The 2016 global fall in crude oil prices made economies like Brunei which though not a major global producer like the OPEC countries suffer an economic recession. Despite Brunei’s small size and population with her competitive advantages such as her location, 2nd highest human development in the South East Asian region along with other factors, she can build a smart sustainable economic future beyond oil for her citizens to prosper in the current Fourth Industrial Revolution. I propose a road map to make this possible anchored on technology and tourism below:
Masa Depan Brunei programme should include Future Ready Skills: Just like neighboring Singapore which has launched Skills Future Programme to prepare its citizens to become globally competitive by investing in their capabilities with skills for the current technological era, Masa Depan Brunei initiative for the youths should include trainings in critical thinking, design thinking, emotional intelligence, agility, adaptability and collaboration. Other areas include negotiation, data science, business intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, blockchain, robotics, embedded systems development, industrial design, product development, and additive manufacturing. These will make Bruneian youths compete with their ASEAN peers, rest of Asia and the world as an outsourcing hub for global technology giants like Apple, Amazon, Alibaba, Tencent, Microsoft, SAS, SAP, Sales Force, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and IBM that will employ them to work on their projects and pay them higher wages than the oil industry which most of them crave to work in will.
Establishment of Brunei Young Entrepreneurs Fund and Scheme to boost startups: His Royal Majesty, Sir Haji Hassanal Bolkiah(Yang Di Pertuan Agong) who is also the Honourable Minister Of Finance should establish a $100million Brunei Young Entrepreneurship Fund and scheme. This initiative will groom 2,000 youths in a bootcamp partnership with Microsoft for Entrepreneurs, Alibaba Academy, Google and IBM on how to build and scale sustainable businesses for this digital era. Upon completion of this programme, they will have to come up with innovative ideas to solve the problems of ASEAN, Asia and other key global Islamic markets like Turkey, etc to sell their products. About 8,000 jobs will be created since each of the 2,000 entrepreneurs will be mandated to create 4 jobs.
Brunei Investment Agency should Invest in global Technology companies and startups to increase its Assets: The state sovereign investment vehicle, Brunei Investment Agency should redesign its investment areas and acquire equity in technology companies like Alibaba,Tencent, Microsoft, Google, I-Flytek which develops speech recognition technology for most Chinese tech brands like China Mobile, Sensetime and China’s No 1 Insurance brand Ping An as well as fast rising global startups. With their market value growing exponentially due to their category king status, acquiring equity in these brands will increase BIA’s assets under management to about a $100billion in a few years to come.
Establishment of a Free Trade Zone: Brunei should establish an Industrial Park cum Free Trade Zone which will target investments worth $100billion in oil and gas based industries, light manufacturing, agro allied, industrial equipment, etc. About 20,000 direct and 100,000 indirect jobs can be generated through this project. Their target market will be the ASEAN sub region and Asia Pacific markets.
Partnership with Emirates Airlines or Singapore Airlines to promote Brunei Tourism: The Tourism Promotion Agency of Brunei should seal a partnership with leading airlines like Emirates Airlines or Singapore Airlines to promote Brunei as a global tourism destination which is ready to welcome tourists.
Partnership with Alibaba to attract Chinese tourists: The Brunei Tourism Development Agency should seal a strategic partnership with Chinese E-Commerce giant to promote the sultanate as a destination for tourists from the Middle Kingdom. The Jerudong Resort should be resuscitated while IstanNurulIman Palace which is the world’s biggest and most luxurious can be made an attraction which will attract over 1 million visitors like the Queen of England’s Buckingham Palace.
Marketing Brunei Tourism through Soccer Sponsorship in England: Considering Brunei’s ties with England, its tourism promotion agency should sponsor a top football club in the English Premier League like Manchester United, which is the biggest with a massive global fan base beyond England of over 100million. Rwanda which is now Africa’s destination for tourism related events marketed herself by her partnership with Arsenal Football Club. Brunei Tourism should do the same.
Organize the Brunei UEFA Champions Cup: A Cup tournament sponsored by the Sultan Of Brunei which will involve the leading teams from the top soccer leagues in Europe as pre-season competition will boost tourist influx as fans from these clubs will visit the sultanate to support their teams contributing to boost in GDP.
Organize The Brunei Grand Prix: As a lover of cars and the world’s largest collector, The Sultan Of Brunei should in partnership with Formula One organize an annual Brunei Grand Prix. This will attract the world’s best racers like Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel etc. boosting its tourism and economic GDP.
Organize The Brunei Marathon: A gold label International Marathon in conjunction with the International Amateur Athletics Federation should be organized in Brunei annually which will feature not less than 100,000 participants from across the globe including elite athletes will also increase its tourism receipts and make it a destination for sports and fitness.
Organize The Brunei Open: As a tennis player, His Majesty should seal a partnership with the International Tennis Federation to organize the annual Brunei Tennis Open which will attract leading stars like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka amongst others competing for the prize money which will also be an attraction for tennis lovers across the world.
Brunei needs this economic redesign which has transformed the Emirate of Dubai from being previously oil dependent to a sustainable tripod anchored on technology, trade and tourism.