DARe inviting businesses to apply for ASEAN Entrepreneur Award Biz Brunei 26th Apr 2020
Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) is inviting Brunei businesses to apply for the fifth ASEAN Entrepreneur Award taking place at the 21st World Knowledge Forum in South Korea this September. The annual award organized by the ASEAN Korea Centre and Maekyung Media Group aims to promote outstanding businesses in ASEAN, raise awareness of the region as an investment hub and foster greater economic cooperation between businesses in South Korea and ASEAN. This year’s ASEAN Entrepreneur Award will see five categories contested with the following criteria: 1. Regional Champion: regional giants with a strong presence in more than three ASEAN countries. The nominees in this category not only contribute to cross-border trade but also increase the awareness of ASEAN on an international level. 2. Entrepreneur 4.0: exceptional entrepreneurs in the digital sector or tech startups. The nominees in this category provide innovative solutions to the problems in their country or ASEAN with smart technologies, improving overall quality of life. 3. Empowering Women: Female business leaders with significant achievements in their field. The nominees in this category are role models and have inspired other young women in their country and wider ASEAN. 4. Up-and coming Startups: Businesses at the early stage of operations, with innovative and novel business models that inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. 5. Scale-ups – The Next Unicorns: Fast-growing startups showing maturity in terms of revenue and operation with potential to be a unicorn, a privately helped startup company valued at $1 billion.
Host of facilities at new NIC building in Tutong Borneo Bulletin Online 23rd Apr 2020
The handing over ceremony of the new National Isolation Centre (NIC) building in the Tutong District to the Ministry of Health (MoH) will be held soon. This was announced by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during a press conference at the Al-‘Afiah Hall of the ministry on April 22. The BND11,317,514 building consists of seven main blocks, five blocks to treat patients with clinical settings; and two blocks for administration and engineering. It is equipped with new medical equipment and has several facilities including 160 beds in isolation wards, six beds for intensive treatment, a pharmacy, treatment rooms, workshop equipment room, meeting rooms, genset room, counseling room, food preparation room, toilets and bathrooms, gowning and de-gowning rooms, ANTE room, sluice room, biohazard and household waste room, storage room for equipment cleaning, waiting area and a Surau. On the role of the Pengiran Muda Mahkota Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah (PMMPMHAMB) Hospital after the establishment of the NIC building, the minister said, “The PMMPMHAMB Hospital will still be used. Although the NIC building is complete, several technical details need to be attended to ensure its safety. We have to carry out clinical cleaning to prevent viruses or bacteria from producing or growing. This may take a few days more but Insya Allah, the handover will be conducted soon.” The construction of the building, coordinated by the Ministry of Development and the MoH, commenced on March 27 by LCL Sdn Bhd as the appointed constructor. The building is constructed on an over 6,000 square metre site near the current NIC.
Use online services, minister urges Borneo Bulletin Online 21st Apr 2020
Several initiatives have been implemented to reduce congestion at Land Transport Department (JPD) counters and its branches, including increasing online service usage, Pay and Collect and the Darussalam hotline 123 over the past two weeks. Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohammad Yusof acknowledged that there are still shortcomings in ensuring the comfort of the public, including an attempt to provide Drive-Through services at JPD branches, in which the minister apologized on behalf of JPD and the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) for the inconveniences. Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib revealed that there has been encouraging growth of an average weekly increase from 68 online applications to 351 – a five-fold increase from March 21 out of about 1,000 to 2,000 applications daily. The minister advised the public to optimize the use of online renewal as it has been progressively encouraging, believing that there is great potential as the value-added services will be the way forward for MTIC even after COVID-19 ends.
Brunei to conduct random Covid-19 tests for foreign workers The Star Online 7th Apr 2020
Brunei will conduct Covid-19 laboratory tests randomly among migrant workers in the country, the Brunei government announced on April 6. According to Brunei's Health Ministry, the latest Covid-19 case statistics show that 25 out of 135 cases detected in the country were foreigners, which includes some of the foreign workers in the sultanate. Selected employers will be contacted to bring the workers in for free tests, the health ministry added. Brunei reported no new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, the second consecutive day without new cases since the first case was detected in the sultanate on March 9. According to Brunei's Health Ministry, the total number of Covid-19 cases in Brunei remained at 135. Nine more patients have recovered, bringing the total recovered cases to 82. Brunei's Home Affairs Ministry announced on Monday that Ramadan bazaars typically held at different locations across the country during the Muslim holy month, which is coming soon, will not be held this year, as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.Brunei's Religious Affairs Ministry also announced on Monday that the closure of all mosques, suraus and prayer halls has been extended for another week until April 13.
Only authorised foreigners can enter Brunei Borneo Bulletin Online 18th Apr 2020
Defense & Security
Following the announcement on foreigners needing to pay BND1,000 for the COVID-19 test, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar clarified that the government is still not allowing foreigners to the country except those who are authorized. “Those authorised include spouses, family members or those who are working with the government or the private sector who are needed to work here. Tourists are definitely not allowed,” the minister said during the daily press conference. He said foreign workers need to be quarantined and cover the cost for accommodation for 15 days of isolation and the swab test. The mandatory COVID-19 test also applies for their children. The minister said the government will bear the cost of accommodation and swab test for foreign workers working with the government who arrive in the country.
South China Sea: US State Department Criticizes China for Reported Ramming, Sinking of Vietnamese Fishing Boat The Diplomat 28th Apr 2020
On April 6, the U.S. State Department criticized China after reports emerged that a Vietnamese fishing vessel had been sunk near the disputed Paracel Islands. In a statement, Morgan Ortagus, the U.S. Department of State’s spokesperson, said that the United States was “seriously concerned by reports of the PRC’s sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.” China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, and Taiwan are all territorial claimants in the South China Sea. China claims nearly 90 percent of the waters in the area under its capacious nine-dash line claim, including the entirety of the Spratly Islands where Beijing has built seven artificial islands. “China’s Nine-Dashed Line was deemed an unlawful maritime claim by an arbitral tribunal convened under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention in July 2016, a position shared by the U.S. Government,” the State Department, referencing the award by a Hague-based tribunal in a 2013 case filed by the Philippines against China after a standoff in 2012 over Scarborough Shoal.
Brunei foresees strong economy despite COVID-19 crisis, says minister Borneo Bulletin Online 21st Apr 2020
Brunei Darussalam’s economy is forecast to be strong and able to record a respectable growth rate this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic. This is supported by development in various industries and in the agriculture sector in the Sultanate which have shown positive growth over the past two to three years. In its forecast early this year, IMF said for 2020, it has projected the country’s GDP growth at 4.7 per cent. In response, Brunei sees growth in both the oil and gas sector and in non-oil and gas sector. Based on its internal assessment, with the exception of few in the tourism sector, many can still continue to operate and people can still go to office and work.
IMF lowers Brunei’s GDP growth to 1.3 per cent this year Borneo Bulletin Online 20th Apr 2020
Brunei Darussalam’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth is projected to be 1.3 per cent this year and 3.5 per cent next year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) highlighted on April 14, in its first World Economic Outlook report since the pandemic shut major economies. In its earlier forecast in October last year, IMF said for 2020, it has projected the country’s GDP growth at 4.7 per cent, taking into account the first production of the downstream oil and gas industry for the Oil and Petrochemical Plant Project in Pulau Muara Besar (PMB) as well the construction of Brunei Fertilizer Industries (BFI) plant. IMF earlier forecast the GDP growth to be 3.6 per cent for next year. The IMF stated the COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting high and rising human costs worldwide, while the protection measures are impacting economic activities. As a result of the pandemic, the global economy is projected to contract sharply by -3 per cent in 2020, much worse than during the 2008-09 financial crisis. The IMF added that the Asean +5 economies (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) are forecast to be 1.1 per cent this year and six per cent next year. The Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2020, the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) annual flagship economic publication, released recently said Brunei Darussalam’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth is forecast to continue to grow above trend, albeit at a slower pace at two per cent this year, before picking up to three per cent next year (2021).
Over 2,100 small business owners to get $300 for three months The Scoop 18th Apr 2020
Market vendors and small business owners will receive $300 for three months as part of the government’s economic relief measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. The financial aid is also extended to taxi drivers and tour guides whose source of income has been affected since tourists cannot enter the country due to a travel ban imposed on March 24. A statement from the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) Secretariat said the $1.93 million payout will be distributed among 2,154 people identified by the council’s task force. The welfare assistance, which will start in April, is also rendered to non-Muslims. On April 13, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah in a titah announced that financial aid will be given to market stall operators, while acknowledging that small businesses and low-income workers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. The government last month unveiled a $450 million economic stimulus package to help businesses survive the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with measures such as loan payment deferrals, wage subsidies and social security contributions. The MUIB welfare aid recipients are made up of small business owners, self-employed individuals and low-income workers officially registered under four ministries – Ministry of Home Affairs; Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism; Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) and Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS). The bulk of the financial aid will go to market vendors registered under the home affairs ministry, with $1.72 million to be distributed among 1,910 market vendors. A total of $72,900 will be shared between 81 tour guides, while $104,400 will be handed out to 116 taxi drivers, ride-sharing DART drivers and speedboat drivers registered with MTIC. Forty-seven small business owners under MCYS will receive a cumulative welfare assistance of $42,300.
Brunei unemployment rate highest in Southeast Asia, says ADB report Borneo Bulletin Online 16th Apr 2020
The latest labour force survey in Brunei Darussalam showed that the unemployment rate hit 8.7 per cent in 2018. Although this was down from 9.3 per cent in 2017, it was still the highest unemployment rate in Southeast Asia. This was highlighted recently by the Asia Development Bank (ADB), in its Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2020, which is ADB’s annual flagship economic publication. The report also said that the unemployment rate among youth aged 15-24 increased from 28.8 per cent in 2017 to 29.9 per cent in 2018. By educational attainment, 40 per cent of the unemployed have tertiary education, or technical and vocational education and technical training (TVET). High unemployment among TVET graduates and those with tertiary education indicates a mismatch between the skills and qualifications possessed by the local labour force and those demanded in the labour market. The report added that in recognizing this, the Brunei Government recently initiated several programs. To develop better vocational training and education, re-skilling, and the professionalization of manual jobs, it established several initiatives such as the i-Ready Apprenticeship Program, in addition to strengthening collaboration and engagement with industry through the Manpower and Industry Steering Committee. Further initiatives aim to develop aspiring entrepreneurs, such as those under DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) and the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE), as well as the Entrepreneurship Innovation Centre under the Ministry of Education (MoE). The recently concluded Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting highlighted findings from the Workforce Survey 2018 including the total workforce in the country being at around 201,700, with 72 per cent comprised of Brunei citizens and permanent residents, while the remaining 28 per cent were foreigners. The majority of the employment is concentrated in the service sector (79.5 per cent), especially in public administration (22.9 per cent), and wholesale and retail business (12.7 per cent). Meanwhile, the rate of unemployment is at 8.7 per cent, which is a reduction from 9.3 per cent in 2017, which is 19,223 individuals, whereby 49.7 per cent are aged 25 to 64 and 50.3 per cent aged 15 to 24.
Special allowance for healthcare workers The Star Online 15th Apr 2020
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in an address outlined an incentive in the form of a monthly special allowance of B$400 (RM1,220) to healthcare workers and those involved in the fight against Covid-19 in Brunei, to recognise their sacrifices and commitment to the country amid the coronavirus crisis. Hassanal said that the B$400 allowance will be granted to doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers, volunteers, cleaners, security guards and all those working with the Ministry of Health (MoH), especially at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital, National Isolation Centre (NIC) in Tutong and also government-designated quarantine centres. The monthly special allowance comes into effect March 2020 and will be extended until the eradication of the virus in Brunei, he added. Hassanal also announced that groups whose income are affected by the pandemic such as fresh market traders, taxi drivers and water-taxi drivers will also be given assistance that will be coordinated by the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) of the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA). He also urged landlords such as owners of commercial properties to be considerate with their tenants during this dire situation by alleviating the burden of affected businesses by waiving or reducing rents for a while until the pandemic is over.
MSMEs welcome ‘beras pulut’ discount Borneo Bulletin 10th Apr 2020
A number of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as well as private entrepreneurs welcomed the Ministry of Finance and Economy initiative through its Treasury Department on the 50 per cent discount on glutinous rice (beras pulut) from April 8. The announcement on the 50 per cent discount for MSMEs and private entrepreneurs engaged in the preparation and sale of traditional cakes using beras pulut for a month was made by 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 during the press conference on April 7. Speaking to the Bulletin, Shariana binti Haji Zainal who has a stall at the Pasar Pelbagai Barangan Gadong expressed her excitement following the news. “I’ve been selling pulut panggang for about 10 years and this year the business hasn’t been good because of the pandemic. We used to sell here every day, but now we only come three times a week,” said Shariana. “I’m thankful, and I hope that this pandemic will end soon.”
DARe initiatives for MSMEs Borneo Bulletin 7th Apr 2020
After further assessment of the business and labour market situation, the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) in cooperation with the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC), the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) are taking steps to support the private sector in continuing to generate employment and maintain job security of local citizens. One of the initiatives under DARe is the Industry Business Academy (IBA) online training, which is powered by Coursera. According to DARe, IBA is a newly launched initiative to provide the owners of local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with access to online business courses. There are over 300 courses in IBA online that businesses can tap into from eight different domains: Marketing and Sales, Innovation and Design, Human Resources, Finance and Accounting, Business Ops, Business Skills, Data Skills and Technology Skills. IBA online is open to local MSMEs, and those looking to apply must be registered with the Registry of Companies and Business Names (ROCBN) under the MoFE. Another initiative introduced under DARe is the Co-Matching Scheme, which is a co-matching fund of up to BND20,000 aimed to encourage and assist businesses to grow in the hope of boosting revenue and encouraging future exports. Through this scheme, DARe will contribute 70 per cent of the amount required for the business, which in turn contributes the remaining 30 per cent of the funds. This scheme is open to all business sectors, and is eligible for both start-ups and functioning businesses. As for businesses in the e-commerce and logistic services, DARe advised to use the Co-Matching grant to improve their software and back end to encourage more businesses to sell online, in order to grow their operations.
Brunei says it will continue oil production despite global oversupply The Star Online 22nd Apr 2020
BRUNEI, April 22 (Borneo Bulletin/ANN) - 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 said yesterday during a press conference that there is obviously an oversupply situation following a question on whether the recent plunge in Brent Blend crude oil prices have affected Brunei.
Brunei will continue oil production Borneo Bulletin Online 22nd Apr 2020
There are four major benchmarks for crude oil globally – West Texas Intermediate (WTI), Brent Blend, Dubai Crude and Tapis Crude-, in which WTI recently announced that the United States’ (US) oil prices fell as low as USD37.63 per barrel. 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 explained on April 21 during a press conference that there is obviously an oversupply situation following a question on whether the recent Brent Blend crude oil prices have affected Brunei. The minister added that trading for May cargo will be continued and trading for the June cargo to begin today, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting demand especially in the US, which will have implications on other benchmarks. “Production will be continued in Brunei and I’ve had a discussion with Brunei Shell Petroleum Co Sdn Bhd (BSP) on this matter as well, and this is the time when you really need to make sure that you always have a diversified portfolio of buyers,” said the minister. The selling of cargo, said the minister, can be done first, but will depend on a determined price set during that month. For example if the cargo is traded for the month of June, the prices will be whatever is set during that month.
Green energy projects launched in Temburong Borneo Bulletin Online 18th Apr 2020
The Ministry of Energy (ME) through its Sustainable Energy Division recently introduced two sustainable energy related-projects, 8kW solar photovoltaic rooftop installation project and energy auditing program in the Temburong District. The projects will support the Temburong District Development Authority (AKDT) initiatives and project masterplan. The projects aim to encourage the deployment of the renewable energy technologies and to ensure energy saving opportunities are prudently optimized in the Temburong District. The installation of 8kW solar rooftop project on a three-floor shop house at Bumiputra Commercial Building once completed will be the first government-led solar project in the Temburong District, advocating the “green concept”. This is part of the ministry’s ongoing effort to integrate renewable energy into the national power generation mix in realizing Brunei Vision 2035, the ME stated. The project construction by a local contractor began early this month and is expected to be completed by late April 2020. It is estimated that the solar PV system will produce approximately 10,500 kWh per year. This is equivalent to a reduction of carbon emission of about 2,838 kg of carbon dioxide per year and the reduction of diesel consumption of 4,200 liters per year. Meanwhile the ministry launched an energy auditing programme on government buildings in the Temburong District last February. The energy audits are conducted by the ministry’s certified Energy Manager and Energy Auditor from the ASEAN Energy Manager Training and Certification Program under ASEAN-Japan Energy Efficiency Partnership (AJEEP) scheme. Government office buildings in the Temburong District are expected to meet the mandated Energy Efficiency Index (EEI) of 175 kilowatt-hours per square meter per year as part of the requirement under Brunei Accredited Green Unified Seal (BAGUS) produced by the Ministry of Development (MoD) to be awarded with the Building Energy Label (BEL) Recognition Certificate.
Asian LNG prices edge up from record low but demand still stale Asian LNG prices edge up from record low but demand still stale 9th Apr 2020
Asian spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices edged up the week of April 6 from record lows in the previous week as Chinese buyers re-entered the market, but stale demand elsewhere capped the rise in prices. The average LNG price for May delivery into northeast Asia rose by 10 cents to an estimated $2.40 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) this week, several traders said. Brunei LNG sold two cargoes for delivery in May at about $2.40 to $2.60 per mmBtu, while Australia's Ichthys LNG sold an April-loading cargo at similar price levels on a delivered basis, traders said.
France's Total sells assets in Brunei, Sierra Leone, Liberia Reuters 7th Apr 2020
Total said on April 7 that it had sold assets in Brunei, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which the French energy group said represented a total value of more than $400 million. In Brunei, Total said it had closed the sale of its wholly owned subsidiary Total E&P Deep Offshore Borneo BV to Shell, while it also signed a deal to sell its marketing and services businesses in Liberia and Sierra Leone to Conex Oil & Gas Holdings Ltd. “In the current context of low oil prices, these transactions support the action plan announced to weather the crisis,” Total Chief Financial Officer Jean-Pierre Sbraire said.
GLOBAL LNG-Asian LNG prices fall below $2 per mmBtu as spot offers flood market Yahoo Finance 24th Apr 2020
Asian spot prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) tumbled this as week as sellers around the world flooded the market with cargo offers, while demand remained subdued amid coronavirus-related lockdowns. The average LNG price for June delivery into northeast Asia was estimated at around $1.95 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) on April 24, $0.35 per mmBtu lower than the estimate last week. A wave of supply tenders has hit the market as a number of buyers are rescheduling long-term deliveries, leaving suppliers with excess cargoes, an LNG trader said. In Asia, Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Bhd, or Petronas, also offered an LNG cargo for delivery in June. Brunei's LNG export plant has sold a June 9-10 loading cargo in a tender that closed on April 20 at close to $2.00 per mmBtu, one trader said.
Singapore's logistics Ninja Van raises $124m in Series D round Nikkei Asian Review 9th Apr 2020
Food & Agriculture
Singapore-based last-mile logistics player Ninja Van has raised at least $124 million of new Series D equity capital since April 2019, including a substantial investment from Brunei's sovereign wealth fund, according to data obtained by DealStreetAsia. Ninja Van also issued $89 million of convertible notes for existing investors Geopost SA and B Capital in 2018 and 2019, from which Ninja Van has obtained $52.4 million of equity capital following conversions at Series D pricing. Based on available data, Zamrud, a sovereign wealth fund controlled by Brunei, joined Ninja Van's capitalization table as the largest disclosed investor in the Series D equity round so far, with a $50 million stake. Zamrud's participation in the Series D round marks a rare appearance in the venture deal headlines by the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund. It coincides with Ninja Van's plans, disclosed to business news network CNBC in February, to expand into Brunei in 2020. The company already operates in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand. The Brunei Investment Agency could not be reached for comment.
Ghanim's Buy Local Produce campaign collects over 500kg Biz Brunei 26th Apr 2020
Ghanim International Corporation has collected over 500kg of 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables from local farmers and market vendors in Tutong and Belait to be supplied to supermarkets as part of their Buy Local Produce campaign. Close to 60 vendors dropped off their produce at the Seria wet market and Tutong’s Serambangun over the past two weeks, which Ghanim purchased outright and then sold to supermarkets who either arrived later to pick up or had the items delivered to them. Ghanim plans to facilitate the drop offs for local vendors every Tuesday in Seria (Belait) and every Thursday in Tutong as marketplaces (tamu) in both districts have been closed since last month as part of measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Produce bought from vendors by Ghanim for less than $200 is paid in full, while larger supply is paid 50% upfront and the remaining 50% the following week. Ghanim sells the majority of the produce to Hua Ho, Sim Kim Huat, Jaya Hypermart and the Millimewah Group. The products are also sold to eateries and at Ghanim’s kiosk at the Ministry of Finance and Economy’s building. Second Finance and Economy Minister YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah announced the Buy Local Produce campaign on April 22 to help vendors and farmers mitigate losses caused by the markets’ closure.
Covid-19: Sabah to export vegetables to neighbouring Brunei to address glut Malay Mail 20th Apr 2020
Health & Life Sciences
Sabah is looking to export its vegetables to neighboring Brunei to manage the glut under the movement control order (MCO). Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said that there was an oversupply of vegetables and fish in the state which could be sent to Brunei. He said that he was aware of the imbalance of demand and supply for perishable goods in the market due to the MCO and his ministry had taken various steps to address it.
China supports Brunei’s fight against virus with donations Borneo Bulletin Online 24th Apr 2020
To show support and strengthen ties between China and Brunei, the Government of the People’s Republic of China donated 100,000 N95 respirators and 1,000 disposable isolation gowns while the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Brunei Darussalam donated BND60,000 to the Ministry of Health (MoH) in curbing the outbreak of COVID-19 in Brunei Darussalam. Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Brunei Darussalam Yu Hong presented the donation to Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during a ceremony at the Al-‘Afiah Hall of the MoH. His Majesty sent messages to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, while Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote encouraging words on a message board, and people came to the embassy to express support to China. It was also shared that the government had previously donated half a million US dollars to the Hubei Charity Federation.
Brunei sees more relapse Covid-19 cases The Star Online 19th Apr 2020
Brunei reported one new case of the Covid-19 on April 19, breaking the seven-day record of zero cases reported and bringing the total positive cases to 137. One more patient has recovered and the total number of recovered cases rises to 113. Another five relapse patients were re-admitted to the National Isolation Centre on April 18, which brings the total relapse cases to 16. At present, there are still 23 active cases being treated at the National Isolation Centre, where two patients are in critical condition and both require Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) and respiratory assistance. The rest are in a stable condition. The ministry added that so far 85 individuals are still undergoing quarantine and 2,407 people have completed the quarantine period.
Foreign travellers to bear Covid-19 testing costs in Brunei The Star Online 17th Apr 2020
Brunei has announced that starting from April 16, all foreign visitors arriving in Brunei must bear the cost of Covid-19 testings, which is at 1,000 Brunei dollars (US$700) per person. According to Brunei's Ministry of Health, the Brunei government will no longer bear the cost of Covid-19 testing for incoming foreign passengers and the costs of the 14-day isolation at designated government facilities will also be borne by foreigners entering Brunei, as announced earlier this month. The minister also said mass gatherings will not be allowed during the upcoming month of Ramadan which starts next week although the Covid-19 outbreak is under control in the sultanate. Brunei reported no new cases of Covid-19 on April 16, marking the sixth day in a row without new cases since last Friday, when the first round of zero new cases reporting for five consecutive days was broken by one new positive patient. The country's tally of cases stands at 136 since the first case was detected in the sultanate on March 9. At the same time, no more patients have recovered on Thursday and the total number of recovered cases remains at 108.
Recurring cases worrying, says minister The Star Online 15th Apr 2020
The development of patients testing positive again for Covid-19 is very worrying, as there is still uncertainty of how the new virus infects and how it will evolve, says Brunei’s Minister of Health Dr Mohd Isham Jaafar. Following the recent discovery of one recurring patient, seven more were found to have tested positive again, bringing the total so far to eight. “This means there are plenty of things to learn, therefore information-sharing between neighbouring and regional countries is very important, ” he said on April 14.
No new cases as five more recover in Brunei The Star Online 13th Apr 2020
No new Covid-19 cases were reported with the total number in the country standing at 136. Five more cases treated at the National Isolation Centre have recovered and were allowed to go home. This brings the total number of recoveries to 104. Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham revealed these details at a press conference in Bandar Seri Begawan on April 12. “Thirty one cases are receiving treatment at the National Isolation Centre where two are still in a critical condition with both needing ventilators and additional heart/lung machine (ECMO). “The remaining cases are in a stable condition, ” Dr Haji Mohd Isham said. He said 2,317 persons have completed the quarantine in accordance with the Infectious Diseases Act, Chapter 204 with 75 individuals still under quarantine. “Within the last 24 hours, 295 samples have been tested for SARS-CoV-2 bringing the total number of laboratory tests conducted since January 2020 to 9,637, ” he said.
Health product found adulterated Borneo Bulletin 10th Apr 2020
The Ministry of Health (MoH) alerted members of the public of a health product found to be adulterated with undeclared, potent western medicines tested by the Laboratory of Pharmacy Section, Department of Scientific Services, MoH. The affected health product is Evo-7 Japan Sachet, manufactured by Evo Freedom International Sdn Bhd, found adulterated with Tadalafil.
Brunei secures medical equipment with special help Borneo Bulletin 6th Apr 2020
With Brunei among the countries in a bidding war to secure medical equipment and supplies from China, questions were raised on the issue of whether orders made by the Sultanate are safe from being hijacked as reports have surfaced of other countries experiencing such incidents. Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar added that despite the challenges of having the medical equipment hijacked a number of times, the Ministry of Health now has quite a number of ventilators.
Internet speed, costs cited as top issues in e-learning and telecommuting The Scoop 27th Apr 2020
The majority of 3,000 surveyed Bruneians have specified internet speed and costs as the major challenges of learning or working from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a study from the Brunei Computer Emergency Response Team (BruCERT) showed. Findings from the online study indicated that 69.3 percent of respondents had internet speed and performance issues while 52.8 percent said cost of internet subscription was a challenge while learning or working from home. The study, which was conducted from April 17-23, aimed to understand Bruneians’ experiences of online learning and remote working as part of physical distancing measures to combat COVID-19. Forty-eight percent of the respondents are students and educators while 30.2 percent of those polled were civil servants. Private sector employees, self-employed and unemployed individuals made up the rest of the respondents. The survey included questions on occupation, home internet access, daily internet usage, cybersecurity measures and the types of online platforms used. Only 33 percent of the respondents favored working from home, with 75 percent of students and educators preferring to be in school. In terms of internet access, 72 percent of respondents said they have fixed broadband at home, while 16 percent are using mobile broadband and 11 percent only have internet access on their mobile phone. Data also showed that social media use, online messaging and video calling have increased during home-based learning and working. WhatsApp is the most common platform used for learning/working from home while half of the respondents also used Microsoft Teams.
Online Gerai Ramadan starts receiving food orders The Scoop 24th Apr 2020
Bruneians can now place food delivery orders at the virtual Gerai Ramadan that was launched on April 23. About 50 vendors have joined the online marketplace that was created to support small businesses whose revenues have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) said more food vendors will be added to the marketplace, allowing Bruneians to “feel the spirit of Gerai Ramadan online” as the government has cancelled the annual Ramadan food bazaar this year. The virtual Gerai Ramadan is one of two projects under the ‘Community for Brunei’ marketplace, which went live last week. The virtual marketplace initiative is backed by BIBD and inspired by local entrepreneurs The Collective, Think Axis and Alicia Newn. Vendors who joined the marketplace are not required to pay registration fees until 16 July 2020. Hjh Nurul said BIBD will have a discussion with vendors once the three-month waiving of fees ends. During a virtual press conference last week, Chief Financial Officer of GoMamam Hadi Adanan said the food delivery is nationwide, but the operating hours for Temburong are different as the bridge that connects the district with the capital closes at 6pm. The public can place their orders by 6pm for next day delivery, with a $5 delivery fee per vendor.
MTIC scraps $25 annual license fee for mobile subscribers The Scoop 20th Apr 2020
The Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications has terminated the $25 annual license fee for mobile subscribers beginning January 24, 2020, its minister announced on Monday. Prepaid and post-paid mobile subscribers who have paid their annual license fee on or after January 24 will be refunded through their service provider. Speaking at the daily COVID-19 press briefing, YB Dato Seri Setia Abd Mutalib Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yusof said the move is in line with the restructuring of the country’s telecommunications industry and part of efforts to build a “Smart Nation”. He added that it would make mobile services more accessible and affordable for the public and increase the community’s readiness to adopt new digital technologies and services. While the move is not directly related to the coronavirus outbreak, the minister acknowledged the surge in internet usage as people stay at home and observe social distancing. Thousands of students are also taking lessons online since classroom learning was suspended due to COVID-19. Brunei has seen major network congestion and service disruption in the past few weeks, which has been compounded by outages in international undersea cables. YB Dato Abdul Mutalib said the network service provider, Unified National Networks, has partnered with a submarine cable provider to restore internet services.
BAHDigital aims for technological revolution Borneo Bulletin Online 18th Apr 2020
Brunei Darussalam is set to welcome a technological revolution through the creation of BAHDigital, an online platform that centralises content such as case studies, stories and tools for users in Brunei Darussalam to tackle the digital future successfully. An initiative led by the Digital Economy Council, Brunei Darussalam, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE), Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC), Authority for Infocommunications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) and Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd (DA), BAHDigital campaign will be key in showcasing the possibilities of information and communications technology (ICT) capabilities across all sectors and industries in the nation. The completion of the ICT sector transformation, which is a milestone in Brunei’s journey towards a digital future, paved the way to new and refreshed plans by Datastream Digital Sdn Bhd, imagine Sdn Bhd and Progresif Sdn Bhd, with infrastructure powered by Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN). The content of BAHDigital will be channelled through six main areas of focus that are integral in progressing our national economy: Health, Tourism, Gig Economy, Education, e-Commerce and e-Government.
Internet demand surges after COVID-19 outbreak Borneo Bulletin Online 17th Apr 2020
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 said with students being home-schooled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been an increased demand for broadband or data. He added, “During the first two weeks of April, around 2,400 applications were received for fixed broadband, where about 700 installations were carried out. “Unified National Networks (UNN) has the ability to carry out about 60 installations daily, and the completion of all installations will hopefully be carried out in the following weeks.” “The UNN is continuing to improve our connectivity and speed, so we have about 750 to 800 sites in the country that we are upgrading. Many will already have experienced 4G+, as 200 to 300 sites have already been upgraded.” The minister also noted that the slow Internet speed could be caused by a surge in data usage by students, “but with all the improvements that UNN will implement, it will improve in the next few weeks. Speaking on those unable to afford basic Internet access, the minister said, “Some telecommunications companies are thinking of creating an education pack for students, specifically for education applications and not for streaming and the like. The price range would be BND4 for 4GB or BND16 for 10GB, where usually the 10GB would cost more, so it will be a cheaper option for them.”
BIBD's online marketplace Community for Brunei goes live Biz Brunei 17th Apr 2020
BIBD’s virtual marketplace Community for Brunei went live at 7pm on April 17 as the country’s first integrated e-commerce platform with zero costs for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to do business on. 43 MSMEs in food and beverage, handcrafted products and services – part of BIBD’s CSR initiatives and The Collective’s network – have onboarded the platform, with vendor applications for their “online Gerai Ramadhan” open from April 10 to 13. The Community for Ramadhan project is targeting 250 F&B vendors said BIBD’s Chief Marketing Officer Hjh Nurul Akmar Hj Mohd Jaafar said in a press conference today. All platform fees will be waived for the first three months, allowing vendors to keep 100% of their sales. Hjh Nurul said rates after three months would be discussed with vendors. Second Minister of Finance and Economy and Chairman of BIBD YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah announced in a press conference yesterday that the platform will be a virtual replacement for the Gerai Ramadhan which has been canceled this year, and is part of wider relief measures to help mitigate the downturn faced by businesses in the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Vendors will need to be officially registered as a business through the government’s Registry of Companies and Business Names, who are currently waiving the $30 registration fee for the first 300 business until April 30. Vendors will also need to have an MSME account with BIBD – which requires an opening balance of $50 – and sign up for their QR mobile payment service QuickPay
Weelago gaining traction as trusted e-commerce platform for Brunei distributors Biz Brunei 16th Apr 2020
Brunei online marketplace Weelago is gaining traction as a trusted e-commerce platform for Brunei distributors and manufacturers for providing integrated end-to-end solutions from online payment to marketing. Weelago has recently onboarded over 20 businesses, including Brunei’s only pharmaceutical producer Simpor Pharma – whom they are the exclusive online retailer for – as well as established distributors Guan Hock Lee and Chop Kian Chuang and electronics retailer CF King. With the public advised to limit their travel during the COVID-19 outbreak, Weelago has seen an increase in popularity – especially for personal hygiene items – selling over 1,000 bottles of hand sanitisers in less than two days. The website currently lists over 2,000 items for sale covering furniture, groceries, packaged food, fashion and health and beauty. General Manager of Weelago Chris Wong said each seller is given their own e-Shop builder which helps automate inventory management, transactions and generates reports which enables them to better manage their accounts. Weelago has multiple payment gateways; accepting Visa, MasterCard, Alipay and BruPay, while customers can opt for deliveries from either Go Rush, PosLaju and FedEx or self pick up at their Menglait office. Businesses pay $10 monthly to be on the platform, with commission fees between 5% to 20% depending on the product category. There is also a 3% transaction fee to cover banking charges. Weelago has also been endorsed by the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) and Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) under eKadaiBrunei – an online directory of Brunei e-commerce and logistics businesses.
Agrome IQ launches Brunei's first online marketplace for farmers Biz Brunei 14th Apr 2020
Brunei agritech startup Agrome IQ has launched Brunei’s first online marketplace for local farmers to sell directly customers. Agromemarket.comcurrently has 20 farmers selling 13 different types of vegetables and fruits and is planning to on board 100 farmers in two months, and 1,500 farmers in 12 months based on a national pool of farmers identified by the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism to be certified for Brunei’s Good Agricultural Practice (GAP). The data from purchases will also help gauge customer demand, and will be shared with farmers to help them better plan which crops to planted in the future. Agrome IQ – the first company to be endorsed by MPRT to conduct GAP training and consulting – will also be doing physical checks on the produce to ensure customers receive quality items. They will also be handling logistics for the farmers, picking up and packing orders and making deliveries nationwide. Farmers meanwhile are charged a commission fee between 8% to 10%. Registration fees have been waived during the COVID-19 outbreak. Payment is currently done through bank transfer, with a payment gateway for cards to be integrated into the website soon. Cash on delivery is also an option for orders below $20. Customers ordering from Agrome Market do not need to register an account to make a purchase. Each transaction will generate an email order.
eKadaiBrunei: Brunei's first online e-commerce directory launched Biz Brunei 1st Apr 2020
The Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) and Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) have launched Brunei’s first local online e-commerce directory, eKadaiBrunei, on April 1 to help businesses and the public find trusted providers. There are currently 12 e-commerce platforms, 12 logistics companies and six delivery services that are listed, who cumulatively encompass the e-Commerce value chain from importing to secure online payment, website listing and local delivery. The listed platforms include mobile-based marketplace Domo, mobile food delivery app GoMamam, online grocery store KadaiRuncit, and online departments store Weelago, all who are readily integrated with online payment capabilities, delivery services and are looking to onboard more local businesses. eKadaiBrunei also connects to the One Village One Product website www.1k1p.gov.bn which houses over 100 locally made items by the Mukim and Village Consultative Councils across the country. In a joint statement, AITI and DARe said the project is a collaboration that also involves the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA). They also invited other local eCommerce platforms with scalability in providing end-to-end solutions for local micro, small and medium (MSMEs) businesses to register on eKadaiBrunei. Local MSMEs can also engage with DARe to discuss which platforms best suit their business needs.
Temburong bridge opening not for sightseeing Borneo Bulletin Online 22nd Apr 2020
Travel & Tourism
The opening of the Temburong Bridge is for commuters to travel between the two districts and not for people to sightseeing, said 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 during a press conference on April 21. The minister said that there is no need to review the opening hour of the bridge as there are still work being done on the bridge. “We are finally able to test our CCTV today which can zoom in and monitor the bridge,” he said. He said in the next few days, the CCTV will be fully operational. The minister also highlighted that action will be taken against those found misusing the bridge, including those who loiter by the roadside.
Number of visitors from Brunei to Malaysia drops by 12pc in 2019 Borneo Bulletin 13th Apr 2020
The number of tourist arrivals from Brunei Darussalam to Malaysia saw a 12 per cent drop last year compared to 2018, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (Tourism Malaysia) figures revealed on Friday. Around 1,216,123 arrivals from Brunei were recorded from January to December 2019, compared to 1,382,031 in 2018. However visitors from Brunei Darussalam still maintained the top five international tourist arrivals to Malaysia. The school holiday period remained the popular period for Bruneians to visit Malaysia with March being the favourite with 126,620 Brunei visitors, followed by May with 110,873 and December with 108,857. However the past 12 months last year saw a drop in monthly visitors ranging from 0.1 per cent in February 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, to as high as 21.2 per cent in September 2019 compared to the same period earlier.
RB in dire straits with 95% of flights cut, staff put on compulsory leave The Scoop 1st Apr 2020
Royal Brunei Airlines could suffer hundreds of millions in lost revenue as the coronavirus pandemic poses an unprecedented crisis to the global airline and travel industry. Already reeling from a steep decline in bookings from China, travel restrictions around the world have led to a collapse in passenger demand for RB, with the Brunei government also banning all inbound and outbound travel to contain the spread of the virus within the sultanate. The airline has cut 95 percent of flights, only retaining four routes — Singapore, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Manila — to maintain essential trade connectivity for food, medical supplies and other consignments. The last week of March, the airline told its 1,750 employees that they would be required to take compulsory paid leave From April 1 to May 31, and only a small number of staff would be retained to operate the reduced flying programme. In 2018, the airline inked a substantial financing deal with Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam and Baiduri Bank to purchase eight new aircraft valued at list price for $1 billion. The fleet renewal was part of RB’s wider strategy to expand its network in East Asia and introduce a non-stop service to London.