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Brunei Vision 2035: China pledges to help Brunei diversify its economy

Date of issue:2019-02-25 Author: Click:

Apart from its own development, China also assists neighboring countries. Brunei, on the north coast of Borneo, is desperate to reduce its heavy reliance on hydrocarbons under a plan called Vision 2035. And during his state visit to the country last month, President Xi Jinping pledged that China would do what it can to help. Rian Maelzer reports from the Brunei capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, on the country's struggle to remodel its economy.

Brunei's over-reliance on oil and gas is stark. Hydrocarbons account for 2/3rds of GDP and 90 percent of government revenue. Hence, the desperate need to diversify the economy.

RIAN MAELZER BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, BRUNEI "Under Brunei's vision 2035, the government has identified several sectors and industries which it believes it is well placed to develop."

They include logistics, manufacturing, ICT, aquaculture, halal foods, Islamic finance and eco-tourism. Chinese companies are helping Brunei diversify. Sesame World has been working with University of Technology Brunei to develop highly directional audio speakers, as well was training locals in computer graphics.

YANG JIANFENG CEO, SESAME WORLD "Some of them have started their own companies. Some of them are working in big companies on visual technique development. We have students doing masters and PhDs in computer graphics and many in electro-acoustic science. All of them can help Brunei to enrich its industries and to increase diversification."

Fish fry at the Chinese aquaculture operation will be moved to offshore pens when they become larger.

CHERRY WEI MANAGING DIRECTOR, HISEATON FISHERIES "After processing, we will export our fish products, taking advantage of Brunei's favorable environment to breed high quality fish and sell our fish products to the whole world. Having the halal certification from Brunei, we can sell our products to Middle Eastern markets other countries cannot penetrate."

Brunei is making it easier to start new businesses and invest but obstacles remain.

PROF. JASWANT S. SIDHU BRUNEI SPECIALIST, UNIVERSITY OF MALAYA "It's a very big challenge for a country with about 400-thousand people, with a population that can be considered extremely complacent. Two, its immigration policies are extremely rigid. If you really want to create niche areas you really need to have a more relaxed migration policy, when it comes to professionals for example."

But with its oil and gas reserves fast dwindling, Brunei's leadership knows it has to diversify if its people are to continue enjoying the high standard of living they've become accustomed to.


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