Brunei Update - February 26, 2020

Brunei Update | February 26, 2020
Authors: Marc Mealy, Kim Yaeger, Mega Valentina, Nick Zuroski
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

March 14: Technology Summit on Sidelines of ASEAN-U.S. Leaders Summit in Las Vegas.

The Tech Summit will take place at the Westin Lake Las Vegas Report and Spa in Henderson, NV from 7:30am-1:00pm on Saturday, March 14, 2020.  It will be a unique opportunity for U.S. technology companies, U.S. government and ASEAN stakeholders and policymakers to engage each other during three sessions focused on: Education and Upskilling to Tackle Workforce Displacement; Smart City Development; and Harnessing Emerging Technologies such as AI.  The Tech Summit will also include announcements by the U.S. government and private sector of recent commitments to support educational and technology initiatives across ASEAN.  If you have any questions, please contact Natalie Tantisirirat at ntantisirirat@usasean.org

March 26-27: 2020 Mission to the ASEAN Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting.

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Brunei Celebrates 2020 National Day with “Realizing the National Vision” Theme

On February 23, Brunei celebrated its 36th National Day by retaining the previous theme of “Menjayakan Wawasan Negara” or “Realizing the National Vision.”  The theme focuses on the importance of every sector and citizen in the Sultanate in achieving the vision for success outlined in Wawasan Brunei 2035, which aspires that by 2035 Brunei will be recognized for its educational, human capital, quality of life, and economic achievements.  Brunei’s annual National Day celebration upholds the value of the Melayu Islam Beraja (Malay Islamic Monarchy), and commemorates Brunei’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1984. Over 26,000 people attended the National Day Parade in Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, with the theme performance “Realizing the National Vision 2035.” 

Celebrating Brunei’s National Day, the United States Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo, extended his congratulatory message to Brunei Darussalam. Pompeo highlighted the 175 years of partnership of the U.S and the Sultanate. He also stated he hopes to continue close cooperation with Brunei to further advance bilateral security, economic, and people-to-people ties.

Brunei Remains Free of COVID-19 Cases for Now

Brunei Darussalam is yet to report any cases of the novel coronavirus—recently named COVID-19—within its borders.  Still, the Sultanate has taken proactive measures to stem the impact of COVID-19 should any infections be confirmed.  For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health have identified four sites as potential monitoring centers or temporary quarantine shelters. The government ordered those who have recently visited China to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days, with 158 people in self-isolation as of February 26.

Precautions have also been taken at the borders and points of international access.  Brunei’s international airport and all seven of entry points require temperature screening.  The government banned the entry of foreigners who recently travelled to Hubei, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu provincesRoyal Brunei Airlines has reduced its flights to Beijing and Hong Kong and suspended flights to Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanning, Changsha, and Haikou until February 29.  Additionally, Singapore Airlines and SilkAir announced cancellations of flights between Singapore and Brunei through May 20 amid weak global travel demand. 

The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 across Southeast Asia presents economic concerns for Brunei as well.  Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy (Economy) Dr Haji Abdul Manaf Metussin noted that the outbreak would almost certainly impact Brunei’s GDP growth, particularly in the services and tourism sectors.  His comment gains additional meaning in the context of the now troubled Brunei-China Year of Tourism 2020.  China is one of Brunei’s top tourism partners, with 65,563 tourist arrivals in 2018.  Indeed, preliminary evidence confirms COVID-19’s toll on Brunei’s tourism industry, such as a hotel in Jerudong facing an 80% drop in occupancy rates. 

Some ASEAN governments have been targeting the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.  Malaysia is formulating an economic stimulus package, while the Bank of Thailand, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and Bank Indonesia have cut benchmark interest rates over the past few weeks. Singapore announced a $4 billion relief package on February 18 of tax rebates and various financial breaks that aims to offset the outbreak’s adverse economic impacts. 

Immigration and National Registration Department Launches Electronic Payment Services Amid Digital and ICT Re-structuring

On January 18, Brunei’s Minister of Home Affairs Dr Haji Apong opened a new Immigration and National Registration Department (INRD) facility that allows the public to use debit or credit cards to pay for passport application fees.  The minister also launched the “One Village, One Product” (1K1P) program into the digital sphere, through a website that lists products from all four of the Sultanate’s districts and aims to increase interest in Brunei’s goods and services in international markets.

The new use of debit and credit cards in passport applications comes as part of the increasing policy focus on modernizing transaction costs and ICT infrastructure within business and public services.  In July, the INRD and Labor Department, in coordination with the support of the E-government National Center, will roll out a system that streamlines issuance of identification cards, passports, birth and death registrations, as well as integrates biometric technology into the application process.  

Brunei has also targeted re-structuring and forward-facing policy initiatives on the digital front.  Last month, Minister of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) Dato Abdul Mutalib Yusof announced in a dialogue with Legislative Council members that the government is establishing a national cyber security agency known as Cyber Security Brunei (CSB) and drafting new cyber security laws.  The Ministry aims to make Brunei one of the top 4 members in the ASEAN Global Cybersecurity Index and one of the top 40 countries in the ICT Development Index and United Nations E-Government Survey in 2020.  The announcement also touched on the unification of Brunei’s three telcos’ network operations under the government-linked Unified National Networks, which will shift the telcos’ focus to competitive retail operations.

In addition, MTIC is launching the Digital Economy Master Plan framework’s in the first quarter of 2020.  MICT’s Digital Economy Council secretariat is actively involving other agencies, higher learning institutions, and the private sector to incorporate various views on the draft Framework.  On February 19, Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) and Progresif Sdn Bhd inked an agreement to transform University Islam Sultan Sharif Ali into a cashless campus through BIBD Quickpay and Progresif Pay.  BIBD stated that the initiative draws on “the government’s Smart Nation initiative and Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darusalam’s Financial Blueprint of creating a strong, competitive and innovative financial services sector.”

 
 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Direct shipping service expected to boost bilateral trade with Brunei
Law Society of Brunei Darussalam, Bar Council of Malaysia ink MoU

National Affairs
Car sales in Brunei rise 6.6%
Over 28 per cent of Bruneians 60 and above by 2050: UN
Temburong Bridge inspires new tourism investments in Brunei | TTG Asia
Spotlight on Brunei’s digital transformation

ASEAN
Australia seeks to build cooperation with Brunei on ASEAN issues
Asean meet in Brunei calls for smart tourism initiatives

Customs
MoHA launches card payment for passports

Defense & Security
Vietnam, Brunei join hands to combat crimes
Brunei-Thai defence ties goes from strength to strength
Brunei’s Defense Planning in the Spotlight With Exercise Setia Bersama

Economics
Local businesses urged to embrace e-Commerce
Hubbis - Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam and the Monetary Authority of Singapore to Expand Cooperation
JPES conducts annual census for MSMEs

Energy
Ship management contract extended for Brunei accommodation vessel
Brunei ships 4.7MT of hydrogen to Japan
Asian LNG spot prices drop to multi-year lows below $4/mmBtu

Financial Services
UNISSA becomes third cashless campus in Brunei
Brunei remains top 10 in Islamic finance development indicators 2019
BIBD launches Visa Credit Card promotion

Food & Agriculture
Brunei seeks Bangladesh support for agriculture expansion
Barramundi Asia’s focus on Brunei, Australia; Europe not a priority in 2020
MoU signed to enhance premium muskmelon research in Brunei

Health & Life Sciences
BDRCS sets target for first aider in every family by 2025 
Three health products found adulterated 
Nearly 30pc Bruneians obese, over 50pc have high cholesterol 
Public made aware of salt, health link 
Brunei sets up 4 temporary shelters to combat coronavirus spread
MoU on ‘Medical Bank’ signed
Health Promotion Centre unveils Healthy Dining Programme 
DCCA warns against hiking medical mask, hand sanitiser prices
Brunei bans entry of visitors with recent Hubei travel history
Medical masks out of stock amid virus concern
Brunei takes steps to screen visitors to country at airport
PJSC and STHG enter partnership to enhance healthcare services

ICT
Imagine unveils unlimited broadband from $169 monthly
National cyber security agency to be formed, says MTIC minister

Infrastructure
Brunei-Indonesia shipping link to reduce prices 

Travel & Tourism
Coronavirus takes a toll on Brunei tourism
Singapore Airlines, SilkAir cancel Brunei flights
Brunei among low risk countries for travelers, says report
Brunei-China Year of Tourism 2020 launched
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Direct shipping service expected to boost bilateral trade with Brunei The Jakarta Post 21st Jan 2020
In an attempt to bolster trade and hopefully increase Indonesia’s exports to Brunei, the Indonesian Embassy in Brunei announced that starting Feb. 14, there would be a direct shipping service available linking the two countries. The opening of the direct shipping line, which connects Jakarta and Brunei, is the result of intense conversations between the Transportation Ministry and state-owned ship operator Pelni. Indonesian Ambassador to Brunei Sujatmiko noted that the previous lack of a direct shipping line from Indonesia to Brunei has hindered trade relations, as before “nearly 99 percent of goods from Indonesia to Brunei are shipped through Singapore and Malaysia.” Sujatmiko also stated that the direct shipping was expected to cut shipping time from Indonesia to Brunei from 23 days to nine days and would automatically cut logistics costs.

Law Society of Brunei Darussalam, Bar Council of Malaysia ink MoU Borneo Bulletin Online 17th Jan 2020
On January 15th, the Law Society of Brunei Darussalam and the Bar Council of Malaysia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Bandar Seri Begawan. President Pengiran Izad Ryan bin Pehin Laila Kanun Diraja Pengiran Haji Bahrin signed on behalf of the Law Society, while President Dato’ Abdul Fareed Abdul Ghafor signed on behalf of the Bar Council of Malaysia. The MoU aims to enhance bilateral relations through legal education and training and granting of access to members for short-term attachments with legal firms.

National Affairs

Car sales in Brunei rise 6.6% Borneo Bulletin Online 30th Jan 2020
Car sales in the Sultanate were up by 6.6% in the first 11 months of January-November 2019, according to statistics from the ASEAN Automotive Federation. Around 10,949 cars were sold from January-November 2019, compared to 10,271 units within the period in 2018. August, by far, recorded the highest percentage increase with 19.8%, compared to the same period in 2018. During the period, a total of 3,147,822 vehicles were sold in the ASEAN region, which is a three percent decline from what was seen in 2018, where 3,234,560 units were recorded. Indonesia contributed the bulk of the figure with 940,362 units delivered – the result is 12% less than the 1,063,445 units recorded during the same period in 2018.

Over 28 per cent of Bruneians 60 and above by 2050: UN Borneo Bulletin Online 21st Jan 2020
The United Nation’s (UN) 2019 World Population Prospects predicts that 28.7% of Bruneians will be ages 60 or above in 2050, in comparison to 8% in 2017. The report also notes that the segment of the global population ages 65 and over is growing faster than all other age groups, even children below five years old. All ASEAN member countries are expected to become ageing societies, in which more than 7% of the population will be ages 65 or older. The Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam prioritizes national social issues of an ageing population through a holistic national approach, such as Brunei Vision 2035 which aims for a social security strategy that cares for all citizens.

Temburong Bridge inspires new tourism investments in Brunei | TTG Asia TTG Asia 21st Jan 2020
The B$1.6 billion (US$1.2 billion) 30km Temburong bridge in Brunei that will link the capital Bandar Seri Begawan with the district is nearing completion. Once finished, the bridge will eliminate the need for travelers to pass through borders with the Malaysian state of Sarawak, reducing travel time from two hours to less than 30 minutes as it decreases the journey by 70km. Acting deputy director of Brunei Tourism’s tourism development department Salinah Selleh said that Brunei hopes “to see the bridge contribute to a rise in tourism. As well as international visitors, we hope it will lead to an increase in domestic tourism. Not a lot of locals have visited Temburong because it is not easily accessible.”

Spotlight on Brunei’s digital transformation Borneo Bulletin Online 10th Jan 2020
The Muzakarah session held on January 9th between the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) and Legislative Council (LegCo) members at the MTIC’s Al-Mahabbah Meeting Room focused heavily on Brunei’s digital transformation as an issue of critical importance. Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yusof stated that in achieving Brunei Vision 2035, the MTIC will pursue sustainable development in transportation and info-communications in a move “towards digital transformation.” Yang Berhormat Nik Hafimi binti Abdul Haadii, who led the 18-member LegCo delegation, said that “digital transformation interests need to be handled together as a whole nation.”

ASEAN

Australia seeks to build cooperation with Brunei on ASEAN issues The Scoop 20th Feb 2020
Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne made her first working visit to Brunei on February 19 to hold talks with His Majesty the Sultan and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “This was the first bilateral visit by an Australian Foreign Minister, and [we] discussed ASEAN, our shared regional priorities and valued cooperation on multilateral trade,” Payne said on her Twitter account. Discussions focused on furthering bilateral ties and how Australia and Brunei can work together on key regional issues ahead of Brunei’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2021, a statement from the High Commission of Australia read. During the audience with His Majesty, Payne expressed Australia’s commitment to building a “prosperous, stable and secure Indo-Pacific region” through cooperation with ASEAN. She also spoke about working collaboratively ASEAN and Brunei on issues of mutual interest, including security in the South China Sea and regional responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Brunei and Australia have long-standing relationship in education, defense, and trade, with two-way trade reaching close to $1 billion each year. Payne also met with her counterpart, Brunei’s Second Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato Seri Setia Hj Erywan Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Hj Mohd Yusof, for discussions on trade liberalization.

Asean meet in Brunei calls for smart tourism initiatives The Star Online 16th Jan 2020
At the 23rd ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF), which took place the week of January 13 in Brunei, Brunei’s Primary Resources and Tourism Minister Dato Seri Setia Awang Ali Haji Apong stated that ASEAN members had to work with business stakeholders and embrace new technology to meet the expectations of tourists. “Such advancements demand travel and tourism-related business owners to invest in digital presence, as it is no longer viable not to be seen online, to remain competitive and appealing to the next generation of travelers,” he said. During ATF 2020, in which approximately 1,000 tourism officials and exhibitors are expected to take part, ASEAN Tourism Ministers discussed the implementation of the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2016-2025, the ASEAN Tourism Marketing Strategy 2017-2020, and ASEAN tourism performance in 2018 and 2019.

Customs

MoHA launches card payment for passports Borneo Bulletin Online 19th Jan 2020
Starting January 20, the public in Brunei can use their debit or credit card to pay for travel document application fees under the Immigration and National Registration Department (INRD), in line with the INRD’s efforts to foster financial inclusion. The new facility was launched by Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) Open Day at The Mall, Gadong yesterday.

Defense & Security

Vietnam, Brunei join hands to combat crimes The Star Online 16th Feb 2020
The Vietnam and Brunei governments have announced that amid the complicated situation of transnational crimes, terrorism, human trafficking, and high-tech crimes in the region, the two security forces will work together, especially in the fight against terrorism, high-tech, and drug crimes, as well as through cyber security collaboration. The consensus was reached on February 14 and an official announcement was made on Sunday. Defense officials explained close cooperation will contribute significantly to deepening the Vietnam -Brunei comprehensive partnership in the future. The Brunei Ministry of Defence will also consider the establishment of a joint working group on political-security cooperation, organize annual deputy ministerial-level talks on crime prevention, and set up a coordinating mechanism on inspection and settlement of high-tech crimes, especially gambling crimes, among others. It was highlighted that both sides needed to exchange experiences in preventing terrorists who take advantage of the cyberspace to carry out other acts of sabotage, while promoting co-ordination to improve management capacity and ensure safety for the national information system.

Brunei-Thai defence ties goes from strength to strength The Star Online 4th Feb 2020
In a statement during a celebration of the Royal Thai Armed Forces Day at the Rizqun International Hotel on February 4, Thai Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Wanthanee Viputwongsaku said that Brunei and Thailand have strengthened their close and long-standing defense relations through various wide-ranging interactions between the Royal Thai Armed Forces and Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF). The ambassador elaborated that these interactions include regular exchange of visits. In the previous week, the Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army General Apirat Kongsompong visited Brunei Darussalam, signifying the strong friendship between the two armed forces. Other engagements include exercises, training, and cross-attendance of courses, which have contributed to the strong ties between the two armed forces across all levels. “Our two countries also cooperate closely and extensively on multilateral platforms such as the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and ADMM-Plus,” the ambassador said, adding, “I am pleased to note that the 13th ADMM meeting during Thailand’s Chairmanship last year had been fruitful, particularly with the adoption of the Concept Paper on the Expansion of ASEAN Direct Communications Infrastructure (ADI) to the Plus Countries.”

Brunei’s Defense Planning in the Spotlight With Exercise Setia Bersama The Diplomat 3rd Feb 2020
Brunei carried out a planned military exercise the weekend of February 1 as a set of drills under the banner of Exercise Setia Bersama. The drills and their framing put a rare spotlight on how the Southeast Asian state is thinking about and acting with respect to its own defense amid a series of internal and external security challenges. Per Brunei’s defense ministry (MINDEF), Exercise Setia Bersama was conducted across Brunei Darussalam in all four districts, including the International Convention Center (ICC) in Brunei-Muara District and all military camps in the districts, with a notification issued to the public ahead of time. It featured Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) units, along with support from the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) and Gurkha Reserve Unit (GRU), and was partly witnessed by top military officials including Brunei’s second minister of defense and its military chief. According to MINDEF, the exercise provided a platform for “a more realistic training opportunity” for RBAF to test and validate procedures at the operational and tactical levels, and it also required the RBAF to conduct joint level planning, coordination, and synchronization of execution by employing a comprehensive approach with the RBAF units and other government department security agencies. Interestingly, MINDEF also specifically noted that the exercise was tied to the preparation for Brunei’s hosting of next year’s ASEAN Summit when it becomes the ASEAN chair. It said that the exercise was “focused on the key objective of RBAF readiness towards responding to complex and asymmetrical environments such as peaceful public protests.”

Economics

Local businesses urged to embrace e-Commerce Borneo Bulletin Online 1st Feb 2020
The call for more local business to embrace e-Commerce was made by AITI Acting Chief Executive Ir Haji Jailani bin Haji Buntar at the launch of the Brunei CyberShop Fair 2020 at OneCity Shopping Centre. Deputy Minister of Energy and AITI Chairman Dato Seri Paduka Awang Haji Matsatejo bin Sokiaw officiated the event as the guest of honour. According to an ICT Business Survey conducted last bear by the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam, only 16% of local businesses sell their products online and have yet to adopt e-Commerce routines. The acting chief executive also cited the rapid development of e-Commerce and its benefits. He said according to a joint research released by the World Bank and Alibaba Group last November, e-Commerce has the potential to overcome market barriers and connect consumers with businesses. “Jobs are created directly through logistics services and other parts of the wider e-Commerce ecosystem, improving household consumption and reducing the inequality in rural areas in terms of convenience, variety and low prices enjoyed by urban dwellers.” On AITI’s initiatives to promote e-Commerce Adoption, he cited, “AITI is launching the Brunei CyberShop Fair 2020 for the second year. It is a three-day event that gather around 25 local online vendors, e-Commerce and security providers, banks and government agencies, to showcase and promote their products and services, as well as to raise awareness on the safe use of e-Commerce to increase consumer confidence in online transactions. He said to date over 300 youth and 80 senior citizens have participated in e-Commerce-related programmes since it was introduced last August.

Hubbis - Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam and the Monetary Authority of Singapore to Expand Cooperation Hubbis 29th Jan 2020
The Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have committed to new areas of cooperationvwith the signing of an enhanced Memorandum of Understanding on Bilateral Cooperation at the 3rd AMBD-MAS Bilateral Roundtable. The MoU, signed by Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) Managing Director Rokiah Badar and MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon, builds on the longstanding cooperation between both countries in many areas, including the Currency Interchangeability Agreement. New areas of cooperation include financial sector development, cross-border supervision, crisis management, AML/CFT, as well as currency management and operations, according to a MAS press release. At the Roundtable, AMBD and MAS discussed recent economic, monetary and financial developments, FinTech collaboration and currency management.

JPES conducts annual census for MSMEs Borneo Bulletin Online 18th Jan 2020
The Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam through the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (JPES), Ministry of Finance and Economy is conducting the Annual Census of Enterprises (ACE) 2019 for Brunei Darussalam. Conducted under the Statistics Act, Chapter 81 from the Laws of Brunei Darussalam, the census aims to collect the most recent information on the composition and performance of business enterprises in the private sector, with a focus on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). It covers active companies and businesses in the country and analyzes economic activity, number of employees, revenue, and business expenditures in 2018 and 2019. Questionnaires are distributed via post, e-mail, and business visits, with a February 29th submission deadline.

Energy

Ship management contract extended for Brunei accommodation vessel Riviera Maritime Media 24th Feb 2020
Brunei offshore vessel owner JISCO Marine Sdn Bhd has signed a two-year extension with Vroon Offshore Services (VOS) Singapore for a third-party ship-management contract for the accommodation workboat Nautical Aisya. This renewal will extend the co-operation between JISCO and VOS Singapore until at least the end of February 2022. The extension follows the award of a new contract by Brunei Shell Petroleum to JISCO Marine for Nautical Aisya. Built in 2015, the accommodation vessel has dynamic positioning class 2 capability, an overall length of 85 m, beam of 23 m and draught of 6.1 m, with a 900 m2 working deck and helipad. The new charter, which commenced on 1 February, continues an initial two-year, dynamic positioning class 2 charter, during which Nautical Aisya was cited by Brunei Shell Petroleum as its best-performing vessel in 2019, said Vroon. Sailing under the Brunei flag and in ABS class, Nautical Aisya will now widen its job scope to include helicopter operations, creating added value for Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP). Preparations for this new charter involved some maintenance work on the vessel, and an onboard ‘Partners in Safety’ briefing on the learning engagement tool by VOS manager ship management Sivakumar Ramudu. The briefing, ’Invisible Hazards,’ included various safety drills attended by BSP personnel and completing the offshore vessel inspection database with only five minor observations, reported Vroon.

Brunei ships 4.7MT of hydrogen to Japan Borneo Bulletin Online 21st Feb 2020
A total of 4.7 metric tonnes of hydrogen have been shipped to Japan from Brunei Darussalam’s first pilot hydrogenation plant, which is operated by the Advanced Hydrogen Energy Chain Association for Technology Development (AHEAD). The plant is part of Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO)’s First Global Hydrogen Supply Chain demonstration project that will run from January to December 2020. A total of 210 metric tonnes of hydrogen would be supplied to Japan throughout the year.

Asian LNG spot prices drop to multi-year lows below $4/mmBtu Reuters 21st Jan 2020
Asian liquefied natural gas (LNG) spot prices dropped to multi-year lows on Tuesday with at least one cargo being sold into Northeast Asia below the psychological barrier of $4 per million British thermal units (mmBtu).Brunei LNG export plant sold a cargo for March 30-31 delivery at about $3.90 to $3.95 per mmBtu, which traders say is the lowest in years and the lowest ever for this time of the year. The buyer is likely Shell, four industry sources said, though this could not immediately be confirmed. Brunei LNG also sold a cargo for March 12-15 delivery at around $4.40 per mmBtu, one of the sources said. The cargoes were sold on a delivered ex-ship (DES) basis into the Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China region, the sources said.

Financial Services

UNISSA becomes third cashless campus in Brunei Borneo Bulletin Online 20th Feb 2020
On February 19, Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) and Progresif Sdn Bhd inked an agreement with Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) to transform the university into the third cashless campus in the Sultanate in an effort to support the Brunei Vision 2035 of creating a fully digital and cashless economy. Guest of honour Deputy Minister of Education Datin Seri Paduka Dr Hajah Romaizah binti Haji Mohd Salleh witnessed the signing ceremony. Signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of UNISSA was its Rector Dr Haji Norarfan bin Haji Zainal, while BIBD was represented by its Managing Director and CEO Mubashar Khokhar. Progresif was represented by its CEO Hajah Nurul Haniah binti Haji Jaafar. Through this MoU, UNISSA students will now be able to use digital payments of BIBD QuickPay and Progresif Pay, which is powered by the BIBD NEXGEN platform, to make cashless transactions across the entire campus while at the same time providing businesses based at the campus with increased security and efficiency. The implementation of the cashless campus initiative also aimed at providing greater convenience to students – paving the way towards a new digital and cashless lifestyle as the younger generation prepares for the Fourth Industrial Revolution mindset. This initiative is a continuation of similar agreements signed last year with Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB).

Brunei remains top 10 in Islamic finance development indicators 2019 The Star Online 30th Jan 2020
The recently published ICD-Reinitiv Islamic Finance Development Report 2019: Shifting Dynamics claims that Brunei Darussalam maintained its ranking as one of the top 10 performing Islamic finance markets out of 131 countries. Refinitiv is a global provider of information, insights, and technology, and is jointly owned by Blackstone Group LP and Thomson Reuters. The report, which takes into account data accumulated in 2018, reveals that Brunei Darussalam’s scored 45 points in the Islamic Finance Development Indicator (IFDI), ranking Brunei Darussalam at the 10th position in 2019, and third in the Asean region, after Malaysia and Indonesia. It also shows that the global Islamic finance industry slightly grew by three percent year-on-year, amounting to US$2.5 trillion in assets in 2018 due to sluggish wider economy in some of the industry’s main markets, as well as the potential for the industry to grow to US$3.5 trillion in assets by 2024. Malaysia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates remained the top three Islamic finance markets in overall development. Indonesia came fourth with improved score in Quantitative Development as the region has raised US$1.25 billion in sovereign green sukuk and US$1.64 billion in waqf-linked sukuk, both in 2018. The report analyzes instrumental factors in five broad areas of development: Quantitative Development, Knowledge, Governance, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Awareness.

BIBD launches Visa Credit Card promotion Borneo Bulletin Online 16th Jan 2020
On January 15, Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam’s (BIBD) commenced its new Visa Credit Card promotion, which entails a chance to enter a lucky draw and additional entries every BND50 spent using a BIBD Visa Credit Card. Minister at the Prime Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah officiated the promotion’s opening ceremony. The promotion lasts from January 15 until March 31, with a grand prize of 80 return flights to Kuala Lumpur’s/19 return trips to Melbourne’s air miles.

Food & Agriculture

Brunei seeks Bangladesh support for agriculture expansion New Age 31st Jan 2020
Brunei Darussalam has sought cooperation from Bangladesh in expanding its agricultural sector, especially hatchery. The newly-appointed high commissioner of Brunei Darussalam Haji Haris bin Othman sought the cooperation when he met prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban office.

Barramundi Asia’s focus on Brunei, Australia; Europe not a priority in 2020 Undercurrent News 29th Jan 2020
Singapore-based aquaculture company Barramundi Asia will focus its efforts to set up its Brunei operations and expand its presence in Australia during 2020, senior business manager Ying Quan Tan told Undercurrent News. Although the company previously disclosed its intention to send its fish as far abroad as Europe, at the present time that's not a top concern. "Of course Europe is a key market in our long term plan, but it will not be a priority for us for 2020," Tan said. He also added that Barramundi Asia will focus its “efforts on sales and marketing in Australia. Our Australian farm is the only one that farms barramundi in deep-sea cages out in the ocean and we intend to further invest into building its Cone Bay Ocean barramundi brand," he said. "Although we are not actively looking out for new acquisitions in Australia, we remain open to exploring new opportunities." Following its recent merger with tech startup Allegro Aqua, Barramundi Asia's efforts will also be directed towards integrating the company into the group and exploring new synergies with other business units such as its vaccine arm UVAXX, which provides vaccinated fingerlings.

MoU signed to enhance premium muskmelon research in Brunei The Star Online 14th Jan 2020
Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) and Gropoint Sdn Bhd inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at UTB to enhance the research and development of premium muskmelon in Brunei. Under the MoU, UTB and Gropoint, a producer and exporter of specialty muskmelon, will organise training programmes for the university students and staff. Two UTB postgraduate students under the Food Science and Technology programme of the School of Applied Sciences and Mathematics (SASM) have initiated research activities in collaboration with Gropoint and the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood (DAA) of the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism. They are studying and gathering data on morphological and physiological characteristics of locally grown Japanese muskmelon and conducting scientific research on packaging technology for exports of these premium fruits. Future collaborative plans between the two partners will also include Research and Development (R&D) in the areas of marketing, post-harvest studies, disease and pest management, and food product development. These efforts are part of the Centre for Research on Agri-Food Science and Technology’s (CrAFT) strategic plans to translate research outcomes into products and process in on-going efforts to link academia with the industries.

Health & Life Sciences

BDRCS sets target for first aider in every family by 2025 – Borneo Bulletin Online 22nd Feb 2020
The long-term target is to have at least one first aider in each household or family by 2025, Brunei Darussalam Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) President Haji Muhammad Suhaimi bin Haji Ibrahim said. “Through the BDRCS’ strategic plan 2020-2025 we aim to train more first aiders and instil the culture of safety within the community,” he said.

Three health products found adulterated - Borneo Bulletin Online 20th Feb 2020
The Ministry of Health (MoH) alerted the public to three types of health products tested by the Pharmacy Section, Department of Scientific Services, MoH and found to be adulterated with undeclared, potent western medicines. The affected health products are Li Da Daidaihua Weight Loss Capsule found to contain acetaminophen and sibutramine; Grow XL Capsule found to contain sildenafil; and Swiss Candy, manufactured by GH Health Care, Switzerland, found to contain tadalafil. The adulterants found in these products can cause adverse effects that are potentially hazardous to the people using them. Acetaminophen or paracetamol is a medicine used for pain-relief and to reduce fever. Excessive acetaminophen or paracetamol use may lead to liver damage, kidney failure, coma and can result in death.

Nearly 30pc Bruneians obese, over 50pc have high cholesterol – Borneo Bulletin Online 17th Feb 2020
Based on the Brunei National STEPS Survey on Non-Communicable Disease and Risk Factors 2015-2016, 28.2 per cent of the population of Brunei Darussalam are obese, 51.3 per cent have high levels of cholesterol, and 91.7 per cent eat less than five servings of fruit and/or vegetables per day. Moreover, 21.8 per cent of Bruneians often add salt, or sauces high in salt to their food, while 19.5 per cent eat processed food which is high in salt. The mean daily intake of salt among Bruneians is 10 grammes, which is double that of the World Health Organization’s recommendation of five grammes per day. The growing concerns on the unhealthy dietary habits of the Brunei population were raised by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during the launching of the National Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Eating Brunei Darussalam 2020 (NDGs) at the Ministry of Health (MoH)’s Al-‘Afiah Hall yesterday.

Public made aware of salt, health link – Borneo Bulletin Online 17th Feb 2020
A mass media campaign for the National Strategy on Salt Reduction 2020 is slated to take off in early March, the Health Promotion Centre (HPC) said yesterday. This was disclosed when Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar officiated the launching of the National Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Eating Brunei Darussalam 2020 (NDGs) during a symposium held at the MoH’s Al-’Afiah Hall to improve the dietary and lifestyle habits of the Bruneian population.

Brunei sets up 4 temporary shelters to combat coronavirus spread The Scoop 8th Feb 2020
The Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health have identified four sites that will potentially be turned into “monitoring centres” or temporary quarantine shelters for suspected coronavirus cases. No coronavirus cases have been recorded in Brunei thus far, but the country has stepped up precautionary measures including banning the entry of travellers from China’s Hubei province. All travellers returning from China have been ordered to undergo self-isolation for 14 days. 158 people are under self-quarantine in Brunei. Nineteen have already completed their isolation and been cleared –they comprise Bruneians studying in China, travellers as well as Hengyi Industries workers.

MoU on ‘Medical Bank’ signed Borneo Bulletin Online 6th Feb 2020
Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Medical Bank with Jaya Hypermart to help patients who receive Yayasan’s assistance, yesterday. Yayasan is a charity platform for His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and members of the royal family. One of its aims is to provide medical assistance and treatment to patients who are not eligible under the government medical scheme.

Health Promotion Centre unveils Healthy Dining Programme – Borneo Bulletin Online 5th Feb 2020
The Ministry of Health (MoH), through its Health Promotion Centre (HPC), implemented a Healthy Dining Programme in collaboration with several food outlets, which also include juice outlets to boost the availability of healthy drink options. The programme aims to create a local market that is conducive to healthy eating choices, in addition to fostering the custom and practice of healthy food choices among restaurant and café owners, managers and customers. With the launch of the programme at The Energy Juice Shop, it is hoped that other food outlets, particularly juice or drinks outlets will also participate and become key partners in supporting healthy eating initiatives in Brunei Darussalam, in helping to achieve the MoH’s 2035 Vision of ‘Together Towards a Healthy Nation’.

DCCA warns against hiking medical mask, hand sanitiser prices Borneo Bulletin Online 4th Feb 2020
The Department of Competition and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) under the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (DEPS) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) yesterday reminded all retailers and private clinics not to take advantage of the novel coronavirus outbreak by hiking prices for medical masks and hand sanitisers. The department has begun monitoring costs and retail prices of these items, following numerous formal complaints received in the past few days on price hikes.

Brunei bans entry of visitors with recent Hubei travel history The Scoop 30th Jan 2020
The Brunei government has barred China’s Hubei residents from entering the country starting January 30 as part of preventive measures to contain the new coronavirus outbreak. Health Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said anyone who visited Hubei province – the center of the coronavirus epidemic – in the past 14 days will be denied entry to Brunei, except Brunei citizens and permanent residents. In a press conference to announce the preventive measures on January 30, the minister warned that the risk of imported coronavirus cases into Brunei is “considered high” even though no cases have been detected in the country thus far. YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham said anyone who has been in China in the past two weeks will also be required to undergo self-isolation for 14 days. The Ministry of Education said 42 out of the 73 Brunei students have been evacuated from China since December 2019. The health minister said another 29 students are expected to return to Brunei on Friday. All of the students will undergo self-isolation for 14 days. Brunei has also postponed official government visits to China and government officials are advised not to travel to China at this time.

Medical masks out of stock amid virus concern Borneo Bulletin Online 29th Jan 2020
Concerns over the spreading of Wuhan coronavirus has caused the demand for medical masks to surge in China and other Asian countries. In Brunei Darussalam, the Guardian retail pharmacy quickly ran out of supplies, amid reports of confirmed cases in neighboring Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Despite restocking their shelves yesterday afternoon, all Guardian Brunei outlets were out of a fresh batch by 6.30pm. A staff member at Guardian Brunei assured that a fresh delivery of disposal masks would arrive in two weeks.

Brunei takes steps to screen visitors to country at airport Borneo Bulletin Online 24th Jan 2020
Amid growing concerns of the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has increased precautionary measures such as the reintroduction of body temperature checks for visitors to the country, especially those from cities in the People’s Republic of China. The use of thermal scanning at the Brunei International Airport began on January 21. Health declaration forms have also been reissued for flights arriving from cities in China. These latest measures were announced by the MoH on January 23, which also stated that at present, Brunei Darussalam has no cases of severe respiratory infections related to the cases in Wuhan. On January 11, the Chinese authorities confirmed the discovery of a previously unknown type of coronavirus which is now known as 2019-nCoV. Infection from the coronavirus has been confirmed in other countries, including Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the United States. All cases reported outside of China had a history of travel to Wuhan within 14 days. Meanwhile, there have been unverified reports of 2019-nCoV cases in several countries.

PJSC and STHG enter partnership to enhance healthcare services Borneo Bulletin Online 19th Jan 2020
On January 18, Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre (PJSC) and Southern TOHOKU Hospital Group (STHG) of Japan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy in Jalan Menteri Besar. Executive Director Dr. Haji Mazrul Adimin bin Haji Besar signed the MoU on behalf of PJSC, while Vice President Dr. Sadayoshi Watanabe signed on behalf of STHG. PJSC is a specialized healthcare provider comprised of three specialized medical service centers: The Brunei Cancer Center (TBCC), Brunei Neuroscience, Stroke and Rehabilitation Center (BNSRC), and Maxillofacial, Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Center (MFPRSC). STGH is a medical and social welfare service conglomerate focusing on corporations in Japan. According to PJSC, the MoU will support it in achieving health-related targets, advance value-based innovation and enhance the quality of healthcare services under its portfolio. The move comes amid PJSC’s broader aim of becoming a leading specialized medical center in cancer treatment.

ICT

Imagine unveils unlimited broadband from $169 monthly Biz Brunei 24th Jan 2020
imagine has debuted including unlimited fixed-line broadband packages beginning at $169 monthly at a speed of 20 Mbps along with postpaid 4G+ mobile plans. The new ‘Dream’ packages look to entice their existing customer base from TelBru – who previously operated as the only fixed-line broadband provider in Brunei – to bundle with mobile packages. imagine’s management in a press conference yesterday said that the new broadband packages were an improvement from TelBru’s offerings, providing “more value” for money. TelBru’s cheapest unlimited, unthrottled broadband was $199 for 30Mbps. For the same price, imagine is now offering a connection speed of 50MBps. Also new is a 500GB package, with a 10% discount off the monthly bill for those who sign onto new plans by 29 February this year. imagine’s postpaid mobile plans begin at $35 a month with 8GB data customisable “Boosters” – selective upgrades to minutes, messages, or data for a price – with contract and non-contract options. Customers who get both fixed-line and mobile plans with imagine will also have unlimited access to WiFi connections found in over 100 locations nationwide – mostly places of public interest. TelBru’s rebranding as imagine comes after the government-owned Darussalam Assets (DA) announced last February that all network infrastructure in Brunei would be consolidated under a single entity called Unified National Networks (UNN). In turn, UNN will sell connectivity to Brunei’s three telcos: DST, Progresif – who have been mobile-focused – and TelBru.

National cyber security agency to be formed, says MTIC minister The Scoop 10th Jan 2020
The government will establish a national cyber security agency and is currently drafting new cyber security laws, the minister of Transport and Infocommunications has revealed. YB Dato Seri Setia Abdul Mutalib Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Hj Mohammad Yusof made the announcement during a closed-door dialogue with Legislative Council (LegCo) members on Thursday.

Infrastructure

Brunei-Indonesia shipping link to reduce prices – Borneo Bulletin Online 23rd Jan 2020
Goods from Indonesia to Brunei Darussalam are expected to become cheaper once a direct shipping link is established between the two countries next month. Bilateral trade between the two countries is expected to get a further boost once Indonesia shifts its capital from Jakarta to East Borneo in future. All economic activities will be developed in the new capital city, which easily connects to Brunei Darussalam.

Travel & Tourism

Coronavirus takes a toll on Brunei tourism Borneo Bulletin Online 21st Feb 2020
Due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has suspended flights to the provinces of Hubei, Zhejiang and Jiangsu in the People’s Republic of China, in addition to reducing the number of flights to Hong Kong and Taipei. With local authorities issuing travel bans and suspensions of flights, especially from mainland China, the Brunei travel sector is bracing itself for the impact of the global pandemic. China is the largest source of overseas travel to the Sultanate, followed by other Far East markets in South Korea and Japan. According to Brunei’s Tourism Development Department, China is the top source market for tourist arrivals to Brunei, with a record number of 43,000 arrivals from January to July in 2019. Their absence is keenly felt by the local hoteliers and tour operators that thrived under their patronage. A hotel in Jerudong is now facing an 80 per cent drop in occupancy rates, due to cancellations of bookings from Chinese tour groups since the travel advisories were announced. A representative from an established travel agency located in Bandar Seri Begawan also told the Bulletin that business has been “very much affected” since the coronavirus outbreak. “We were supposed to have a group (from Brunei) leaving for mainland China, but all flights were cancelled,” she said. “We are now working with the airline authorities to either change flight dates or provide full refunds to our customers.”

Singapore Airlines, SilkAir cancel Brunei flights Borneo Bulletin Online 20th Feb 2020
On February 19, Singapore Airlines and SilkAir announced further temporary cancellations of flights across their network, including flights from Singapore to Brunei and vice-versa, amid weak global travel demand as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. According to the Singapore flag carrier in a statement on its website, flights for the Singapore-Brunei and Brunei-Singapore route on April 8, April 9, April 24, April 29, May 6, May 7, May 13, May 14, May 17 and May 20 this year have been cancelled, along with flights in its other routes across the world, in specific dates. Details of the affected flights can be found on their website. The airline said they will continue to monitor the situation and make further adjustments as necessary, while noting that affected customers will be notified and re-accommodated onto other flights. Those who have booked their tickets through a travel agency are advised to contact their agent for assistance.

Brunei among low risk countries for travelers, says report Borneo Bulletin Online 20th Jan 2020
International SOS, a travel security services company based in the United Kingdom, has classified Brunei Darussalam’s travel security risk as “low” in its 2020 annual Travel Risk Map. The map ranks countries based on medical, security, and road safety, with five categories of risk: insignificant, low, medium, high, and extreme. Low Travel Security Risk indicates that violent crimes rates are low and racial, sectarian, or political violence or civil unrest is uncommon. The most dangerous countries on the Travel Risk Map include Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Sudan.

Brunei-China Year of Tourism 2020 launched Borneo Bulletin Online 18th Jan 2020
The joint tourism year initiative between Brunei Darussalam and the People’s Republic of China was officially launched on January 17th at the Arts Center of Jerudong International School. Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, officiated the event as the guest of honor. The Brunei-China Year of Tourism 2020 seeks to enhance tourism cooperation through people-to-people and cultural exchanges, as well as foster business and trade connections beyond tourism. Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong noted that China is one of the top source markets for tourist arrivals for Brunei, with 43,000 tourist arrivals by July 2019. The Minister also stated that he anticipates increased tourist traffic and economic growth between the two countries stemming from direct and increased air connectivity, as in the newly launched route of Royal Brunei Airlines to Beijing.