ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
‘Attract, assure foreign investors for long-term commitment here’
BRUNEI needs to focus on attracting foreign investments into knowledge-based industries and implement policies that accommodate the needs of foreign investors, said Legislative Council (LegCo) members yesterday.
Yang Berhormat Pehin Kapitan Lela Diraja Dato Paduka Goh King Chin said the government should encourage foreign service firms including finance, legal, accounting and tax advisory services, to set up their regional offices in the sultanate.
“We should attract foreign investments in the industry including information technology (IT), healthcare, education, research and development,” he said at the 12th LegCo meeting yesterday.
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He added Brunei should not attract foreign investments in the low-cost manufacturing and labour intensive industries due to its small population, strong currency and economies of scale.
“We must assure foreign investors of our long-term commitment on foreign investment policies so that they will be confident to invest in our country on a long-term basis,” YB Pehin Dato Goh said.
This, he said, can be done by streamlining and developing efficient business processes.
“In my view, it is important to have a friendly business environment to simplify the business start-up and purchasing processes.”
He warned that failure to set up an investment friendly environment will drive away potential foreign investors to Brunei.
No foreign investors will want to invest in Brunei if the policies are not receptive to foreign investments and if there is a high degree of uncertainty in the local business environment, said YB Pehin Dato Goh.
He said as global competition to attract FDIs intensifies, Brunei’s political and economic stability can lure investments into the country.
He said the government needs to clarify foreign ownership rules and benefits for foreign investors in the country.
Brunei should also allow foreign companies to employ skilled foreign workers on the technical and management level.
YB Pehin Dato Paduka Goh King Chin felt that promoting foreign and local investments could resolve the unemployment issue and opposed the idea of the government providing special allowance to locals working in the private sectors.
Meanwhile, another LegCo member YB Hj Awg Ahmad Morshidi Pehin Orang Kaya Digadong Seri Diraja Dato Laila Utama Hj Awg Abdul Rahman said the government needs to overcome the lingering issue of the Power of Attorney (PA) to allow foreign investors stay and monitor their businesses in the sultanate.
He told The Brunei Times yesterday that the government needs to show and prove to foreign businesses that they are guaranteed fair and equitable treatment in doing businesses in the country.
This will promote greater FDIs into Brunei, he said.
“Like in any other countries, foreign investors need to guarantee that they can live and stay to see the progress of their businesses in Brunei. If not, how can they monitor their businesses here?” said YB Hj Awg Ahmad Morshidi.
He made a suggestion of developing the PA on the rights of leasehold owners (foreign investors) to transfer and sell the ownership of the property to their next of kin.
“Let’s take a 60 year-leasehold property as an example. If the foreign investor passes away in between the lease period, can he pass the leasehold to his children? What if the business goes bankrupt, can the foreign investors sell the leasehold property to the original owner?” said YB Hj Awg Ahmad Morshidi.
He added the government needs to make “lenient” policies on foreign investments to draw more investments into Brunei.
The Land Department only recognises ownership by Brunei citizens and not beneficial ownership in land from non-locals, according to Law Society President Hj Mohd Rozaiman DSLJ Hj Abd Rahman during this year’s Opening of the Legal Year.
However, the courts recognise legal and beneficial ownership of land, he said.
Prior to 2012, foreign nationals had purchased land through locals as the legal owners and the foreign nationals as the beneficiary owners of the land which was recognised as legal by the court.
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