams from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the United States.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam will be signaling the start in the afternoon whilst His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, will be in the morning. This year there will be 12 traditional boat race events, four speed boat events and two each for water taxis and jet skis. The boat race categories include the 12, 20, 25 and 30 Rowers Boat Races in various categories. His Majesty himself took part in the races last year.

The decision to revive the Regatta has to be applauded. The Brunei River has always been choc-a-bloc with activities. Though today’s activities are limited on using the river as the waterways with ‘perahu tambang’ criss-crossing the river to bring the residents of the Kampong Ayer to the other side and vice versa. Gone are the fishermen and the woman padians.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word ‘regatta’ was first used in 1729 and originally referred to a gondola race in Venice, where a grand rowing match was held in which many boats or gondoliers are rowed along the Grand Canal for a prize. Nowadays a regatta can refer to any kind of boat races including powered and unpowered crafts; or the whole event or festivities leading up to the races.

In Brunei, a regatta used to be called ‘berjanawari’, a word which will crop up every now and then among elderly folks in Brunei. Many theorized the word ‘berjanawari’ comes from the month January. For these folks, ‘berjanawari’ conjures up the time when January was a festive month. Those who celebrated during this period were known as ‘Orang berjanawari’.

By the 1950s, when Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien became the Sultan, the regatta was moved to September as that was the month of his birthday. By then, the name ‘berjanawari’ was no longer appropriate and was dropped.

Many remembered the regatta on Brunei River was much earlier than that. Some say that this regatta was first conjured up by the British as a way to celebrate their New Year here in Brunei Darussalam. In the early days, during the regatta, the river would be festooned with rows of British Union Jack flags rather than the black, yellow and white Brunei flags.

To most Bruneians who lived in Kampong Ayer, before the World War and after, ‘berjanawari’ is a most unique festival. It is a time when the river is jammed packed with boats. Some boats come ‘dressed’ for the occasion and some boats are said to be ‘berpanga’ - decked with a roof on top. This would be a time for spectators around Brunei who would come in their ‘tongkangs’ and other large boats. In those days too, when the border was deemed an administrative nuisance, Bruneians who lived in the non-Brunei areas would come flocking to Brunei.

Rowers and boats came from the other rivers near the Brunei River. They came from Lawas, Sipitang, Rangau, Baru-Baru, Awat-Awat and Limbang. Due to the distance of the other rowers, the ‘foreign’ rowers would come to Brunei with their family and stay here for those few days. Kampung Lela Menchanai was a favourite place for them to stay.

Some of the rowers would be bringing their own boats and race them against the other ‘river’ teams. Some would be paid or sponsored to race for a Brunei team. This was also the time for cows to be slaughtered to provide food for the mercenary rowers as well as for the celebratory festivities. There will be a series of races for the rowing boats, all finishing their races at the Royal Brunei Customs wharf. There were a number of categories including single rowers, a pair of rowers, a 20-men rowing team and a 30-men one.

The single rowers would race from Kampung Pengiran Pemancha to Customs Wharf, the double rowers from Kampung Pandai Besi, the 20 rowers from Jong Batu (just behind Istana Nurul Iman) and the 30 rowers from Luba (near Kampung Bunut).

The names of the boats used then were household names such as ‘Duri’, ‘Seri Tamoi’, ‘Paita’ and ‘Santana’.

Equally famous were the names of the ‘pencaruk’ and ‘pengemudi’, rather like the captains or players of today’s football team. The pencaruk is the one sitting up front who shouts encouragement to his teammates and is like the team captain. The pengemudi is the one at the back, ensuring that the boat steers the right course. Famous names included Pengiran Damit, Pengiran Haji Daud, Haji Bakar Bayau, Yassin, Ibrahim Metali and others.

Many elderly people recalled that Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien himself was a famous pencarok and would shout words of encouragement to his teammates during the race. He had a difficult task of manoeuvring the boat as pencarok and as lead rower.

In the book ‘Memoir Seorang Negarawan’ written by Dr Muhammad Hadi Muhamad Melayong, the author described His Highness Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa‘adul Khairi Waddien as a keen sportsman and one of his interests was to take part in boat races. His Highness team usually takes first prize and his boat named ‘Seri Gudam’ designed by His Highness himself won as many as six times. Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien himself took part in the rowing boat races and also the fast boats. For the fast boat, His Highness designed the boat himself and in the construction of the boat, he would be assisted by Pengarah Haji Mokti and Haji Murah. Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien has been known to construct boats as his hobby at both Istana Darussalam and Istana Darul Hana.

In the latter years when outboards fitted with power motors of about 15hp entered the scene, there was a new set of players and teams. Now boats like ‘Pila-Pila’, ‘Sporting Star’, and ‘Garuda’ appeared on the scene.

On the river banks too, there were a number of activities, rather like today’s nightly birthday celebrations for His Highness. There were so many people who came to Brunei, especially for the regatta, that something had to be done to entertain the visitors. This year, local products from across the country will be displayed by members of various Mukim and Village Consultative Councils to promote their mukims’ or villages’ local handicrafts and places of interests.

There would be a number of stage performances such as ‘Pertunjukan Pentas Bengsawan’, ‘Bangsawan Seri Noran’ and ‘Bangsawan Si Bakir’. These stage performances came from Singapore and Indonesia as well as the performers from Brunei. Last year, on the eve of the Regatta, performers and dancers from the Culture and Arts Division of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports performed various traditional and ethnic Brunei songs and dances.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

History of Temburong Roads

From Borneo Bulletin Archives
MAY 4, 1968 – Sappers from 67 Gurkha Independent Field Squadron have played a small but important part in launching the Brunei Government’s Temburong roading project.
Last year the squadron undertook to build the first access road for the contractors. It runs southwards for about three miles from the Bangar-Limbang road alongside the Sungai Pandaruan as far as Bukok.
And what a job it has turned out to be.
Gurkha plant operators have been on a seven-days-a-week working schedule to try to beat the bad weather. More than 50 per cent of working time has been lost through rain, which rapidly turns freshly-worked surfaces into sticky, unworkable mud if they have not been packed by rollers.
Just south of Kampong Belais a hillside section about 300 yards long has started to creep towards the river.
And on the home straight across low-lying padi land to Bukok an 800-yard stretch has to be built across soft, spongy ground, which undulates under vehicles even when it is dry.
The sappers decided the most economical way to cross the obstacle was to lay a raft-like foundation of old perforated steel plates and jungle poles and build the road on top of it.
Matched against problems like this, making cuttings through hills and laying 2,000 feet of steel culverting to bridge many small streams along the road’s route were simple.
The squadron took on the job for experience as well as to help the Brunei Government and the Temburong people. It has certainly had some useful experience.
After they had built their road across this hillside, the sappers discovered it was slowly moving towards the river. The half-submerged tress in the river were formerly growing on the bank

Low-budget road-building like 67 Gurkha Independent Field Squadron’s access road in the Temburong District involves a lot of hard labour like drain digging by hand

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pehin Lim: Learn Malay for a happier life

From Borneo Bulletin Archives

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (December 16, 1972) – If Brunei’s Chinese want a happy, stable life then they should learn more Malay, according to Brunei’s Chinese Privy Councillor, Pehin Datu Temenggong Dato Seri Paduka Awang Lim Cheng Choo. Earlier this week, he said he would like to see more teenagers learn the native language.

Most Chinese, he said, could speak a little Malay, but few were proficient at it.

“They must make a more serious attempt so they can mix more freely. Then everyone will get on better,” he said.

In an hour-long interview, Pehin Lim also said he would like to see the capital’s commercial centre expanded or modernised – and the State putting greater emphasis on agriculture.

He said that 100 shops were far too few for a capital, but neither did he want a conglomeration of skyscrapers.

Brunei should also become less dependent on other countries for its supply of food. There was plenty of available farm land which he thought could be cultivated for vegetables and fruit.

Pehin Lim, probably Brunei’s most respected Chinese leader, had no idea where the State was when he arrived with his father from China in 1915.

His mother died when he was young and his father, a hawker in Kampung Ayer, returned to China to collect him.

“We spent a whole month going by steamer from Hong Kong to Singapore and then several days more to Labuan,” he said.

From there, the two crossed to Muara where they boarded a small wooden boat for the final leg of the journey to Brunei Town (now Bandar Seri Begawan).

The town then had only one street – now Jalan Sultan – and the first big shop was owned by a friend from his village in China, Mr Ong Boon Pang, the father of Mr Ong Kim Kee, well-known businessman and cinema owner.

Pehin Lim, who had attended school in China, continued his studies at a private school and when he left, worked for Teck Guan, owned by Mr Ong.

Although only 16 at the time, he was already showing his business ability and Mr Ong let him run his pawn broker’s shop.

Business was indifferent, he said, as the people were poor and all they had to trade were gongs, brass and clothes.

Ten years later, when he married Mr Ong’s daughter, he was fully introduced to the business.

When Mr Ong died, Pehin Lim was one of four names to continue the Teck Guan interests.

Pehin Lim, known for his honesty, annoyed the Japanese when they occupied Brunei for his refusal to talk about the business or give them any information.

He was jailed for three days and beaten, but returned home still smiling wryly.

A friend said: “I’ve known him for years and he just will not lose his temper.”

Pehin Lim said it was a tradition among Brunei Royalty to appoint three Chinese officials. The others, he said, are Mr Lim Teck Hoo, who is Kapitan Cina, and Mr Hong Kok Tin who is Pehin Bendahara.

As Pehin Datu Temenggong, he has the highest rank of the three, but he had to be asked twice to accept it.

In 1959, he was one of the signatories to the British-Brunei agreement giving the State internal self-rule. The same year, when the Privy Council was formed his name was again on the list.

He said he received no salary, but was pleased to be of help to the Sultan. – Nigel Coventry

Monday, January 21, 2013

Car Made for a King

From Borneo Bulletin Archives

JULY 20, 1968 - This sleek black car, the first and only six-door Mercedes-Benz 600 Landaulet built, arrived in Brunei Town earlier this week for delivery to the Sultan.

Standing by its open doors are (from left) Mr Leon Gyselman, Manager of Borneo Traders, which is the Brunei agent for Mercedes cars, Mr J C Gorgels, the Daimler-Benz factory representative in Singapore and Mr Hans Hoffmann of Daimler-Benz’s export service.

Mr Gorgels and Mr Hoffmann came to Brunei with the Malaysian agent’s central service manager and an assistant to carry out the final preparation of the car before delivery.

Mr Gorgels said the Sultan’s car is the only six-door Mercedes 600 that has been made with a landau top, which folds back. The car was hand-made.

The 21-foot-long car weights 2.8 tonnes. It is powered by a 300-horsepower V8 fuel-injection petrol engine.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Coronation of the Sultan

From Borneo Bulletin Archives
AUGUST 3, 1968 – Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, 22, was crowned as the 29th ruler of Brunei in traditional ceremony in Brunei Town on August 1, 1968.
He drove through the sunny streets of his capital in a state coach drawn by 50 soldiers to the newly-completed Lapau, where his father, the Begawan Sir Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, placed the crown on his head.
Dignitaries from far and near watched the ancient ritual in the Lapau, while thousands of citizens and visitors crowded vantage points in the centre of the city, access to which (except for official vehicles) had been restricted from early in the morning.
After a traditional Muslim bathing ceremony at the Istana, heralded by a 21-gun salute, the Sultan rode in his new six-door Mercedes landaulet, with the rear roof lowered so that he was visible.
At the Fire Station, the Sultan dressed in red and gold ceremonial dress, glittering with the insignia of his decorations, boarded the State carriage with his equally brightly-dressed attendants.
The coach, lavishly decorated in gold and black with a throne upholstered in tiger skin, was specially made for the coronation. About 85 feet long, it was propelled on August 1, 1968, by 50 black-costumed Royal Brunei Malay Regiment soldiers.
The procession of carriage, red and black-robed warriors carrying lances, swords, shields and multi-coloured umbrellas then marched off through crowded streets to the Lapau.
On the eve of the coronation, Queen Elizabeth conferred on Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah the award of Honorary Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG).
The Royal carriage arrives at the Lapau for the crowning ceremony

The Begawan, Sir Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, whose abdication last October led to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah coming to the throne, places on his son’s head the golden crown, which with the traditional Keris Sinaga makes him ruler of Brunei

The scene in the Lapau when, having crowned the Sultan, the Begawan Sir Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien, drew his sword and signalled the court officials to pay homage

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Brunei's Written Constitution

29th September, 2009, Brunei Darussalam's 1959 Written Constitution is 50 years old. The Brunei Written Constitution and Brunei Agreement was signed on 29th of September 1959 between Brunei Government and the British Government at the Lapau Building, in Bandar Brunei. Through the declaration, the status of the country has been glorified in the international arena and Brunei developed in all areas including programmes towards the excellence of the race and nation.

Almarhum Sultan Haji 'Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien is the person who played important roles in the realization of the existence of constitution and to clear a way towards Independent Brunei. The late monarch declared plan to set up Written Constitution for Brunei in early May 1953. Al-Marhum stated his desire and ambition in his own Syair Perlembagaan. In line with the decision of the Legislative Council Meeting on the 10th April 1953, a seven-member committee was appointed and assigned to villages in all districts to seek the opinion of the villagers on the plan. The committee also visited several countries in Malay States Federation in January 1954 to review the constition system in those countries. The draft of the constitution was later arranged and in 1957, Al-Marhum went to England with a delegation for an informal talks.

Brunei's Written Constitution was signed by Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien on behalf of Brunei Government while the British General Commissioner for Southeast Asia, His Excellency Sir Robert Scott, signed for the British Government.

Efforts to implement the constitution were geared up since early 1959. On March 14,1959, Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien led a delegation to London to discuss the establishment of Brunei's Written Constitution. The outcome of the talks, almost all suggestion were approved. The manuscripts of the constitution was signed by the late monarch for Brunei Government and British Government was represented by State Secretary, Lord Allen Lennox Boyd.

Since 1959 until 1970s, Brunei's Written Constitution has brought many changes for the country according to the needs of the nation's constitution and religion. As the result of the amendment of 1959 Constitution, on November 23, 1971 at the Lapau a government was declared with full responsibility on the home affairs and the government of Her Majesty the Queen was no longer intervene in the administration of internal affairs.

The constitution has undergone a wider transitition following the signing of an agreement on the 3rd of January 1979, at the Lapau. His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mui'izzaddin Waddaulah Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, signed the cooperation agreement between Brunei Darussalam and the government of Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain. Representing the British Government was the Right Honourable Lord Growney, the State Minister of Britain for Foreign Affairs. With the signing of the agreement, all administration aspects in and abroad were conducted by Brunei citizens as a fully independent race and nation.

In line with the needs and changes of the era as well as continuous efforts to realise the aim of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzadien Waddaulah Sultan and Yang Di-pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to form the more formal legislation structure, re-examination was carreid out on the 1959 Constitution and several changes were made on the constitution. The amendment was signed and declared by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on 29th September, 2004 at Lapau, Bandar Seri Begawan.

-- Courtesy Balai Berita RTB --

Friday, January 11, 2013

Brunei: 2012 Year in Review

The Oxford Business Group published the following Economic Update on Brunei Darussalam:

Brunei Darussalam: Year in Review 2012

Asia | 10 Jan 2013

While overall growth in Brunei Darussalam’s economy slowed in 2012, expansion in the non-oil and gas sector suggested that some of the Sultanate’s diversification efforts are gaining traction and should pave the way for government plans to target value-added production.

The Department of Economic Planning and Development (JPKE) announced in December that GDP growth contracted to 1.6% in 2012, down from 2.2% the previous year. Slower growth, the JPKE said, was due to a drop in oil and gas output, together with a fall in liquefied natural gas (LNG) production.

In October, the Asian Development Bank and the IMF both revised their growth projections for the Sultanate down to 1.5% and 2.7%, respectively, based on lower output of resources.

However, non-oil and gas sector growth rose by 4% in 2012, the JPKE said, driven mainly by expansion in government services, the wholesale and retail trade, business services and water transport.

In March, the Legislative Council approved a $5.2bn budget prioritising improved human resources and government services, in line with the country’s aim of further diversifying its economy. The budget allocated $874m to the Ministry of Finance, while channelling $731m to the Ministry of Education, $593m to the Prime Minister's Office and $347m to the Ministry of Health.

As part of its efforts to encourage growth in the non-oil sector, Brunei Darussalam began rolling out key education and business development initiatives aimed at driving growth in creative industries. Targeted segments include software development firms and related small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The drive to encourage innovation has also generated projects such as the Brunei Agro-Technology Park, which, when completed in 2015, is expected to act as a “one-stop shop” for investment in fields such as halal food production.

However, while the government is pushing ahead with its diversification plans, some critics are calling for equal efforts to be given to nurturing growth in value-added production and downstream processing across the sectors, including energy and manufacturing.

The government will be looking to a planned $2.5bn oil refinery and aromatics cracker at Pulau Muara Besar to generate a broader role for the sector in economic expansion. The refinery, which will be constructed by Chinese firm Zhejiang Hengyi Group, will have a production capacity of approximately 135,000 barrels per day (bpd). Six downstream petrochemicals plants, with an aggregate investment of $2.8bn, are also set to be built at the Sungai Liang Industrial Park.

Alongside its refinery development, Brunei Darussalam also witnessed significant infrastructure improvements in 2012, including a major expansion under way at Brunei International Airport which is expected to be complete by November 2014, and a planned upgrade of Pulau Muara Besar port.

In addition, the government allocated BN$1.5bn ($1.23bn) for housing projects, including the Landless Indigenous Citizens Housing Scheme and the National Housing Scheme, which will provide 17,500 low-cost homes by 2014.

With food security a major issue, the Sultanate moved closer in 2012 to achieving its target of 60% food self sufficiency by 2015 by introducing high-tech farming initiatives and entering into agribusiness deals with neighbours, including Malaysia’s Sarawak and Sabah.

Figures released by the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood in November revealed that gross production for agriculture and agrifood grew to a value of $240.96m in 2011, up from $228.43m in 2010.

While domestic demand was up in 2012, the Sultanate’s inflation and consumer costs were kept in check, with the JPKE noting a year-on-year (y-o-y) increase in personal consumption expenditure of 4% in the second quarter and a 25.6% rise in imports of goods and services. The Asian Development Bank said in its Asian Development Outlook, published in October, that the country’s price controls and subsidies should keep inflation in the 1-2% range.

Buoyed by the Sultanate’s four-place rise to 79 in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2013 survey, which was attributed to significant improvements in the approval process for construction permits, the government stepped up efforts in 2012 to increase the country’s appeal to foreign investors.

Efforts were led by the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB), which identified several industry clusters with significant potential in the export-oriented manufacturing and services sectors.

In a further investment boost, the county ranked 22nd out of 185 economies for ease in paying taxes, according to the “Paying Taxes 2013” report released in December by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the International Finance Corporation. Brunei Darussalam also performed well in “time taken for compliance”, registering 96 hours, which was less than half the regional and global averages of 231 and 267 hours, respectively.

While the Sultanate’s drop in oil and gas output this year is expected to be reversed in 2013, it served to highlight the need for the country to intensify its diversification and innovation efforts. A more broad-based economy is expected to further strengthen the country’s role as a regional player, shoring up its other attractions, which include legal and political stability.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Brunei Celebrates 1958

A documentary by the Malayan Film Unit filmed in 1958 showing the celebrations of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III with other members of the Royal Family including the current Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah at the opening of the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. Also present are other regional leaders, and politicians of the newly formed Federation of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman. The film shows glimpses of Brunei - Brunei Darussalam - over half a century ago - with views of Brunei Town (now Bandar Seri Begawan), Kampong Ayer and elsewhere in the country, notably the activities of the Shell Brunei Petroleum Company at Seria.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Brunei Scouts' 80th Anniversary

Bandar Seri Begawan, January 1st, 2013 - The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, Awang Haji Mohd Rozan bin Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yunos during the unveiling of a logo in conjunction with the Brunei Scouts Association's (PPNBD) 80th anniversary at its building at Jalan Gadong yesterday, said, "As it is among the oldest organisations in civil society, the Scouts Association carries the potential to play a significant role in assisting the development of the country. The Scouts Association, in my eyes, can be looked at two ways - as a youth formation and as a volunteer-based organisation."

Awang Haji Mohd Rozan, who himself is a former scout member of the Sekolah Melayu Datu Mahawangsa Lambak scout troop in 1971, congratulated the Brunei Scouts Association on their 80th anniversary.

"The 80th year anniversary for any association is an accomplishment. It is quite remarkable. It is an achievement which has succeeded in going past the vagaries of life and coped with various problems up to an advanced age."

The permanent secretary emphasised that a positive influence is required from youths today to excel as role models to their peers; particularly in this era of globalisation.

The youth carries the potential to play a role as an agent of change in combating social ills. Such potential will turn to reality once youths possess the competency through avenues which are provided and implemented by youth organisations such as the Brunei Scouts Association.

"His Majesty underlined the factor of leadership and hoped that good and successful leadership would continue to thrive, particularly the person who is at the helm of the PPNBD. His Majesty also placed his hopes that the PPNBD will also be a platform to establish good leaders based on strong foundations. Training provided by PPNBD to youths should count heavily on character development and discipline so that youths will become generations who represent their times and era.

"It is essential those youths who become scouts do not grow tired and bored of lifting the spirits of others in addressing life's many challenges.

"I welcome scouts to possess self-awareness to participate in volunteering and to be able to think on the importance and facts of volunteering to serve. It provides benefits to the community and the people."

The Scouts Association has developed up to the point that all four districts have their own respective scout organisations. The association has grown to over 1,500 members since its humble beginnings in 1933 with just 12 members.

"I still remember the jungle and river in this area where my scouting peers from various schools used to go camping," the permanent secretary recalled in conclusion.

- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin -

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Reminiscing the Golden Era of BSB

An overview of Bandar Brunei taken in 1962 with its tranquil surroundings and Kampung Ayer in the background. (Source: Haji Mohd Daud Abd Rahman)

Photo of Barek Lama (Police housing complex) taken in 1962. (Source: Haji Mohd Daud Abd Rahman)

At the old Airport in Berakas in 1969. (Source: Haji Mohd Daud Abd Rahman)
This article is written by Haji Mohd Daud Abd Rahman and published on Borneo Bulletin.

Reminiscing the Golden Era of Bandar Seri Begawan

Without the old, there will not be the new - thus we must always remember and learn from the past. Recalling the old Bandar Brunei (now known as Bandar Seri Begawan) of the 1960s, a lot of changes and development have taken place in the capital.

In those days, Brunei's entire population was small. There were not many cars and the capital only came to life during certain events like festivities marking the birthday of Al-Marhum Begawan Sultan. During festivities, Bandar Brunei would be transformed with crowds visiting day and night.

Most of the buildings of the 1960s are also no longer in existence today. The Airport (now Old Airport Road) in Berakas was surrounded by thick greenery. The 'Barek Lama' (Police housing complex) in Kg Sultan Lama, shop houses along Jalan Sultan and the main attraction of Bandar Brunei in the 60s - the old wet market located in the centre of town - only live in the memories of those fortunate ones who once had the pleasure of visiting those places.

The memories of the old Bandar Brunei evoke fond thoughts of that golden era and hopefully today's generation will also come to know of that time. Long gone was that sleepy, quiet town replaced with the hustle and bustle of a modern capital city

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