World Bank: Comprehensive Reform Agenda in Brunei



WB sees comprehensive reform agenda in Brunei
on: July 02, 2017

| Danial Norjidi |

THE structure is in place and there is good coordination between agencies for Brunei Darussalam to keep implementing a comprehensive set of reforms, according to two top officials from the World Bank Group.

Antoni Albert Nogues Comas and Nadia Novik recently concluded a nine-day visit to Brunei Darussalam, during which they met with various government agencies and private sector companies to assess and verify the reforms being implemented by the Brunei government to improve the business environment.

They have been collecting information pertaining to the ease of doing business in the country, in line with the group’s Doing Business Report, which measures the efficiency and strength of business regulations in 190 economies worldwide.

The World Bank’s Doing Business Index is one of the benchmarks used by Brunei Darussalam to gauge the progress of ongoing efforts to improve the business environment. Brunei’s ranking improved from 97th in 2016 to 72nd in the 2017 report. The next edition, the Doing Business Report 2018, will be released in October.

In the interview, Novik and Comas shared their assessment on Brunei.

Novik noted the coordination between agencies. “We do know that there is a lot of coordination happening within the agencies, particularly their champion groups that are leading the efforts and facilitating the efforts between the different counterparts.“We’re also aware that there is a lot of socialisation happening, and we have heard that both from the public sector and the private sector, who have been informing us of multiple workshops and socialisation events where they informed about the changes that are being implemented.

“We also know that there is a lot of peer-to-peer learning with other governments and the Government of Brunei was very keen in asking other countries to share their experience, and we definitely welcome that effort,” she continued.

“There are still 189 other countries that have faced the same issues and many of them are really happy to provide support and maybe together brainstorm and generate new ideas.”

Comas also shared his thoughts, saying, “I think in terms of the socialisation, we’ve seen that there is a constant – it’s not just a one-time effort with the reforms, it has been continuous, and we really encourage the government to keep having these periodical socialisations, because most of the time some of the reforms, when they get implemented in practice, there is a lot, it takes some time until the private sector is comfortable with the new changes so it is important that the government keeps doing these socialisation efforts as we have seen.”

The World Bank officials noted that they see a very comprehensive reform agenda in Brunei Darussalam. “It is quite remarkable how all the areas that are measured by the report are covered by the reform agenda of the champion groups, and as we already mentioned, in the continuous effort to reform, we continue seeing that interest in the actions,” Novik said.

Last year, visiting World Bank officials acknowledged a ‘comprehensive effort’ from Brunei through a number of reforms and initiatives to address all the areas under the ease of doing business.

On this, Novik shared, “We continue seeing a comprehensive agenda as our colleagues have mentioned last year, and we definitely welcome that, and we do recognise that it is a very difficult change, because change by itself is hard to implement, let alone when it is a multi-factoral one, when it involves multiple areas, starting with opening a company and getting to resolving insolvency.

“It is important to acknowledge that some of the areas will take longer time to implement the changes and practice compared to the others.”

Comas shared, “I think that it is important to be comprehensive, and what I think also more important is that we see a high level of coordination, so more importantly, when you try to reform in all areas of a business environment, if you don’t have a permanent structure that coordinates between the different agencies, a lot of synergies are lost.

“So we’ve seen that there is a good coordination at a high level to try and implement at a fast pace, because it is also fast-paced reform; like last year, we recorded Brunei as the top reformer in the world.

“Therefore we’ve seen that the structure is in place, that there is good coordination between the agencies to keep implementing this comprehensive set of reforms,” he added.

Brunei Darussalam’s performance in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index has progressively improved over the last few years. The country was ranked 105th out of 190 economies in the Doing Business 2015 report with a Distance to Frontier (DTF) score of 58.02; ranked 97th with a DTF score of 60.28 in 2016; and ranked 72nd with a DTF score of 65.51 in the Doing Business 2017 report.

The Distance to Frontier score measures the distance of an economy to the ‘frontier’, which represents the international best practice. An economy’s distance to frontier is reflected on a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 represents the lowest performance and 100 the frontier.

The DTF score helps assess an economy’s absolute performance over time.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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