Thursday, August 15, 2013

Brunei TV in the 1970s

This article was published in The Borneo Bulletin on 27th July 2013.
Brunei TV in the 1970s
written by
Haji Mohd Daud Abd Rahman

TV BRUNEI began its trial broadcast in 1974 airing programmes to the whole country. It was the first to broadcast in full-colour in Asia and in 1975 after a one year trial, TV Brunei was officially launched. It began producing its own programmes which included entertainment, drama, and religious as well as programmes for children.

One of the most fondly remembered programmes for children was the “Cerita Bersama Kanak-Kanak” programme.

The show would feature stories about fasting in the holy month of Ramadhan.

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Children from primary schools would be invited to the RTB studio for the recording. Among those that had been on the show included Pg Fatimah and her brother Ak Yusafry.

Ak Yusafry recalled being brought to a room in Studio 1 to record his voice for the programme. The show was aired throughout the month of Ramadhan just before Sungkai.

After the show, the ‘bedok’ signalling the time for the breaking of the fast would be aired.

The sound of the bedok would also be heard from mosques and homes in Kampung Ayer and remote villages far away from town.
Courtesy of The Borneo Bulletin



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Youths Want To Work for Government

This is an interesting piece of news from The Brunei Times published on 13th August 2013:


Brunei youths prefer to work for gov't over entrepreneurship, research shows

Debbie Too
The Brunei Times
Publication Date : 13-08-2013

A recent study conducted by three lecturers from the Universiti Brunei Darussalam showed that youth that were interviewed still preferred to work for the government than be entrepreneurial.

A total of 1,051 students from eight secondary schools between the ages of 18 and 23 years old took part in the survey and found that 67.2 per cent of respondents preferred to work as government employees, while only 8.8 per cent of respondents wanted to work in the private sector. A total of 208 students, or 19.8 per cent, of respondents chose to become business owners.

It was found that the option to work for the government was mainly because of the stable employment, fixed income and job security. Those who opted to become business owners said that they preferred to work for themselves, and that they wanted to "build up something for their families, earn a living doing something they enjoy, and for their own personal achievement".

Professor Patrick Kim Cheng Low, from the Faculty of Business, Economics & Policy, Dr Habrizah Hussin, senior lecturer and Sik-Liong Ang, research assistant also from the same faculty, published their findings in March this year.

The professors stated in their March study that one of the biggest challenges for Brunei is to promote a passion for enterprise amongst the younger generation, as well as providing the "best environment" for business with more positive attitudes towards enterprise and doing business.

According to the abstract of the report, the three professors stated that the research is specifically done to investigate the attitudes and opinions of young Bruneians towards entrepreneurship and the factors that influence the development of entrepreneurial qualities to complement existing or future government initiatives in this area.

The authors also stated in their report that there is currently a rising awareness in the country of depleting natural resources and the subsequent need to diversify the economy over its over-reliance on oil and gas. Some of the future plans noted in the study included the upgrading of the labour force, reducing unemployment, strengthening the banking and tourist sectors and further widening of the economic base beyond oil and gas.

It was discovered that Brunei currently has a labour force of about 188,800 and 62.8 per cent of them are working in the oil and gas sector, while 33 per cent are working for the Brunei Government. "Bruneian businesses are mostly focused on wholesaling and retailing of imported goods. Here, it is natural that companies try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of the existing demand," stated the report.

It added that as the market space gets crowded, such as Brunei, prospects for profits and growth are reduced. "Cutthroat competition turns the red ocean a market space difficult to compete and drives the incompetent companies out of business," it added.

The authors also conducted interviews with 10 entrepreneurs and found that five traits are significant in these entrepreneurs, namely; discipline, perseverance, innovation, ambition and leadership. The research model for the study focused on three influencing factors, the individual's personal attributes, the education and environment the individual was brought up with and the successful exploitation of opportunities that were available for him or her in the market.

In this study, the professors found that parents set the examples for their children to emulate. In the survey, 85 per cent of respondents' fathers work as employees, and only 6.6 per cent works as business owners. "Even with respondents' mothers who were working, 39.8 per cent work as employees and only three per cent worked as business owners, the rest remain housewives," it stated.

The professors attributed that the experience parents have in the business environment highly influences the individual's interest to venture into business, because they were not familiar with it.

Some of the strategies that the lecturers noted that could encourage entrepreneurship in Brunei includes having an open mind, making people "a little bit hungry", making people be more independent and promoting family businesses.

They said that it is vital that individuals maintain an open mind as it could enable entrepreneurs to see different perspectives or hidden opportunities when entering or venturing into a new business. "New ideas and initiatives should be welcomed by all those wishing for an increase in opportunities to question, to offer alternate solutions, propose an alternate formulation of problems to begin with and to contribute without having to be co-opted," they said.

The professors also stated that "if people are too secured and comfortable, they would not want to get out of that comfort zone", and it could lead them to opt for "safe and steady employment" rather than venture into business and entrepreneurship with uncertain incomes or profits.

They noted that the Civil Service in Brunei is currently the largest employer in the country employing 12 per cent of the Brunei population. "Although things may be changing, for the past years, Brunei has based its educational system on the expectation that its graduates will work for the government, this does not prepare one for entrepreneurship," they stated.

During an interview with one of the respondents, the individual said that "the government can make its citizens be more entrepreneurial by discouraging its citizens from joining or being too much dependant on the government for employment, hence reducing the government's workforce". However, the study said that this can happen when government services are online, so that less human labour is utilised.

The professors said that one other obstacle to "the entrepreneurial approach" is the lack of self-dependence. They stated that family businesses can be another way to promote entrepreneurial thinking among people, as family businesses tend to build up their businesses, contacts, contract and support through family participation in the business.

"Enterprise, together with new products and innovation will be increasingly essential to a country's economy. If people change the way they think,...the entrepreneurial mind growth will take shape and even grow," concluded the study.

Courtesy of The Brunei Times


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rural Digital Divide in Brunei

The Oxford Business Group had this about Brunei on 11th August 2013:


Brunei Darussalam takes steps to lessen rural digital divide
Asia | 11 Aug 2013

Rural areas of Brunei Darussalam, which have long faced problems with information and communications technology (ICT) services, are set to benefit from a move to align the Sultanate’s bandwidth with that of its regional neighbours.

The decision to replace mobile frequency bands comes as the Sultanate prepares to hand out 4G long-term evolution (LTE) licences. However, despite the wave of activity taking place across the telecoms sector, there are concerns that the joint roaming agreement could fail to produce results for the country, unless tariffs are revised downwards to levels nearer those of its regional peers.

Brunei Darussalam, together with Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, sealed an agreement on June 19 to align itself with the Asia Pacific Telecommunity’s 700 MHz band plan. The deal will facilitate international roaming among networks, while also making it easier for providers to meet rising demand for mobile broadband.

The GSMA, an international association of mobile operators and related companies, welcomed the move, saying it sent a “positive signal to the wider mobile ecosystem in the Asia Pacific region”.

“The 700MHz band is ideally suited to provide extended mobile broadband coverage to rural and remote areas where fixed infrastructure is often unavailable and also has ideal characteristics to improve indoor coverage in saturated urban areas,” the association commented.

The Authority for Info-communications Technology and Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI), the industry regulator, echoed the association’s comments, telling local media that the plan would enable the Sultanate to offer wider coverage and better in-building penetration.

“This significantly reduces the cost of building and maintaining mobile networks over large areas, for example, by reducing the number of base stations required to service a large area compared to providing a similar service using higher frequency bands,” the AITI told the local media.

The government says 4G LTE licences will pave the way for the deployment and commercialisation of next-generation mobile broadband services. In April, a Bruneian official quoted by a Chinese newspaper said an open tender for the licences would be conducted once signal towers were completed.

More recently, in late June, the minister of communications said the licences would be awarded “soon”. Networks are expected to deploy the service commercially three to six months after the licences are awarded. At least 27 signal towers are thought to be required to support 4G services.

The increase in mobile broadband provision is timely. Last September, telecoms firm DSTCom revealed that in the first eight months of 2012, data usage increased 70% over the same period in 2011. Ericsson, meanwhile, estimated that up to 80% of new activations in the Sultanate last year were smart phones.

However, a survey conducted this year suggested that the Sultanate’s users were probably paying too much for data services. The 2013 edition of the Global Information Technology Report, released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in April, found that Brunei Darussalam had the highest tariffs for telecommunications services in ASEAN, while trailing some of its regional neighbours when it came to internet connection speed.

In the report, the Sultanate placed 135th out of 144 countries for overall affordability, while ranking 110th for cellular tariffs, 120th for fixed broadband prices and 131st for internet and telephony competition. Charges averaged $0.45 per minute for mobile calls and $81.20 per month for wired broadband.

Vietnam had the lowest tariffs for telecommunications services in the regional bloc, placing 38th on the list, followed by Indonesia, which ranked 39th. Thailand came 45th.

Brunei Darussalam was able to take some positives from the report. The country placed second in the region for use of virtual social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, behind Singapore. The Sultanate also had the third-lowest level of software piracy among ASEAN countries.

However, the country still faces challenges in its bid to bridge the long-standing digital divide that separates urban and rural areas. In the past, the minister of communications, Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Hj Abdullah, acknowledged that bringing services in rural areas, such as Temburong, up to the standard of those in well-connected districts, was “a challenge”. The government is keen to make ICT a key component of its efforts to improve the lives of people outside urban areas, in particular by generating new employment opportunities.

In June, at an event during which industry giant, Google, revealed plans to beam the internet from giant balloons to rural parts of Asia, its regional chief spoke of the project’s economic potential.

“[It’s] devastating that only a tiny fraction of small and medium-sized enterprises all across Asia are online right now,” Karim Temsamani, Google’s head of Asia Pacific, said at the Communicasia conference in Singapore.

Aligning the bandwidth and introducing 4G coverage are likely be beneficial for small businesses in rural areas long term. In the meantime, however, the country may need to consider introducing other measures aimed at helping Bruneian ventures remain competitive when connected.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Growing Expectations for Brunei Darussalam

The Oxford Business Group on 30 July 2013 reported this about Brunei:


Economic Update
Brunei Darussalam: Growing expectations
Asia | 30 Jul 2013

An increase in oil and gas production is expected to boost Brunei Darussalam’s economy over the next few years, but international experts disagree on the magnitude and timing of this growth.

In a statement issued in late June, the IMF said the Sultanate’s GDP would increase on average by 5.6% per year over the next five years, as new petrochemical and refinery projects come on-line. The developments are expected to contribute both directly to the economy as well as generate spill-over for related sectors, including transportation, retail and services.

The economy slowed in 2012, growing by 1.3%, as hydrocarbons output declined due to scheduled maintenance activities. GDP contribution from the oil and gas sector, which accounts for about two-thirds of the economy, 98% of exports and 93% of government revenues, shrank by 3.2% last year, the IMF said. However, this was off-set by strong growth in the non-energy sector of 5.1%.

Average oil production has steadily declined over the past few years, falling from a high of 219,000 barrels per day in 2006 to 166,000 in 2011 and 155,000 over the first three quarters of 2012.

While energy sector output overall is expected to rise as new downstream projects are completed, volatility in global oil prices could be a concern, though the IMF says that Brunei has sufficient funds to weather any storm.

“The current high fiscal surplus, along with other fiscal reserves, should allow the government to maintain spending even if oil prices were to fall sharply,” the IMF noted. “This would lessen the impact on non-energy growth and employment.”

The IMF forecast is at odds with an earlier projection from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), published in mid-April. In its outlook for 2013, the bank said GDP in Brunei Darussalam is set to rise by between 1.8% and 2% for this year and 2014, respectively, up from around 1% in 2012.

However, the ADB noted it was difficult to project GDP given the uncertain timing of new hydrocarbons production and stoppages due to maintenance.

Data issued by the Department of Economic Planning and Development (DEPD) in early July suggest that the ADB’s estimates may be closer to actual performance, showing year-on-year (y-o-y) growth in the first quarter of 2013 at 0.9%, with the energy sector posting improved activity of 0.8%.

The non-energy part of the economy grew at a rate of about 0.9%, a slowdown from 2012. However, the government is expected to continue investing in infrastructure and taking steps to diversify the economy, which will likely boost activity outside the oil and gas sector.

The ADB added that inflation is set to to remain muted, at around 1% per year for 2013 and 2014, due to subdued global food prices and cushioning from government subsidies that would offset any pressures from higher domestic demand.

The bank’s forecast is in line with the latest DEPD data, which showed the April consumer price index rising by 0.05%, taking y-o-y inflation to 1.1%, a figure set to ease in the coming months as lower summer food costs will see reduced pressure from that quarter.

As a major oil and gas exporter, Brunei Darussalam’s economy is heavily dependent on earnings from the hydrocarbons sector. A renewed slump in the global economy, bringing with it a fall in prices and demand for oil and gas, could slow the Sultanate’s economic recovery, though the extensive fiscal reserves would ensure no fall in living standards.


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