SME dev’t key in diversification drive

Posted on  16/09/2011  |  Media Centre

Friday, September 16, 2011

THE government will continue to assist and facilitate the development of Brunei SMEs to realise their potential contribution towards sustainable economic diversification, said the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR) yesterday at the 2011 Brunei Business Forum.

In his keynote speech, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar called on all agencies and stakeholders responsible for developing Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to intensify their efforts at formulating better SME policies, new innovative support programmes for SMEs, more efficient procedures and strategically ambitious performance indicators that will reflect their contribution to the national economy.

He also called on all SMEs to embrace a more positive entrepreneurial spirit in their business endeavours by developing high-end products that also reflects the country’s image in the global market. “Let us work together to see a thriving SME (sector). It is our intention to spur the development of SMEs in Brunei by declaring and associating the present decade (2010-2020) as the Decade to Spur SME Development in Brunei,” he said.

“By declaring this, we will be engaging the various stakeholders in realising our aspirations of continued growth of our SMEs and an increase in the number and quality of SMEs penetrating in regional, international or global markets,” he added.

He said that a guiding framework for developing SMEs that is focused on entrepreneurship development has been drafted. He highlighted the seven major areas of intervention which comprises Human Resource Development, access to finance or capital, access to technology and innovation, increasing market access, access to ICT, policy, regulatory and administrative environment or good governance; and developing production/manufacturing sites and infrastructure.

Sharing his views on SME development in Brunei, he said that SMEs in the country have the potential to contribute significantly towards the national objective of sustainable economic diversification. In his speech, Pehin Dato Hj Yahya said that many local SMEs support programmes or interventions that have been established by the government, and that the interventions revolve around four strategic objectives.

“Firstly, they are intended to produce credible and socially responsible entrepreneurs,” he said.

He took an excerpt from a recent titah by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on adopting this important attribute in carrying out any business venture in the Sultanate. In the titah, His Majesty said, “For SMEs what is important is for them to fulfill their obligations to their customers. It also means that the operation of their business is not only hygenic or not contaminated but also suci or pure as outlined by Syariah (Islamic Laws).”

The minister said His Majesty’s thoughts could be translated in terms of following Health, Safety and Environmentally (HSE) sound business practices, where he pointed out that SMEs should give equal emphasis to the health and safety concerns of their workers and ensure that their business operations will have minimal impact on the environment.

“Secondly, they are intended to assist SMEs in developing marketable and competitive products of international quality that can reach the market on time,” the minister said. He added that as high production cost remains one of the major challenges faced by SMEs, Brunei needs to adopt a niche strategy in the development of products or services. “We should focus on sectors and capitalise on our strengths as well as their ability to grow the economy, provide quality and sustainable job opportunities for our people,” he said. He highlighted Brunei’s Islamic credentials, MIB (Malay Islamic Monarchy) philosophy, green image, highly educated young population and its macro-economic stability as among the Sultanate’s strengths. “Capitalising on those strengths, the government has already initiated strategic initiatives that should create niche industries for Brunei,” he said.

He added that these initiatives, which include the Brunei Halal Brand, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries; the Islamic banking and finance sector; niche and sustainable tourism (alternative tourism) based on the Islamic Religion, local culture and heritage, and pristine nature; as well as info-communication technology (ICT), among others, should create opportunities for SMEs to develop premium, high-end and ethical products and services for both the local and overseas markets.

He also said the government sees other opportunities in the areas of knowledge-intensive industries such as biotechnology research and development. “The establishment of the Brunei Agro-Technology park, for example, will provide an integrated support for developing these industries,” he said. He added that other opportunities that would capitalise on the country’s ‘green-clean image’ are in developing environmentally friendly industries such as the green energy industry.

“Thirdly, these programmes and interventions are intended to assist market penetration capability of SMEs,” he said. Pehin Dato Hj Yahya added that because Brunei’s small domestic market cannot sustain SME development, it’s participation in Free Trade Agreements such as with Asean member countries (Afta) and with Asean dialogue partners such as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Europe will greatly expand its market size. “Noting the niche strategy that we have adopted, we should therefore position our high-end and premium products into specific target markets such as Europe, Japan, US and Australia,” he said.

“Fourthly, these programmes and interventions are also intended to create quality business activities that builds up sustainable production, manufacturing and services sectors in our economy,” he said.

The Brunei Times

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