While there have been great strides and progress made in the last year, one of the biggest changes to business policies that have a large impact on the food and beverage industry was the introduction of the halal certification for restaurants.
In a published report at the end of last year, restaurants that fail to obtain halal certification by the 2014 deadline will have their operating licence revoked and will be considered haram, an officer from the Halal Food Control Division saidin December.
Food premises and restaurants catering to Muslim customers are required to obtain a Halal certification and label by December 31, 2013, to enable them to continue their operations in 2014, the Home Affairs Ministry announced in October. The new policy was imposed on January 1, 2012 and will be "fully implemented" by January 1, 2014, he explained. He added that during the two-year grace period, the public restaurants must apply for their Halal label and certificates to continue serving Muslim consumers.
Following that report, it was found that restauranteurs are facing challenges in obtaining their halal certification mainly because of the lengthy process involved. Some businesses were reported saying that it was their third time in trying to apply for the certification, and some are waiting for other restaurants to do it before they apply because of the lengthy process. Some restaurants stated that they fully support getting the creditation however the lengthy process makes it difficult for them to apply.
Finally, the latest issues regarding the Business Licensing System (BLS), was that it is iming to be functional by the middle of this year, giving applicants a streamlined process when applying for a new business, translating to an improvement in the Sultanate's Ease of Doing Business (EODB) rank.
Government officials, Vascco Taman, Mak Hon Sheng, and Ya-Anenawati Hj Md Yusuf, of the BLS Secretariat, briefed The Brunei Times on the current status of the project, and are hopeful that the project can be in service this year.
"Currently, the BLS is in the design stage and covers three out of the nine indicators in Ease of Doing Business (EODB), which are: Starting a Business, Dealing with Construction Permit and Getting Electricity," Vascco explained.
Vascco, the project manager for the BLS, said in January that this new system will provide an "online single window", where applicants only need to visit one place that is related to business licensing applications. Several of the 13 agencies include Land Transport Department; Halal Certification from the Ministry of Religious Affairs; Labour License from the Department of Labour; Department of Water Services; Department of Electrical Services; and Miscellaneous Licenses from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
"With the BLS, they can simply apply online or at our new Business Facilitation Centres (BFC), which will be available at all four districts, where everything can be done at one place," he said.
Vascco further added: "Our objective with the BLS is to reduce the overall time frame taken to complete a business licensing application and improve the overall TPOR (Client Charter)." The BLS also hopes to eliminate any redundant and inefficient internal processes, and to establish an online medium for business licensing application.