By Narissa Noor

Bandar Seri Begawan – Against the backdrop of global economic uncertainty, Brunei Darussalam is preparing to face a multitude of challenges in 2009, one of which is increasing GDP to help finance the annual budget and ultimately reduce the country’s dependency on oil and gas.
Despite these challenges, the Department of Economic Planning and Development is optimistic and has already predicted Brunei’s 2009 national GDP growth to fall between 1.2 per cent and 3.1 per cent, a considerable upturn from the negative growth between —1 per cent and —3 per cent reported last year.

During the convening of the fifth session of the Legislative Council, yesterday, the Minister of Finance II, Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Awg Abdul Rahman Hj Ibrahim, stood before the council and outlined the annual budget for the fiscal year of 2009/2010 which amounted to B$4,985,785,600.

In detailing the objectives, strategies and the focus of the budget, the minister referred to the progress seen in 2008 which has much contributed to the country’s economic growth.

A few of these advancements were the emergence of two new universities as well as the introduction of SPN 21 or the 21st Century Education System.

“The implementation of SPN 21 hopes to empower the people with the knowledge and the skills to compete and succeed in every arena,” explained the minister.

He also cited the many major projects that have been implemented such as the development projects associated with the Sungai Liang Industrial Park and those under the National Development Programme.

Other developments that the minister cited included the government’s added incentives for SMEs and a reduction of corporate income tax from 30 per cent to 25.5 per cent.

“Under the Enterprise Facilitation Scheme, the maximum credit amount given to SMEs has been increased from $1.5 million to 5 million and is repayable in 10 instead of seven years,” he elaborated.

Meanwhile, the Micro-credit Scheme has also increased to $50,000 from the minimum $30,000 and repayment, too, has been extended to four years. “In line with regional and global development in the face of the financial crisis, our government has issued guarantees on deposits made in local banks until December 31, 2010 to protect them from the crisis,” he further stated. — Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin