2010 – Year of Great Hope

By Waleed PD Mahdini 

passed through the first week of the new year of 2010, Brunei continues
to steer steadily but surely towards its future, having come out of
2009 by learning lessons from the socio-economic and political impacts
from the international arena, as well as events closer to home, which
has galvanised both the public and private sectors and indeed ordinary
individual Bruneians with the resolution to make this year much better
than the last.

So what can the average Bruneian look forward to this year?

Perhaps, undoubtedly the biggest event that many Bruneians, as well
as other international observers will be keenly following will the
expected announcement of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of
Brunei Darussalam’s government’s new cabinet ministers. When the
monarch announced on May 30, 2005, of the appointment of the
government’s new cabinet ministers, the tenure was also announced for a
five-year term, which is expected to end sometime before the half-way
mark of this year.

Across the hoard, there have been many advancements and fine-tunings
made both within the civil service mechanism, as well as its service
delivery, but the mantra keeps on being said that much more still needs
to be done. Five years on, the country and its people will indeed be
looking forward to hear of the much-anticipated announcement changes as
well as any new surprise appointments.

Another development that the public will be closely monitoring with
equal interest will be the progress of the country’s integration of its
new SPN21 educational system and whether or not it would direct
students towards a better academic path and a more resourceful career
in supporting the development of the country, which it was designed to

The promise made by Laila of setting out to achieve the targeted 20
per cent rise in self-sufficiency for the country’s rice production
will also be taken to task. There have undoubtedly been countless
efforts and strides made by the Ministry of Industry and Primary
Resources, as well as the newly-renamed Department ofAgriculture and
Agri-Food in setting up the basic infrastructures necessary to achieve
its long-term goal of providing basic food staples grown and harvested
by Bruneians for all its current and future needs.

Some of these will include the progress of the Agro Technology Park,
which is expected to create some 8,000 new employment opportunities for
the local job market. Coupled with this food drive is the aim of
producing 100 Halal products for export to the international
market that already has plans to branch out to include not only Brunei
Halal Brand food and beverages, but also health, beauty and
pharmaceutical products.

The astute observations and choices made by the Brunei Economic
Development Board in selecting the opportunities for diversifying the
country’s future economic path will also be closely watched by the
people of Brunei and from far beyond its borders.

It was learnt, from industry sources, that the Sungai Liang
Industrial Park’s US$450 million methanol plant, has been completed
ahead of schedule and is now standing ready since late last year and is
only now awaiting raw material in the form of gas to be pumped into its
massive turbines to begin operations and thus yield more income and
results for the country.

Similarly, it will also be interesting to learn what plans the BEBD
will be fine-tuning for the most optimum results from the feasibility
studies that are being made by Singapore’s master planners, Surbana, on
the Pulau Muara Besar project to generate more investment and
opportunities for the country’s future in 2010.

Aside from the expected economic benefits that the BEDB is planning
with the imminent start-up of the methanol plant, its focus towards
developing more local housing projects and concentrating on
environmental landfills does seem to pose a far cry from its intended

Staying true to the country’s economic lifeblood, the production of
hydrocarbon resources from Brunei Shell Petroleum’s Bugan and Mampak
oil fields, which successfully extracted more black gold and gas on
November 10 and May 1 respectively last year will ensure that the
country’s economic future continues to shine on for the next few

Coupled with the fact that Brunei Darussalam has now gained the
recognition and sovereign rights over its 200 nautical mile maritime
Exclusive Economic Zones, the vast resources that have been touted to
be contained within the sea, as well as under the seabed, will further
ensure the country’s continued progress and prosperity.

The country’s hosting of the 2010 Asean Tourism Forum will also shine the international spotlight on the country’s capability and capacity to be a successful MICE destination.

Not only will it help to showcase Brunei Darussalam as a uniquely
green tourist destination but it already expected to generate a
much-needed boost to the local tourism industry. However, whether or
not these hopes will carry forward in terms of sustainability for the
tourism industry throughout the whole year remains to be seen.

But the expected delivery of the national carrier, Royal Brunei
Airlines, first Boeing 777 sometime in mid-February, if everything goes
according to plan, cited close industry sources, will no doubt lend a
major supporting role not just in increasing the capacity of the
country’s tourism dreams but also the capability of Royal Brunei

According to these close sources within the industry, a total of
five such Boeings will be expected as part of the modernisation of the
RBA fleet, the first of which is already in Hong Kong undergoing its
refurbishment before being flown to Bandar Seri Begawan next month.

Another further boost to the country’s image and credibility is its
expected chairmanship of the Asean Summit in 2011 that will lend
further credence to Brunei’s `Can Do’ attitude, despite its small
geographical size.

The royal call that was made for a new Defence White Paper is also
expected to go a long way to further realising the continued evolution
and development of the country’s armed forces. This was already seen
with the acquisition of the Royal Brunei Navy’s new `Ijtihad’-class
patrol boats, the first of three that according to German media is
expected to set sail bound for home shore sometime this year.

This will no doubt add further to the concept of total defence that
is now a mandatory requirement in the constantly ever-changing scope of
threats and challenges. The Royal Brunei Police Force too has quietly
been improving its capabilities to ensure that the Abode of Peace
remains safe from the dangers that lurk.

The expected mass nationwide immunisation programme for the Influenza
A(H1N1) vaccine will also bring further encouragement and resolve for
the average Bruneian, safe in the knowledge that at least for now,
whatever Nature has thrown our way, we are protected and ready.

For the people’s continued welfare and prosperity, financial saving
incentives such as the newly-enforced Supplemental Contributory Pension
Scheme will undoubtedly provide a much better start towards ensuring
that the future needs of every citizen and resident will be taken care

So as we continue on towards another week into 2010, the groundwork
that has been the culmination of more than 25 years in the making
continues to pave the way towards ensuring that the road that we will
all travel on will be firmer and safer, made by people who are today
more knowledgeable and confident in the needs and wants of the country
through wise and prudent investments into technologies and avenues that
will turn the page for an even better and fruitful year than the last
for all our future’s sake.