Dismal productivity threatens Brunei’s rich nation status
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Friday, November 23, 2012IF PRODUCTIVITY in Brunei continues to decline, the Sultanate will no longer be among the top ten richest nations by 2023, the deputy minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and chairman of the Brunei Economic Development Board said yesterday.
According to Forbes Magazine, Brunei’s per capita income in 2012 was $48,000, the fifth highest in the world and the second highest in Asia behind Singapore, which ranked third with a per capital income of about $56,700.
Dato Paduka Hj Ali Hj Apong (pic), who was speaking during the Brunei Business Forum yesterday at the Radisson Hotel, said Brunei’s economy had been “growing at a relatively disappointing rate” compared to the country’s ASEAN neighbours, averaging just 1.3 per cent per annum over the last 10 years.
The conference, which was organised by the AsiaInc Forum, carried the theme “Unlocking Productivity, Fuelling Growth”.
Dato Paduka Hj Ali said the non-oil and gas sector in Brunei had grown by an average of 3.4 per cent per annum over the last decade.
“In fact, of the 30 richest countries in 2011, Brunei Darussalam had the lowest per capita income growth,” Dato Paduka Hj Ali said, adding that since 1985 Brunei’s per capita income had grown by just 45 per cent.
He said that if that sluggish growth rate were to continue, by 2035 Brunei would rank 19th in the world in terms of income per capita.
Dato Paduka Hj Ali said that economic productivity was a measure of a country’s prosperity.
In 2011, labour productivity growth was just 1 per cent, compared to 11.1 per cent in 2010, he said.
The deputy minister pointed out that the Singaporean government in 2010 set an annual productivity growth target of two to three per cent up to 2020 and GDP growth of 60 per cent. “It will also invest $5.5 billion over the next five years to increase skills, expertise and innovative capabilities of workers and businesses,” he said. The deputy minister also pointed out that despite having no natural resources, Singapore’s per capita income had increased almost six- fold over the last 30 years.
Dato Paduka Hj Ali said the top three sectors in terms of labour productivity in Brunei were natural gas, crude petroleum and real estate, but pointed out that they had declined in terms of growth over the last decade.
He also referred to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s 65th birthday titah in which he called for greater investment in new technology and research and development.
“Knowledge creation is one of the key dimensions to productivity,” the deputy minister said, adding that education must reflect the needs of the workplace.
The deputy minister said that better ICT infrastructure would further enhance productivity by boosting efficiency and cutting costs. One of the biggest projects in the 10th National Development Plan is the $230 million fibre-to-the-home broadband initiative. By 2017, FTTH coverage is expected reach 85 per cent.
“At this stage, suffice it to say that there is enough evidence to prove that one important component of sustainable economic growth is continuous productivity improvement,” he said. The Brunei Times