BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
ABOUT 60 participants at the Workshop on Cluster Development for SMEs at The Rizqun International Hotel in Gadong yesterday are expected to form a “cluster working group”, a pilot project to support the development of a cluster programme for SMEs and reduce reliance on the government to create business opportunities.
The members of the working group would be seen as catalysts for change, leading SME innovation and growth through the cluster approach, Jagat Shah, Commonwealth Secretariat Cluster Consultant, said at the one-day workshop.
The project would be guided by a public-private work group, consisting of individuals and institutions, that functions to analyse and act on issues, as well as play a key role in advocating cluster development to build the competitiveness of SMEs in Brunei, Jagat said.
He defined a business cluster as a geographic concentration of interconnected businesses, suppliers and associated institutions.
Jagat added that the working group would be responsible for its success, as the members are the ones implementing and leading the change.
“The government has its limitations. The government will play the role of a funding agency, make policy changes when required and introduce incentives for the market to develop,” he said.
Jagat added that the group would be tasked with identifying and selecting a cluster that Brunei would become synonymous with around the world, such as India for its ICT industry.
An example is Brunei’s water village, which can be a tourism cluster, he said, adding that other prospective clusters include fisheries, agriculture as well as transportation and logistics.
Jagat said that the cluster should be selected based on its importance, potential to be promoted, feasibility and sustainability and its contribution to the local economy to help ensure an effective and wide-reaching impact in the overall cluster-development programme.
“Establishing an atmosphere of trust within a cluster is essential for building a realistic action plan that will have support from firms, service providers and support agencies,” he added.
The consultant said that some of the operational challenges of SMEs in Brunei clusters include access to finance, different approaches to access international markets and brand image.
The cluster will only work with a good cluster-development manager who does not have a business interest within the cluster group and can build trust among the group members, he said. The Brunei Times