Minister plays up potential of Bio-Industry

Minister plays up potential of Bio-Industry

BRUNEI needs to build up product space and create new core industries and expertise in order to have dynamic and sustainable economy for generations to come.

This was said by the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar in his speech at the opening ceremony of the International Food and Biotech Investment Conference, which started yesterday at The Empire Hotel & Country Club.

Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar at the event.

Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar at the event.

The three-day conference, organised in line with the country’s aim to achieve economic diversification, competitiveness and sustainability, involved more than 250 attendees. Foreign participants and media organisations from China and Hong Kong are also included.

In his opening address, the minister said, “Today, we are indeed very honoured to have gathered some of the most renowned speakers and panellists from different parts of the world to build a knowledge-sharing platform for everybody, focusing on economic development and, most importantly, on how to stay competitive amidst rising challenges both regionally and globally.”

Touching on the issue of Brunei’s heavy dependency on oil and gas, he said, “The oil and gas sector currently makes up close to 67 per cent of our GDP; represents close to 90 per cent of the government’s revenues; contributes a staggering 96 per cent of our exports; but employs less than five per cent of our workforces.”

These, he said, are “characteristics of an economy heavily dependent on a single or narrow range of products for export and government revenues.”

He also stated that the government has created an environment conducive for businesses; highlighted by a politically stable climate, clean air, low crime rate and one of the highest living standards in Asia. Continuing this path, he said the government seeks to foster an innovative business environment and encourage investments in research and development in order to create a dynamic and sustainable economy for generations to come.

“One strategic initiative and drive to achieve these goals is the development of the Brunei Bio-Innovation Corridor (BIC). The intention is to create a park that would do research and development, as well as production in the halal industry and bio-industry sectors.”

The aim, he explained, is to build up product space by broadening and deepening the economic base of the country, and creating new core industries and expertise.

The minister then spoke on how the global halal product market is a trillion dollars plus industry, encompassing not only food and beverages but also cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Halal products also have a market outside of the Muslim community, as global trends move towards more organic food products and an increasing number of young, educated and ethical consumers who are more conscious about food quality and origin.

“It is fair to assume that halal food products, throughout the value chain, from farm to fork, will have a transformative impact as the approach towards ‘safe’ food will transcend across countries and cultures.”

He also touched on Brunei’s rich biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine. With 70 per cent of the country’s total land area still covered with tropical rainforests, a large proportion is still in pristine condition. With over 41,000 square kilometres of water supporting a rich system of marine biodiversity, Brunei can offer bountiful opportunities to further explore the potential to develop its bio-industry.

“Our vast forest and marine resources are yet to be explored to their full potential, thus there is a need for us to strengthen our collaboration with relevant research institutes in research and development, in order to fully explore the full potential of what our rich and diverse terrestrial and marine resources can offer to mankind,” he said. “We offer our pristine rainforest and diverse marine resources as ‘natural research laboratories and stations’ to conduct research and development activities for both forest-based and marine-based bio-industry.”

Adding on, he highlighted, “We hope that this conference will contribute to a better understanding of the halal product market and opportunities it offers, where our goal is to play an integral role in the process, leveraging on Brunei Halal Certification, which is touted internationally as the most stringent and highly regarded halal certification, and our latest BIC project as an example, as a gateway for this.”

A keynote address on “Small Economies in the Changing World Economy” was also delivered yesterday by Sir James A Mirrlees, the winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science Winner in 1996.

Other featured speakers included Wei Ren, the Deputy Party Secretary of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region whose talk focused on the development of the Brunei-Guangxi Economic Corridor, as well as Zhou Xiaoxi, the Chairman of Guangxi Beibu Gulf International Port Co Ltd on “Logistics and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, and Rajiv Biswas, Chief Asia Economist from HIS Inc on the rise of the Asean Economic Community.

Rajiv Biswas then joined a forum which also took place as part of yesterday’s proceedings along with fellow panellists Dato Paduka Dr Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, CEO of Darussalam Assets and Xu Ning Ning, the Executive President of China-Asean Business Council. Entitled “Asean – Challenges and Opportunities”, the forum was moderated by Tamara Henderson, Senior Economist from Bloomberg LP.

Day one also saw presentations pertaining to the topic of “The Bio-Innovation Corridor – Southeast Asia’s Food and Biotechnology Hub” delivered by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Hajah Normah Suria Hayati binti Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama (Dr) Haji Awang Mohd Jamil Al-Sufri and Gary Ho, the Managing Director of SQW China Ltd and Managing Consultant for the BIC.

Another presentation then ensued about investing in Brunei Darussalam, was delivered by Desmond Lim, Assistant CEO at the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB).

Present yesterday were the deputy permanent secretaries at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, heads of departments under the ministry, distinguished speakers and potential investors from within the Asia-Pacific region, government agencies and the private sector.

The conference continued into its second day today, and will kick off with a keynote presentation on the state of the Islamic Economy, as well as a panel discussion on the global halal food market, along with a presentation on halal-certified pharmaceutical products.

Source: Borneo Bulletin