Brunei Agrotech Park attracting foreign investors

Brunei Agrotech Park attracting foreign investors

16th August, 2012

The country’s endeavour to become less dependent on the oil and gas sector by tapping into the Halal industry is well on its way to being realised following optimistic feedback from the global community.

Pehin Dato Awang Haji Yahya witnesses the exchange of documents.

Pehin Dato Awang Haji Yahya witnesses the exchange of documents.  

Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya witnesses the signing of documents between Halal Industry Innovation Centre and SQW China Limited.

Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya witnesses the signing of documents between Halal Industry Innovation Centre and SQW China Limited.

With the ongoing construction of the Brunei Agrotechnology Park (BATP) in Kg Tungku, Gadong that will see a 500-hectare site dedicated to research, processing and logistics to support the development of the Brunei Halal brand and promote tourism, the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awg Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar yesterday said that the area has already begun attracting “a few” potential foreign investors including those from the United Kingdom whom, it was added by the Managing Director of SQW China Limited commissioned to help in the development of the area, “we are already in discussions with”.

Other potential clients also include the likes of other developed nations such as Canada and Australia whose mere presence would mean the importation of high-class technology as well as a bigger stage for Brunei to promote itself to an even wider audience.

Though the country has numerous advantages for international clients seeking to invest in a politically stable economy with easy access to other countries in the Southeast Asian region and the world’s largest market that is China, research has indicated that more is still required to ensure the success of the park.

As part of their facilitating process to ensure the park’s smooth operations considering the magnitude of the project, SQW China Limited has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources to come up with a plan to establish a “one stop” agency that is expected to see the collaboration of numerous government agencies responsible for alternative financial resources as well as infrastructure development.

This agency, added Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya, will allow for more “quick and transparent” decision making and subsequently improve Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Similar to the present Sungai Liang Authority whose own development experience will be used in the process of establishing the park’s own agency, the minister further explained that the said body, once in place, will play a major role in marketing the area through various means including the utilisation of “an extremely powerful marketing tool”, which is tourism.

It was noted, however, that one of the biggest challenges the Agrotechnology Park will have to face is stiff competition posed by neighbouring countries, but the minister assured that Brunei will be able to meet international expectations especially with the support of the Brunei Halal accreditation, its world renowned green gold as well as green image.

The country’s sea, air and land infrastructure and logistics, meanwhile, would need to be updated to meet eventual demands that will come from tenants of BATP, explained SQW China Limited Managing Director Gary Ho.

In an interview, Mr Ho said that the country’s port facilities “can be further enhanced and be more efficient” and air routes would be needed to intensify deliveries in and out of the country whilst the creation of more roads would be another major area that could be reviewed to give access to natural resources in the jungles of Borneo known for its raw materials that are proven to be popular for consumption in the form of herbs.

“The one stop shop is important and this is why I would emphasise that for any FDI that comes in, they would need to be provided with an efficient government system where approvals are made faster and for an efficient system of connectivity,” he said.

At present, related government agencies are working to improve the nation’s transportation routes and to this, Mr Ho said, “I am very happy to see that the government is moving towards this direction already,” and hopes that this particular process “can be made faster”.

With the anticipated existence of the BATP, it was stated that an approximate 9,000 employment opportunities will be made available but finding people to fill in these posts would also pose as another hurdle that would need to be overcome.

Apart from fulfilling infrastructure needs, those who are looking to invest in Brunei would also have to consider the manpower needed to run their facilities and this is where, pointed Mr Ho, the country’s education system should to step in.

Noting that Brunei’s higher education institutions are expediting the training of those with technical skills, an intensified collaboration with international counterparts and learning from their success would bring significant benefits to the local human resource pool. By doing so, “we want to come in from the higher part of the learning curve, which would make it faster”, he explained.

As he presented findings of key issues and outputs of the BATP, Mr Ho also made several constructive points that included the principal of “development should be demand led and not supply driven”; establishing the ‘selling’ and ‘buying’ proposition of the BATP; market research to include the evaluation of product demand and trends, competing destinations, exploring vertical linkages and investment incentives and so on.

A signing ceremony was held yesterday at The Empire Hotel & Country Club in Jerudong that witnessed the inking of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Halal Industry Innovation Centre under the MIPR and SQW China Limited for the “Consultancy Project for Master Planning and Interim Project Management for the Agrotechnology Park” that is expected to be completed within 30 months.

The scope of the consultancy project includes Master Plan for Phase 2 and the aforementioned interim project management focussing on international and local linkages and assistance for the establishment of the one stop shop and business environment.

Signing on behalf of the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam was Awang Haji Sabri bin Haji Mohd Taha, Head of Halal Industry Innovation Centre, and witnessed by Cristalina Jalal Marsal. SQW China Limited was represented by Mr. Gary Ho and was witnessed by Mr. Robert Basiuk, Principal Consultant of the firm.

Source: Borneo Bulletin