Interview: Pehin Dato Yahya Bakar

How is the government focusing its efforts in the short term for greater industrial development?

PEHIN DATO YAHYA BAKAR: There are several distinct areas of focus in two broad categories: primary resources development, and industry and entrepreneur development. Primary resource development encompasses agriculture, agri-food, fisheries and forestry, as well as other supportive areas. At the moment, Brunei Darussalam is self-sufficient in the production of poultry, eggs and vegetables. We are currently gearing to move into high-technology and bio-industries in the longer term, leveraging on our pristine forests and biodiversity. Opportunities exist for small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs) to tap these sectors as we increase productivity at existing farms by incorporating high-yielding varieties of crops and by introducing technological improvements like mechanisation.

Within the fisheries sector we are venturing further into aquaculture and through companies like the Golden Corporation – which deals with shrimp farming and processing – we are looking to increase aquaculture exports. In forestry, we are encouraging wood-based downstream industrial activity with the production of niche products, such as finger joints produced by recycled wood-based industrial waste, which are already being exported to Japan and Korea. Two further areas that have been identified to contribute towards the diversification of Brunei Darussalam’s economy are the halal foods industry and bio-industry, where development is largely through foreign direct investment that will have spin-off benefits for local SMEs.

What steps can be taken to increase occupancy rates within Brunei Darussalam’s industrial parks?

PEHIN DATO YAHYA: One of the main focuses is to identify certain industrial parks for specific activities, whereby each site is themed and based on project allocation to provide industry-specific facilities to local and foreign investors. Measures to increase occupancy entail optimising our land utilisation, and we intend to pursue optimisation strategies, such as the relocation of unrelated activities to various more appropriate sites. For example, the Lambak Kanan Industrial Site has a strategic location in that it is highly accessible from both the Brunei International Airport and Muara Port. The Kuala Lurah Industrial Site is located near to neighbouring Malaysia and mainly caters to activities related to green industry, logistics and high value-added business activities.

This site has the potential to attract foreign investment due to its geographical location and it receives a high volume of project proposals. Another notable area is the Beribi Industrial Site, which is going to support the automotive industry. The industrial site’s plan covers a wide range of construction and enhancement projects to ensure that the site stays relevant and attractive to investors and customers alike.

What role will the Bio-Innovation Corridor (BIC) play in the country’s economic diversification?

PEHIN DATO YAHYA: The BIC is an industrial corridor developed to attract research and innovation with a focus on life sciences in the halal and bio-industries. The BIC has a strong role to play in the diversification of Brunei Darussalam from hydrocarbons-centre industries. The BIC has a high-quality, landscaped environment with working conditions that can attract foreign investors, particularly those producing halal foods, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and functional foods.

The 500-ha plot of land on which BIC sits has been divided into four zones for specific activities: Zone A, intended for technology related to agriculture, fisheries and forestry; and Zone B, a site for foreign direct investment, are both already in development. Zones C and D will focus on research related to food, cosmetics and traditional medicines. Indeed, the zones may also be used to promote educational opportunities for students and researchers. This broad combination of different zones has thus enabled BIC to become an epicentre for investors, researchers and businesses.