In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2016 report, Brunei ranked 72nd out of 190 countries, jumping an impressive 25 places from the previous year and was named as the ‘most improved economy in the world’.
The rankings saw Brunei maintain its 4th place among Asean member countries, behind Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Within the Asia-Pacific region, Brunei was placed 13th, behind north Asian counterparts Republic of Korea, Taiwan and Japan, and ahead of rising Asian powerhouses China, ranked 16th and India ranked 23rd.
The country scored big improvements across six indicators, namely:
1. Getting Electricity (from 76 to 21)
2. Resolving Insolvency (from 97 to 57)
3. Enforcing Contracts (from 115 to 93)
4. Getting Credit (from 78 to 62)
5. Protecting Minority Investors (from 118 to 102) 6. Paying Taxes (from 96 to 89)
The Energy and Industry Department at the Prime Minister’s Office (EIDPMO) indicated that Brunei’s significant improvement in Ease of Doing Business is due to an ambitious business reform agenda driven by a whole-of-government approach. The department noted that a record 137 economies worldwide have introduced key reforms making it easier to start and operate small and medium-sized businesses, with 75 per cent of the total reforms being adopted by developing countries, according to the World Bank.
The wide-reaching drive to improve business regulations saw 10 economies cited as making significant improvements, with Brunei topping the table as the most improved in the world in terms of how easy it is to do business in the country – ahead of Kazakhstan, Kenya, Belarus, Indonesia, Serbia, Georgia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
The biggest improvement was made in Getting Electricity, which jumped 55 positions to rank 21st worldwide, attributed to efforts made by the Department of Electrical Services to increase the reliability of power supply through the implementation of an automatic energy management system to monitor outages and service restoration.
New legislation introduced to provide greater protection for creditors and debtors and facilitate company rescue and rehabilitation for struggling businesses, has seen Brunei jump 40 places in the Resolving Insolvency indicator to 57th in the world. The Insolvency Order 2016, spearheaded by the Law and Welfare Division under the Prime Minister’s Office in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, emphasises company survival through the reallocation of resources for economically inefficient companies, facilitates cost-effective and speedy return to normal business operations and increases returns to creditors.
Positive strides were made by AMBD to improve access to credit with the distribution of consumer data from utility companies providing increased transparency for financial institutions to assess potential customers’ credit exposure and worthiness.
This, coupled with provisions in the new insolvency law that offer secured creditors added protection during an automatic stay in reorganisation proceedings, saw Brunei rise to 62 from 78 last year in terms of Getting Credit.
Brunei has also made significant progress in terms of Enforcing Contracts, jumping 22 positions to rank 93, indicating greater transparency of judicial processes at the courts and increased efficiency of case management facilitated by the online filing of cases through the Judicial Case Management System (JCMS).
In addition, the report recognised changes introduced by the Ministry of Finance that make it easier to sue directors in case of prejudicial related-party transactions and allow the rescission of related-party transactions that harm companies, driving Brunei up 16 places to 102 in terms of Protecting Minority Investors.
Brunei has steadily improved in the Doing Business ranking over the last few years with its comprehensive reform agenda gaining momentum each year, indicating a firm commitment and growing collaboration between relevant agencies to drive progress through a whole-of-government approach.
The East Asia region is home to two of the world’s top 10 economies (Singapore and Hong Kong) and two of the top improvers (Brunei and Indonesia), as well as several fast developing Asean economies, indicating a growing competitiveness in terms of business regulation.
The EIDPMO noted that despite the encouraging progress and positive performance regionally, Brunei still lags behind in many international best practices and will need to increase the pace of its reform agenda to achieve its top 20 target amid growing competitiveness in the region. New reforms to further reduce time, procedures and costs, have already been identified, however, in order to progress to the next stage, greater focus is now being placed on engaging the business community.
Government recognition of the importance of public-private sector collaboration in sustainable development will now see feedback and participation from the business community, through DARe. This will play a key role in shaping new policies to promote a pro-business environment for Brunei, in line with Wawasan Brunei 2035.
The government is continuously implementing significant reforms that aim to make the business environment conducive to support local enterprises and transform Brunei into a country of choice for foreign investors, in order to boost the country’s economic production and growth.
To sustain this commitment, the government’s pro- business reforms are driven and monitored regularly through a set of governance via the Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) Steering Committee, consisting of Champion Groups from various ministries and agencies with Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, the Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office as Chairman.
The EoDB Steering Committee meets every month to:
• ensure the reforms towards improving the country’s business climate are effectively implemented in line with international best practices
• ensure the reforms implemented by relevant ministries have positive impact by monitoring on-the-ground; and
• drive reforms towards improving Brunei’s ranking in the World Bank’s Doing Business indicators as well as address other issues that may constrain businesses
The focus of the EoDB is on the end-to- end business life cycle from ‘starting up a business’ to ‘when things go wrong’. To further improve the business environment in Brunei and create a lasting impact that will be felt by businesses, continuous progress in the implementation of reforms and initiatives were agreed upon by the Champion Groups at the 11th EoDB Steering Committee Meeting on November 28, 2016 which set the target for 2017. The main aim of this plan is to generate greater collaboration with the private sector to drive delivery.
Areas that the government will focus on in 2017 under the EoDB will include:
1. Starting a Business
2. Dealing With Construction Permits
3. Getting Electricity
4. Registering Property
5. Getting Credit
6. Protecting Minority Investors
7. Paying Taxes
8. Trading Across Borders
9. Enforcing Contracts
10. Resolving Insolvency
11. Labour (Non-World Bank indicator)
12. Halal (Non-World Bank indicator)
Founded in Brunei Darussalam in 2003, Asia Inc Forum has become a regional leader in thought leadership and dialogue on the central chal- lenges facing Asean and the Asia Pacific.
Asia Inc Forum’s programmes are founded on:
• Partnership with leading global and regional corporations and organisations
• Innovative world-class programmes that facilitate dialogue on key challenges
• Focus on present and future leadership
• Its identity as Asian-owned and Asian-led
Asia Inc Forum’s programmes create opportu- nities for dialogue and influence through wide ranging engagement with key stakeholders in Brunei, Asean and the Asia Pacific.
It acted as a Strategic Partner to the APEC CEO Summit including in Peru (2016), Philippines (2015), China (2014), Indonesia (2013), USA (2011) and Singapore (2009), Asia Inc Forum has contributed to the development of the Asia Pacific’s leading platform for business- government dialogue.
In partnership with the Asian Institute of Management, Asia Inc Forum was co-convenor of the Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility (AFCSR) from 2014 to 2016. Through the Asean 100 Leadership Forum, Asia Inc Forum created a unique platform for engagement with Asean’s emerging leaders and intellectuals.
In partnership with Baiduri Bank and other leading Brunei businesses, Asia Inc Forum’s Local Business Development Programme in Brunei is a vital part of the dialogue on the development of micro, small and medium sized enterprises in Brunei.
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