Brunei strives to become more business-friendly
Brunei is making strides in easing its business processes, proven with its jump to be the 83rd economy out of 183 in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report. -Brunei Times/ANN
Brunei is making great strides in easing the business processes in the Sultanate, proven with its jump up 29 points to be the 83rd economy out of 183 in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report.
The Sultanate wants to climb further up the Ease of Doing Business scorecharts and, by 2013, plans to join the top 20 economies in the rankings prepared by the World Bank, the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources said in an interview last year in November.
To achieve this goal, the government and the private sector together need to look at systemic weaknesses in rules and regulations governing business and address them, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Haji Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar said during a workshop and technical discussion on the ease of doing business in Brunei.
The recent report highlighted improvements in four indicators, including Registering Property and Trading Across Borders.
"Despite these improvements, the overall scores are still relatively low, and Brunei has slipped down five indicators in Starting a Business, Dealing with Construction Permit, Protecting Investors and Resolving Insolvency (Closing a Business)," said Pehin Dato Hj Yahya who chairs Brunei's Ease of Doing Business Steering Committee. These five indicators are crucial in attracting foreign direct investments and the "low scores and deterioration of rankings", he said, are a great concern to him.
To improve Brunei's business environment, it would require improvements across different agencies and after looking at the different sets of regulations and procedures, there is a need for focus, cooperation and coordination, he said. In pursuing Brunei's 2013 target, he said: "This would mean that all the KPIs (key performance indicators) have to be moved, and moved to top positions to bring our rankings up, and it is a task but we have to do it."
Last year, in April, the Municipal Board launched "streamlined processes", for business licensing approvals which cuts down approval time from 10 to five days, depending on the type of business. At the launch, one of the biggest challenge that the Municipal Board said they would be faced with were incomplete submissions of forms, which will cause some businesses to have longer approval time.
According to the procedure, businesses that fall under the "normal business" group will still take up to 10 days to get their Occupational Permit and their Certificate of Fitness, while those that fall under the second group will only take five days to get the same documents.
The Municipal Board's handbook, also published that those that fall under the "normal business" category include restaurants, food court, bakeries, automobile garages, workshops (involving welding and so on), supermarkets, hotels, cinemas, cyber cafes, amusement parks, entertainment centres, tyre stores, massage parlours and aquariums.
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.
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