Sunday, June 29, 2014

Brunei Darussalam: Rising Military Spending

The Oxford Business Group reported the following update on Brunei on 27th June 2014:


Economic Update
Military spending on the rise in Brunei 

Brunei Darussalam | 27 Jun 2014

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea have highlighted the ongoing tensions between China and countries including the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, with the US also weighing in recently with its proposals for a bigger military presence in the region.

Both Vietnam and Malaysia are undergoing regional military build-ups, and the Philippines doubled its defence budget in 2011 after pledging to conduct joint military exercises with the US. Meanwhile, Brunei has not been complacent, with additional spending and partnerships shaping the defensive posture of both the nation and the region for coming years.

In late May, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took a step closer towards establishing a formal arrangement for a regional defence industry collaboration during the eighth ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. The defence ministers of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam met to discuss regional defensive needs and future defensive cooperation and concluded the conference by agreeing to a three-year programme.

Defence budget boost

The meeting followed a March announcement by Second Finance Minister Pehin Dato Hj Abdul Rahman Ibrahim that the state would propose increasing the government’s defence budget in the 2014/15 fiscal year. The budget for the Ministry of Defence, unanimously approved later that month by the Legislative Council, is set to rise by 39% in this financial year to $719m. Around 45% of the budget is earmarked for payroll, while recurring expenses represent nearly 24% of the total.

The largest increase however come from the 32% earmarked for “special expenditure”, which in 2013/14 represented only 9% of the budget. Special expenditure includes materials and equipment procurement, with the hike a clear indication that Brunei may purchase new military equipment in 2014/15.

A Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAF) commander was among the first to speak up about the intended use of a budget of around $183m. RBAF Commander Pehin Major General Dato Mohd Tawih told local media in March, “We are in the process of looking for an aircraft. But from which particular country, you will just have to wait for the announcement.” The commander also declined to comment on what sort of aircraft, though the RBAF has a fleet primarily comprising helicopters.

Training programmes

The rise in budget may also lead to an uptick in the number of personnel being trained with the government partnering with CAE, a Canadian aviation firm, for the construction of a pilot training centre. The CAE Brunei Multipurpose Training Centre is expected to be complete in mid-2014 and will be a regional destination not only for pilot training but also for professionals in healthcare and emergency management.

The facility will house PC7 and Blackhawk attack helicopter simulators, which will be used by the RBAF to improve the skills of its pilots as well as the only S92 helicopter simulator in the region for training professionals from the offshore oil and gas sector. To date, eight countries have agreed to send helicopter pilots to train at the centre.

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) conducted their annual bilateral naval exercise in early June. Exercise Pelican, as the operation is called, is a programme aimed at deepening the interoperability of the fleets of the RSN and RBN involving naval and helicopter units.

Medical and disaster response

The increased focus on military spending and operations, has also led to a medical and disaster response component. In May, the ASEAN Chiefs of Military Medicine Conference (ACMMC) was held in Brunei to bring together the regional authorities in combat medicine. The ACMMC, though focused on military medicine, took on a theme of regional cooperation.

Lieutenant Colonel Dr Mohd Hafizul Hj Mohd Hassan, RBAF chief medical officer and ACMMC chair, highlighted the military medical partnership among ASEAN states. “In recent times, we have witnessed remarkable military medical collaboration between nations in response to major disaster in the Asia-Pacific region whether in real-time or in exercises,” he told conference attendees. In the same month, Brunei hosted the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM) in a bid to promote regional co-operation.

With the regions’ militaries looking to collaborate, particularly in medicine and disaster response, which have civilian applications, regional countries appear to be also looking towards the peace-time benefits of military build-up.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Royal Brunei Navy Ships in Pearl Harbor, USA

PEARL HARBOUR, HAWAII, Wednesday 25 June 2014 - KDB DARUSSALAM and KDB DARULAMAN arrived in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, is a historic milestone for the Royal Brunei Navy, as this not only marks the first time a Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) ship to arrive in the Hawaiian Islands, but also to cross the Pacific Ocean and international dateline.

En route from Guam to Hawaii, RBN Ships also participated in a Multinational Task Force (MNTF) Group Sail, other navies participating in MNTF Group Sail were the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the US Navy (USN).

Throughout the 11 day transit, a number of naval warfare serials were conducted and among them were gunnery firings, tactical manoeuvres and cross-deck helicopter operations. Despite challenging weather conditions, all serials and evolutions were executed safely proving an underlying commitment by all warships to a successful task force transit which goes toward progressing and enhancing interoperability.

MNTF Group Sail was a fitting end to a successful transit to Hawaii as it also served as a good platform and opportunity to interact and work together prior to the US-hosted multinatinal maritime exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014 off the coast of Hawaii scheduled from 26 June to 1 August 2014.

KDB DARUSSALAM and KDB DARULAMAN are yet to undertake a more intensive subsequent harbour and sea phases of RIMPAC 2014 Exercise. The launching ceremony of RIMPAC 2014 Exercise, is scheduled to be held onboard the historical battleship USS MISSOURI on 1 July 2014.

25 June 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Learn from History

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BRUNEI should take advantage of history as a tool in providing quality education, a senior official from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Permanent Secretary Hj Mohd Rozan Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos (pictured) yesterday said history can be a careful and systematic study of key societal processes such as relations of political power, economic interests, or cultural life over time.

History emphasises change and continuity, and on how and why change occurs in human societies, he said.

Delivering his keynote address during the Cluster Six Symposium, Hj Mohd Rozan said recognition of history as a continuing process has implications for the future.

It requires exploration of, and debate over, how a defined historical past may relate to the present and the future, he added in his presentation titled “The Past Teaches the Present: A Lesson for the Future”.

History and historical studies can affect curriculum, and induce innovativeness in several ways, the permanent secretary said.

He further said history and historical studies consist of different aspects of development, eras and regions so as to give different views on the issues surrounding key historical developments toward the shaping of the current environment.

In addition, Hj Mohd Rozan said there should be a focus on different approaches in teaching history, including the use of media, broadcast, music and performing arts.

Resources and teaching materials such as historical records and artefacts can be used as study materials, while museums are a source of information and knowledge, he added.

The two-day symposium at Sengkurong Sixth Form Centre was held as part of the Ministry of Education’s activities to mark 100 years of formal education in Brunei.

The symposium will feature 47 speakers, and about 350 teachers from sixth form centres, secondary schools, primary schools as well as vocational and technical schools are participating. - Rasidah HAB

The Brunei Times

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Brunei Maintains Tier II Ranking Trafficking in Persons (TIP)

The American Embassy in Brunei releases the following news on Brudirect on 21 June 2014:


The United States Secretary of State John Kerry has released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report and the U.S. Embassy would like to announce that the Government of Brunei has maintained its “Tier II” ranking for its counter-trafficking efforts in 2013. The United States looks forward to continuing to work with His Majesty’s government as our nations seek to eradicate trafficking crimes and modern day slavery to make our world a safer place.

The goal of the TIP report is to stimulate action and create partnerships around the world in the fight against modern-day slavery. The Report’s standards are consistent with those set forth in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2000, and the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the “Palermo Protocol”), supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The 2014 TIP Report indicates that the Brunei government has continued its efforts to prevent trafficking. Among other achievements, the government completed and began implementation of a national action plan to combat trafficking. In January 2014, the government conducted a briefing for representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in Brunei to raise awareness of the dangers of trafficking and the process for reporting cases to authorities. Earlier this year, Brunei hosted a meeting of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection on the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC). Brunei has also recently increased its efforts to regulate employment agencies, honing in on those who may be involved in the hiring of migrant laborers and cracking down on those companies that are unlicensed. All these are positive signs of Brunei’s continued commitment to combatting TIP. A Tier II ranking indicates that a country is making significant efforts to comply with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, though it does not yet fully comply with those standards.

The 2014 TIP Report also provides recommendations for specific goals and objectives to further increase the Government of Brunei’s efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and to convict and punish offenders for sex and labor trafficking.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Brunei ups Focus on Water Security

Oxford Business Group on 17th June 2014 reported the following economic update on Brunei:


Economic Update

Brunei Darussalam ups the focus on water security
Brunei Darussalam | 17 Jun 2014

With a growing population and expanding economy heaping the pressure on Brunei Darussalam’s water supply, the Sultanate has upped investment in storage and processing infrastructure, while also calling on its people to reduce consumption.

Bruneians use an estimated 450 litres of water per person daily, according to data from the Ministry of Development, giving the country a consumption rate which is almost double that of its neighbours and one of the highest in the world.

The Sultanate subsidises the cost of potable water for its citizens, which some officials believe could be contributing to the country’s high usage. Driving down usage could help the government achieve its aim of having capacity eventually exceed consumption. However, the task may prove to be a challenging one, despite the investment being channelled into new infrastructure.

Less is good

To date, campaigns aimed at urging Bruneians to use water more sparingly have met with only limited success. Pehin Dato Suyoi Haji Osman, Minister for Development, said in May that BN$400m ($313m) had been made available under the 10th National Development Plan (NDP) to expand the country’s water supply infrastructure. 

“If the usage of water could be lessened by 40%, which is around 250 litres of water per person, development and expansion of water supply system can be slowed down or postponed,” the minister said, during a ceremony held to mark World Water Day.

The Department of Water Services (DWS), which oversees the water utilities sector, has launched a series of public awareness campaigns aimed at reducing consumption. Its efforts have included arranging school visits to water treatment plants, using social media and supporting the adoption of “green” technology and practices, both at home and elsewhere.

Alice Lim, the acting director of the DWS, said that even small modifications to a daily routine could make a difference. “We simply need to make certain changes in our lifestyle and realise that these little adjustments translates to major long-term impacts,” she told local media in April.

The government has been keen to promote energy-saving and eco-friendly products, which could offer new growth opportunities for businesses. Narrower showerheads have been suggested by the DWS as one means of saving water, while toilets with a duel flushing option, water-efficient washing machines and dishwashers are other options.

The Brunei National Energy Research Institute (BNERI), and specifically Xunpeng Shi who is the Director of Energy Efficiency and Conservation, has been studying these products and options as well as working with the government in the past few months to develop a regulatory framework for Energy Standards and Labelling. The minimum standards are being rolled out this month and this measure follows the installation of prepaid meters by the Department of Electrical Services in every Bruneian household since 2011. 

The authorities are also playing their part by upgrading and renewing distribution networks, stemming leaks and fixing broken pipelines, in a bid to reduce water wastage. However, while conservation efforts are gaining pace, the Sultanate’s expanding economy is making its own demands on the national water supply. 

The government’s drive to diversify its economy away from a dependence on hydrocarbons has sharpened the focus on manufacturing industries, with emerging segments, such as petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and food processing, all requiring access to clean water. 

Boosting capacity

New dams and storage reservoirs are set to be rolled out to help meet growing demand, together with an expanded distribution network.

One of the key projects earmarked under the latest development plan is a BN$28m ($22m) water treatment plant in the Brunei-Muara District. The seventh stage of the Bukit Barun Water Treatment facility, which is due to come on line in the early part of Q3, will add up to 60m litres daily to the Sultanate’s current potable water supply of around 430m litres. However, with consumption expected to reach 772m litres per day by 2035, according to the DWS, more investment will be needed to meet rising demand. 

A membrane technology filter - another project linked to the Bukit Barun plant – will play a key part in improving supplies by producing clearer water with fewer chemical processes. The new filtration technology, which is currently in the operational testing stage, will also cut costs. 

Efforts to expand the country’s economic base are gaining ground. While new infrastructure for the Sultanate’s water services is set to add much-needed capacity, the government will also be hoping that its awareness campaigns continue to produce small but important reductions in consumption on the ground.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Brunei-Singapore MOU GRID & XPEDESIA 2014

Exchanging gifts with my counterpart, Aubeck Kam, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information & Communications Singapore

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Radio Television Brunei (RTB) and MediaCorp, Republic of Singapore, are jointly producing two reality TV programmes, namely, 'Xpedisi Siswa' and 'GRID', where the programmes involve students from Institutions of Higher Education of both countries.

Both programmes are annual co-production projects of RTB and Media Corp commissioned under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the Government of the Republic of Singapore in the field of broadcasting.

The 'Xpedisi Siswa' programme seeks to challenge the participants' ability to adapt to new environments and apply their soft skills through experiential learning. Through this annual project with the introduction of 'Media Literacy' the participants impart and share knowledge relating to the importance of computer and the internet with children of a third country who are not exposed to the digital world.

Meanwhile, the GRID Programme depicting the Art of Dance features the participants sharing their knowledge and creativity in developing ideas in the art. In this programme, each group of participants are given three main challenges to create and choreograph traditional and contemporary dances. The participants are being guided by mentors and go through Master Class sessions.

Both programmes are recorded live in front of the audience and will be broadcast in Brunei Darussalam and Singapore.

Present were the Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, Awg Haji Mohamad Rozan bin Dato Paduka Haji Mohamad Yunos and the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communication and Information, Singapore, Aubeck Kam. Also present were the Director of RTB, Awg Haji Suffian bin Haji Bungsu and the Senior Vice President, Malay Broadcasting Division, MediaCorp Singapore, Cik Zakiah Halim. 


Friday, June 13, 2014

12th Conference of ASEAN Information Ministers 2014

From 9th to 12th June 2014, I together with a few senior officers from the Prime Minister's Office, the Radio Television Department and the Information Department attended the 12th AMRI and its related meetings. The full report of the meeting is as follows:



Theme: ‘Social Responsible Media for a Peaceful and Prosperous Community’

Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, 12 June 2014

Dato Paduka Haji Abdul Wahab bin Juned, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Brunei Darussalam and delegation, today attended the 12th Conference of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) at the Myanmar International Conference Centre II, Nay Pyi Taw, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Dato Wahab, Pehin Rahmani and Haji Rozan led the Brunei Delegation in AMRI 2014 in Myanmar

The Conference was officially opened by His Excellency Dr. Sai Mauk Kham, Vice President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. After the opening ceremony, Dato Paduka Haji Abdul Wahab attended the AMRI Plenary Session and made his remarks in which he highlighted that the meeting is very significant as it serves as another milestone event for ASEAN in promoting one community by 2015, with the theme ‘Social Responsible Media for a Peaceful and Prosperous ASEAN Community’.

He also said it is timely for media sectors in ASEAN to enhance the collaboration - not only for 2015 but also beyond - as the grouping's future will depend on the upcoming young generation's trust, confidence and responsibility. Media and better access to information must articulate the benefits of regional integration and cooperation towards community building. As ASEAN community-building continues, the media in ASEAN must also be able to manage the expectations of the people in the region regarding the outcome of economic integration and future implications to mitigate unfounded fears and concerns surrounding a single community. la of AMRI have made their own initiatives in promoting ASEAN on specific areas such as culture, tourism and trade promotion. However, additional initiative by the implementing agencies can play an additional or complementary role in promoting ASEAN’s profile. With a comprehensive, reliable information of the sectoral developments reported by the media and other mechanism such as joint television and radio productions, as well as the continuous promotions by the agencies with the help of ASEAN Secretariat, in the long run, will together provide better understanding and cooperation and hence increase the people-to-people contact in the region. This will hopefully contribute to the community building effort by 2015 and beyond.
He further mentioned that the much progress is made by ASEAN Digital Broadcasting Cooperation initiative and three specialist working groups under ASEAN Digitial Broadcasting (ADB) have been very effective in developing blueprint to assist all Member States in their transition towards digital broadcasting. 

The ASEAN Ministers and Representatives noted the steady progress of information and media cooperation and appreciate the need to implement a comprehensive communications plan to meet the vision of One ASEAN Community by 2015, the Ministers called for coordination and effective communication among the different sectoral bodies in implementation of the ASCC Blueprint, optimising opportunities for cross-sectoral cooperation to inform the public about the benefit of ASEAN’s integration and community building.

The meeting also acknowledged the steady progress and outcomes of key projects aiming to increase ASEAN awareness and mutual understanding through the ASEAN information and media cooperation process, such as the television and radio news exchanges (ASEAN Television News and ASEAN-in-Action respectively), and the ASEAN Quiz (regional and national levels) and new initiatives such as the ASEAN Virtual Learning Resources Centre (AVLRC). They also noted the need to implement a comprehensive communications plan to meet the vision of One ASEAN Community by 2015 and in the implementation of the ASCC Blueprint. 

In the area of technical standards, the meeting welcomed initiatives which were identified to benefit leapfrogging to Digital Video Broadcasting–Terrestrial Second Generation (DVB-T2), and noted regional efforts in the implementation of the 'Guidelines for ASEAN Digital Switch-Over' (2015 – 2020); and further endorsed a recommendation on the development of an ASEAN-wide DVB-T2 Integrated Receiver Decoder (IRD) specification to reap the benefits of economies of scale for affordable DVB-T2 IRDs in ASEAN Member States who already adopted DVB-T2 for DTTB. The Ministers also commended the completion of the first-ever TV co-production programme of Colours of ASEAN-pilot programme with the theme, Rice-Seed of Life, in High Definition.

The meeting approved the new Senior Official Meeting Responsible for Information (SOMRI) Terms of Reference and the setting up of three Working Groups, namely ASEAN Digital Broadcasting (ADB), Working Group on Information, Media, and Training; and Working Group on Content and Production, to strengthen the information and media cooperation in ASEAN.

At the Conference, the AMS members agreed to adopt the Declaration on Social Responsible Media for a Peaceful and Prosperous Community. The Declaration is a guiding document to further strengthen cooperation in the fields of information and media through undertaking programmes and joint activities, and by leveraging on all forms of media.

They also exchanged views on the progress of ASEAN Plus Three cooperation and possible measures to further enhance cooperation between ASEAN and the Plus Three countries (the People’s Republic of China; Japan and the Republic of Korea) in the field of information and media which include local content production and human resources development.

In concluding the meeting, the ASEAN Ministers and Representatives agreed to convene the 13th Conference of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (13th AMRI) and its related meetings with Dialogue Partners in the Philippines in the 1st Quarter of 2016.

Also present at the event are His Excellency Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Pahlawan Colonel (Rtd) Dato Paduka Haji Abdu’r Rahmani bin Dato Paduka Haji Basir, Ambassdor Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Brunei Darussalam to the Republic of the Union of Maynamar; Awang Haji Mohd Rozan bin Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yunos, Permanent Secretary (Media and Cabinet) in the Prime Minister’s Office; and Senior Officers from the Prime Minister’s Office; Radio Television Brunei; Information Department; and the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

Prime Minister’s Office
Bandar Seri Begawan
Negara Brunei Darussalam
12 June 2014
14 Syaaban 1435


Saturday, June 07, 2014

Food Franchises in Brunei

 The Oxford Business Group reported the following news update on Brunei on 6th June 2014 as follows:-


Economic Update

A taste for franchises in Brunei Darussalam
Brunei Darussalam | 6 Jun 2014

Brunei Darussalam has proven to be fertile ground for international food chains entering the domestic market, with an increasing number using franchising as a means to extend their roots and reach out to an enthusiastic clientele. As a result, their success is prompting calls for local businesses to use the same franchising vehicle to drive expansion overseas.

Over the past year, there has been a surge of overseas food outlets launching in Brunei Darussalam and aiming to carve out a niche in an increasingly affluent market. Companies such as Burger King, Starbucks, the organic food retailer Natural Health Farm and Aunt Annie’s Pretzels have all moved into the country, while others, such as the US coffeehouse It’s A Grind, are set to open their doors later this year, utilising franchises operated by local owners.
Among the reasons officials have given for the uptick in franchised food chains coming to the domestic market is Brunei Darussalam’s demographics, with more than half the population under the age of 24 and increasingly affluent.

Travel on the part of Bruneians is also a factor. As locals have explored the region and beyond, they have been exposed to a wide range of products and international food franchises. According to Mike Shattuck, president of Focus International Brands, which represents a number of leading franchises including Aunt Annie’s Pretzels, this exposure helps drive sales.

“The response in Brunei Darussalam has been unbelievable and overwhelming. Customers start lining up at least 30 minutes before the store opens,” Shattuck said earlier this year. “Most are familiar with the Auntie Anne’s brand and have tried it in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand.” 

Develop local, franchise global

While leading global brands are being introduced to Brunei Darussalam through the franchise model, it has been suggested the traffic has the potential to become two-way. In early May, Haslina Taib, the CEO of information technology consulting and outsourcing services provider Brunei Accenture Group Networks, called for the establishment of a regulatory agency or advisory body to assist local businesses to develop through franchising.

While saying that building a business through a franchising arrangement had many advantages, thanks to the standards and practices that were part of the framework provided from the parent firm, developing a brand that could be franchised overseas was another matter, she said.

“It would be good to have an agency that tells businesses how to go to Vietnam, or how to go to Bali, and have packages set up for them,” Haslina told the Brunei Times in early May. “I think it would be good to encourage our successful restaurants to franchise, but there isn’t any government agency now that can help a business to set up a franchise.”

Two local restaurants – Excapade Sushi and Fratini’s Italian Restaurant – have several branches in the country, and Fratini’s has already expanded to Malaysia and the Philippines while Escapade is currently considering investing in neighbouring countries.  

Halal potential

One of the developing strengths of the Sultanate’s economy is the halal products industry, one that could be slowly built into an indigenous franchise industry. Brunei Darussalam is already working to position itself as a leading halal certification centre, establishing facilities to test and provide quality control for food and medical and cosmetics products to ensure they meet the stringent requirements of sharia-compliant production. It has also stepped up investments in research and development into halal products and techniques.

If local halal producers can take advantage of the support being provided by state agencies, they could be in a position to create their own halal ranges and market profile. In time they could build export markets for not only these products but also use them as a vehicle to develop Brunei Darussalam-specific franchise lines. There could be opportunities for private firms to develop a range of specialised food products aimed at the halal health food market, along with mainstream sales.

With the state-owned Brunei Darussalam Wafirah Holdings building brand awareness of halal products developed in the Sultanate, targeting markets like the UK with its expanding range of certified ready meals and grocery items, some of the groundwork has already been laid for the private sector to develop their own brand and then try and parlay that into a franchise. Other local companies such as cosmetics firm Faceshop and Simpor Pharmaceuticals are either planning to or currently in the process of exporting their products abroad.

While it may be difficult for a small business to build its profile to the point where it can look to franchising its operations, most of the international brands that are making their way into the market through franchise arrangements began life as small businesses and grew through identifying demand and meeting it. Through cooperation between the private and public sectors, local successes could one day be franchised and exported.

Inspirational Quotes