Interview: Bobby Chua
What impact will Brunei Darussalam’s major infrastructural projects have upon completion?
BOBBY CHUA: The expansion and renovation of the Brunei International Airport and the mega-bridge projects consisting of the Sungai Brunei Bridge, Temburong Bridge and Pulau Muara Besar Bridge, will positively impact the country through the improvement of connectivity. Developments are ongoing for the Brunei International Airport, and the capacity required for it has increased over time, in part due to the recent surge in transit passengers passing through. Not only do the modernisation efforts give the airport a newer and cleaner look, but the new halls and concourses equip it to better handle the increasing numbers of travellers.
The Sungai Brunei Bridge will be a landmark in the country upon completion and will serve to improve connectivity and reduce transit times between regions. The Temburong Bridge will usher in development of the area, carefully balancing the need for environmental preservation and a tourism push. Business will be generated along these corridors, showing that infrastructural projects such as these go a long way towards the sustained growth of these regions. The linking of Brunei Darussalam, both internally and to the outside world, is key to the country’s development.
How are local and foreign contractors being encouraged to partner on large projects, and what role can they play in the knowledge-sharing process?
CHUA: 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. Local Bruneian companies learn a lot about the management, site organisation and work methods of foreign companies through these joint efforts, which is crucial to the development of the sector. Foreign companies, in return, stand much to gain from their local partners in terms of expertise on local prices and conditions, labour quotas, importing equipment and other country-specific information. While partnerships between local and foreign contractors are crucial for larger-scale projects, this arrangement by no means shuns the smaller local contractors. Brunei Darussalam employs a thorough classification system for contractors detailing the values of the projects on which they may bid. For contracts under a certain amount, only local bumiputera( indigenous) companies are selected in order to gradually develop the level of local contractors from the start. Thus, the existing system promotes international knowledge sharing and local development.
What is the short- to medium-term outlook on construction activity in Brunei Darussalam?
CHUA: Growth trends of national economies generally tend to closely correlate with trends in the construction sector. If construction in Brunei Darussalam is booming and activity is lively, the Bruneian economy follows suit, as the sector is a strong indicator of the overall economic environment of the country. That being said, I believe the Bruneian construction sector will have no shortage of projects in the next decade.
The government looks after the local population very well, and the ongoing construction and infrastructural projects reflect that. The large-scale, affordable housing projects and water supply improvements are both major initiatives, as are the ongoing fly-over projects designed to ease traffic congestion. A major rejuvenation of Bandar Seri Begawan’s central business district is being planned as well. In addition, the return of the South-east Asian Games to Brunei Darussalam in 2019 will involve the development of sports venues.
Furthermore, rural roads are being developed to improve connectivity for the country’s thousands of villages, along with the strengthening of the Sultanate’s main roads, which are already among the best in ASEAN. Infrastructure is the backbone of any economy, so these steps will serve to both develop and aesthetically enhance the country, while sustaining small and large contractors through a mix of projects of various scales.
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