In 2018, Brunei ranked 56th out of 190 countries, in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2018 report. This is the second consecutive year the country was named the ‘most improved economy in the world’.
Brunei was placed 11th within the Asia-Pacific region behind Japan and Kazakhstan, moving up two places from their previous ranking. Within the Asean region, it maintained fourth place, behind Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
The report further broke down the rankings across 10 different indicators. Brunei saw major improve- ments across four: Starting a Business, Getting Credit, Protecting Minority Investors and Enforcing Contracts.
In a press release following the report, the Ease of Doing Business Secretariat at the EIDPMO stated that Brunei’s improvement in rankings reflects the government’s efforts and commitment towards cre- ating a pro-business environment that would further enable diversification of the country’s economy.
The report outlined the 10 economies showing the most notable improvement in performance, with Brunei topping the list as a result of its reforms. Thailand, Malawi, Kosovo, India, Uzbekistan, Zambia, Nigeria, Djibouti and El Salvador joined Brunei in the top 10.
Brunei made a significant improvement in Protecting Minority Investors, jumping 62 positions to 40th due to the Ministry of Finance’s efforts in protecting com- panies against corporate governance issues. Brunei also increased shareholder’s rights and role in major corporate decisions, clarified corporate governance and social structures, and introduced laws which increase corporate transparency requirements.
The Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) implemented new policies which secure trans- actions, establish a unified legal framework for movable assets and create modern collateral reg- istries. This allows for greater access to credit and credit information. Additionally, the government strengthened the legal rights of borrowers and lenders, making it easier to obtain financial support. Consequently, Brunei ranked second globally in Getting Credit, jumping up 60 places.
Brunei also improved in the Starting a Business section due to reforms removing post-incorporation procedures. This, coupled with increased ease in access to information, saw Brunei rise to rank 58th from 84th the previous year.
Following the introduction of the online filing of cases through the Judicial Case Management System (JCMS), Brunei continues to surpass its performance in Enforcing Contracts – jumping 32 places to 61st – with an electronic case management system used by judges and lawyers.
The country also showed improvement in per- formances in Dealing with Construction Permits, Registering Property, Paying Taxes and Trading across Borders, despite dropping in rankings due to the rate of reforms implemented by other participat- ing economies.
Over the past few years, Brunei has been on an upward trajectory in Ease of Doing Business. In the latest report, the country is able to maintain its ‘most improved economy’ title due to the introduc- tion of eight new business regulation reforms, the highest number implemented for the year.
The Doing Business report looks into the business environment for domestic businesses, which has a direct impact towards attracting FDIs into the country. In the second quarter of 2017 (Q2 2017), Brunei’s economy grew by 0.7 per cent year-on-year, which is indicative of a stronger domestic demand due to the increase in capital expenditure in the private sec- tor and government consumption expenditure. This shows that as FDI entry in Brunei increases, so does investment in capitals.
EIDPMO noted that despite showing immense growth and development, further improvements need to be implemented to ensure Brunei’s success in maintaining a pro-business environment, as well as reaching its top 20 target.
The government views collaboration between the public and private sectors as vital to contribute towards new policies to promote a dynamic and sus- tainable economy, in line with Brunei Vision 2035.
Moving forward, Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, former Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office asserted that engagement between the Ease of Doing Business Steering Committee and the private sector, stake- holders and relevant government agencies ensure more rigorous reforms will be implemented.
Through EIDPMO’s Ease of Doing Business unit, starting a business in Brunei is at its most conven- ient, with facilities and information available online while previously lengthy procedures and processes now take a fraction of the time.
Those who wish to start a business must first identify the business entity being established. This is important as different types carry different processes and requirements. BusinessBN (www. business.gov.bn) – the online portal established by EIDPMO’s Ease of Doing Business Unit – offers access to information on the different business enti- ties and its legal structures.
BusinessBN also provides an online tool, the Business License Simulator, for business owners to easily identify the main processes required to have their business up and running. It also provides information on any specific agency approval that dif- ferent businesses may require. For instance, open- ing a medical clinic will require approval from the Ministry of Health.
Once a business plan is established, the business can be officiated by registering with the Registry of Companies and Business Names of the Ministry of Finance (ROCBN). Business owners can easily do so through ROCBN’s online portal (www.rocbn.gov.bn), where users can submit an application form, provide the relevant documents as well as make payments.
JobCentre Brunei provides an online platform where businesses can advertise their vacancies for a mini- mum of two weeks. JobCentre Brunei also provides clearance letters for businesses that receive no local applicants to allow for the hiring of foreign workers. Businesses can then proceed to the Department of Labour to apply for a Foreign Worker License.
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