Brunei Darussalam is making big strides in diversifying its economy away from its heavy reliance on the oil and gas industry, and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continues to be at the very forefront of Brunei’s diversification agenda.
SMEs are considered to be key drivers of the economy in the country. In order for the nation to move forward in achieving its national goals in economic diversification, the government has gone to great lengths to promote the development of local SMEs.
For the past few years, the government of Brunei has put great emphasis on growing the SMEs as well as micro SMEs, to boost the country’s economy to contribute towards realising the ambitious Vision 2035.
In May 2015, the former Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, stated that the government plans to create an Act that will legally support a national body responsible for the planning and facilitating of SMEs development in Brunei, to boost local entrepreneurship in the country.
This national body will act as a catalyst for SMEs development and serve as the lead agency to define SMEs need, to develop SME-enabling policies, as well as to oversee and strategically coordinate a holistic approach towards providing services to the SMEs sector, he noted.
Acknowledging past challenges, the former minister stressed the need for concerted efforts to develop SMEs, noting that this has been in the national agenda for many years.
“There have been many efforts in developing SMEs by the government, private sector as well as NGOs, however, we need to have a common platform to effectively coordinate our actions to develop a holistic approach in developing the SME sector within the country.
For the past few years, the Government of Brunei has put great emphasis on growing the SMEs as well as micro SMEs, to boost the country’s economy to contribute towards realising the ambitious Vision 2035
“Unlike most other countries, we do not have a single agency responsible for the growth of SMEs. Currently, our SME development activities are largely sector-specific and spread across ministries. We have limited collaboration. We are also lacking in clarity about roles and responsibilities. This leads to the services and support programmes being implemented in a fractured and uncoordinated environment,” the former minister added.
With institutional reforms, the former minister hoped that the aspiration to create a better, well-coordinated and more conducive ecosystem for the country’s SMEs can be achieved. This will bring about considerable changes and spur and sustain the development of SMEs which can ultimately ignite economic growth through enhanced entrepreneurship.
Customers looking at items in a cube store at The Mall, Gadong
Jumping on the bandwagon to drive Brunei’s economy further are private companies/entrepreneurs who aid other local SMEs and micro SMEs through establishments such as cube stores.
Brunei currently has over 20 well-known and established cube shops nationwide such as the Macam-Macam Ada Cube Shop, De Cube Shop, Virtual Kiub and Cubecity, just to name a few.
These cube shops house a variety of products such as food items, clothing, hand-made jewellery and many more from a number of local SMEs and micro SMEs.
Many of the cube shop owners established their ventures to promote the private sector and encourage an entrepreneurial spirit among Bruneians, pushing youths to accept the challenge of starting their own businesses and making use of cube shops, which removes the hassle of renting a shop or applying for business licences.
Such enterprises allow prospective vendors the chance to identify market opportunities and create a self-employment spirit within the country by relying on their own skills and ideas, subsequently making them less reliant on others such as their parents or the government.
One of the owners of a Gadong cube shop said that cube stores serve as a platform to help vendors – mostly online sellers – and especially those who are unemployed generate more side income, and as a stepping stone for these businesses to grow further.
Cube shops, inspired by similar shops in other countries such as Taiwan and Japan, were established by their owners to help home-based businesses sell their wares through the provision of small spaces for low rent.
Cube shop owners said they encourage those associated with the One Village One Product Programme to join and sell at their cubes. The cube concept can be expanded to cater to any business category; this in turn can promote what the country has to offer, especially in terms of unique local products, they added.
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