Interview: Bobby Chua
To what extent has connectivity improved in recent years, and what can be done to further upgrade Brunei Darussalam’s transport network?
BOBBY CHUA: In recent years, the government of Brunei Darussalam has been working aggressively to improve the country’s connectivity, which can be seen through its commitment to oversee major infrastructural projects such as the expansion and renovation of Brunei International Airport, as well as the construction of three major bridge projects, namely Sungai Kebun Bridge, Temburong Bridge and Pulau Muara Besar Bridge. The completion of these projects would have a great positive impact to improve the country’s transport network locally and abroad.
What is the short- to medium-term outlook for construction activity in Brunei Darussalam?
CHUA: The government of Brunei Darussalam is far-sighted in its planning and implementation of its regulations and policies. In ensuring the continued development and improvement of the country’s infrastructure, construction activities in Brunei Darussalam remain well-monitored by government authorities to ensure they are progressing according to the government’s plans and vision for the country. Despite the current economic climate, the government works to ensure that the construction of the country’s major infrastructural projects runs smoothly and will not be adversely impacted. Infrastructure is the backbone of any economy, so the current projects will serve to both develop and aesthetically enhance the country, while sustaining small and large contractors through a mix of projects.
How can local contractors become further involved in large-scale construction projects?
CHUA: Brunei Darussalam’s contractors and sub-contractors could learn a lot from their joint venture (JV) partners by collaborating with international companies to actively participate in large-scale construction projects, such as the construction of Temburong Bridge and Sungai Kebun Bridge.
In such JV partnerships, the local contractors would gain valuable insight and knowledge through their exposure to the way international companies manage large-scale construction projects, such as their personnel and equipment planning, as well as their technical expertise in many aspects. Indeed, one significant aspect of the tendering process for projects in Brunei Darussalam’s construction sector is the encouragement of large foreign contractors to team up with local counterparts. Bruneian companies learn a lot about the management, site organisation and work methods of foreign companies.
More JVs with international companies, working closely to complete a variety of projects in the country, will create employment opportunities for locals and more exposure for them to upgrade their skills. This way, the availability of skilled labour at the local level will increase. The process of knowledge-sharing among international and local companies is crucial to build up the skills of the local labour force.
Once the Temburong Bridge is completed, what are your expectations in terms of traffic, and movement of goods and people?
CHUA: The completion of Temburong Bridge will bring about improved traffic and increased movement, given the much shorter travelling time for people and transport of goods between Temburong and the other districts of the Sultanate.
As of today, it takes several hours to travel from Temburong to Brunei-Muara and requires multiple border crossings, or alternatively 45 minutes by boat. Being the longest bridge in South-east Asia, Temburong Bridge is also a proud landmark for the country. The completed bridge is also expected to attract more tourists into Brunei Darussalam.
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