Archive for November, 2021
Drive towards 2022 in style
A Bruneian at heart
Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam Berhad (“BIBD”) announced the appointment of Hajah Noraini binti Haji Sulaiman as the Acting Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of BIBD, effective 1 December 2021. Hajah Noraini, currently the Deputy Managing Director I, has been in the financial industry since 1997, holding various posts and directorships within the BIBD Group and its affiliate company. She is also a board member of various organisations.
Mr. Mubashar Khokhar who is on secondment term from Fajr Capital Limited (“Fajr”), Dubai since 2015 will continue as Managing Director and CEO until 30 November 2021. His stewardship and Fajr’s contribution as BIBD’s transformation partner, had facilitated the BIBD’s strategic transformation into the largest and strongest bank in Brunei, producing stellar performance, year on year, with strong profitable growth.
BIBD is now Brunei’s largest Islamic financial institution, ranked the Safest Bank and the Strongest Bank by reputable publishers such as the Global Finance and The Asian Banker respectively. BIBD’s selection as the Bank of the Year by the gold standard of accolades, The Banker magazine, truly epitomises BIBD’s transformational journey into becoming a world-class Islamic financial institution.
YM Hajah Noraini was previously the Acting Managing Director of Syarikat Takaful Brunei Darussalam, on secondment from BIBD. She was also the Chief Financial Officer for Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam, and has held other accounting and financial roles in various Bruneian companies such as Brunei Shell Petroleum Sdn Bhd. Currently, she is the director for BIBD At- Tamwil Berhad, BIBD Securities, BIBD Management Services, Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre and Jerudong Park Medical Centre. She was also a director in Tabung Amanah Pekerja (TAP) and the Chairman for the TAP Audit Committee. She is a member of the Brunei Darussalam Accounting Standards Council.
Hajah Noraini binti Haji Sulaiman is the first local female lead role in BIBD which also holds the biggest share mark in the banking sector. She has been holding her Deputy Managing Director role for more than 7 years and she has been very active ever since the incorporation of BIBD back in 2005.
One of her earlier posts in BIBD was Corporate Secretary of BIBD. Later on, she held post as the Chief Financial Officer of BIBD before being promoted as Deputy Managing Director I and CEO of BIBD.
I wish Hajah Noraini all the best in her role as the Acting Managing Director and CEO of BIBD. She is definitely a Bruneian at heart. Congratulations.
Transition Phase activated
The anticipation is over!!! Just a week or so to see if our exam (Transition Phase) is a success or do we need to scale down on opening up. Definitely much different from the first wave when we re-opened then. The feelings are still mixed. But sooner or later, we will have to face the music and trust the process that the Brunei Government is doing their best they can for the country with a balanced act. We simply cannot just stay still in the pandemic/recovery phase for months and months as this alone will hurt Brunei in a longer run.
My DMs are suddenly on the rise, thinking I have reached a plateau for those seeking for responses. I was wrong. The transition phase is perhaps the “game changer” in our pandemic journey. To me, this could be the deal breaker if Brunei is able to handle the next stage and of course, this boils down to the cooperation from the people.
If I were to rewind back, the second wave felt like a huge test. It seemed like a long time ago even though it was just a matter of three months. Even with words of wisdom from our leaders in Brunei, it was not enough to slow down the infection rate. Clusters became a new trend especially home clusters. The Ministers had enough and implemented “Operasi Pulih”, two months after the second wave.
So with the re-opening of the economy, can we trust the people around us to adhere to the Standard of Procedures (SOPs)? Will we be more discipline than ever before? This, I believe, will be a huge test for Brunei after what we have learnt from the second wave. It’s never easy to change a mindset or habits but we just have to constantly remind people around us not to be “too complacent”.
If you ask me personally, I would practice restrain on certain things such as dining out or have social gatherings. Even with my favourite past time – catching movies – I won’t be rushing myself, playing catch up with the awesome line-up of movies at the cinemas. The only thing I would actually do is getting back to my routine which is tennis since it’s outdoor and not being in a confined space. Furthermore, tennis is a non-contact sport to begin with.
So here are some of the things we have learnt for the upcoming Transition Phase
- Businesses such as restaurants, cafes, gyms, salons to implement Business Continuity Plan, conducting Anti-Gen Rapid Test every two weeks and to practice controlled capacity (50%). Only those who are fully vaccinated (2 doses) will be able to enter.
- Restaurants can accept diners up to 50% of patronage. Maintained social distance gap of 1.5 metres. I believe if it’s from the same address then no social distancing required. However, let me double confirm on this matter. No buffet or dome setting allowed during your patronage.
- Green and yellow codes on your BruHealth app will be allowed to enter public places
- Only double vaccination individuals will be allowed to enter public places
- No need masks while eating/drinking in cafes/restaurants and no buffets allowed.
- Limitation of people in a premise – 50% or 200 pax whichever is lesser
- Staying home period will be from 10pm to 4am. We have an extra two hours in the evening during the Transition Phase. This will be from 19th November to 30th November.
- Weddings can be held at home from 10 pax to 30 pax, depending on the size of your house. No buffet to be served for sure. Suggest for packed food catering.
- For the Masjids/Suraus, only those 18 and above are allowed to enter. Need BruHealth and double vaccination. No need for identification but do make sure Wudhu from home. Cleaning and sanitizing will be done by every “waktu fardhu”. You are required to bring your own prayer mats. The quotas for masjid and suraus will be similar to that of the first wave.
- Daycare center are not allowed to be operating yet even during the Transition Phase. It is set to open during “Endemic Phase”, estimated sometime in December. However, the guidelines have already been given.
- Sports will be allowed but only for training purposes. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports will be handling out the guidelines for respective sports and leisure centres.
- There is no specific or indication on the numbers when the hospitalization rate hits a warning sign for the health care system.
- Unvaccinated civil servants will work from home during the Transition Phase. It’s still being discussed with these individuals will have to borne the usage of the ART kits if they return back to work in their unvaccinated condition.
- There are discussions where Quarantine Order will be revised for the Transition Phase. There is a possibility that the QO won’t be longer than the usual (14 days).
- Governmental dental services might not be in operation just yet as some of the government dentists are still helping out at the frontline.
- Temporary suspension on cross-border activities has been extended to 30th November except for those who have been granted approval from the Brunei Government.
- Vaccination hours have changed from 8am to 5pm at the Indoor Stadium Vaccination Centre.
- Construction workers with single dose of vaccine can still work in isolation such as road works or outside works. The same applies to those handling landscaping jobs. Those with one dose of vaccine are not allowed to conduct renovations at residences.
- Those caught outside the hours of Ops Peralihan will pay a fine of BND 500.
- Owners or Manager of the Premise or Event Organizer, should they exceed the human capacity of the given space, they will pay a fine of BND 5,000.
- Premises that allowed any individual to enter with only one vaccine then the owner or the manager of the space or the event organizer will have to pay a fine of BND 2,000.
- Those who haven’t completed their vaccination will pay BND 100 should they enter any premises.
- Employees or workers who are caught not wearing their masks will be fined BND 100.
The list will just get longer and longer but if you want to study more in depth, you can check out JPM’s website for updates and I am pretty sure it will be refined from time to time for the convenience and safety of the public.
The Sultanate of Oman celebrates its 51st National Day
Message from His Excellency Sheikh Ahmed Bin Hashil Al Maskari, Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman to Brunei Darussalam.
On the 18th of November, the Sultanate of Oman marks its 51st National Day anniversary. With firm resolve, Omani citizens continue to make more achievements under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, the Sultan of Oman who vowed to upgrade the march of nation building and enhance the pace of progress, striking a high note in Omani people’s enthusiasm for an ambitious renaissance that covers all spheres of life.
At the onset of the message on the auspicious occasion of the 51st anniversary of the national day of the Sultanate of Oman, I am honored to seize this opportunity to congratulate His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on Brunei Darussalam’s successful ASEAN Chairmanship for the current year, in these challenging times, Brunei continued to admirably play an important role as the ASEAN Chair in helping the region bounce back from the global pandemic and deal with other challenges facing ASEAN.
Furthermore, after registering its first locally transmitted covid-19 case in over a year, I am pleased to take this opportunity to commend the Government of Brunei Darussalam’s approach in containing the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak. Owing to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s wise leadership, we are confident that Brunei will overcome this challenge.
Furthermore, thanks to the government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam the vaccination drive has gained momentum and the country is destined to achieve a level which is needed to achieve herd immunity in the nearest future.
Moreover, I would also like to take this opportunity to laude Bruneians and foreign nationals residing in Brunei Darussalam for supporting the measures implemented by the Bruneian authority and for acting responsibly to stem the spreading of the virus. My sincerest gratitude goes to the competent medical professionals, doctors and nurses, law enforcement and border guards and others who are working tirelessly around the clock for the well-being and safety of everyone in this country.
Oman & Brunei: 37 years of outstanding bilateral relation:
This year marks the 37h anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam. The two sultanates established diplomatic ties on 24th March 1984 and, ever since, the bilateral relations have always enjoyed stable, healthy and steady development, and has attained remarkable achievements.
This process was greatly assisted by the official state visits paid by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassnal Bolkiah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to the Sultanate of Oman on three separate occasions. The first being in the 1984, the second taking place in 1985, and the third and the most recent visit in 2009. In addition, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, visited Oman in February 2014.
Furthermore, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, the Sultan of Oman, visited Brunei Darussalam in March 2014, in his capacity as Minister of Heritage and Culture during the reign of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Bin Taimur. These royal visits strengthened the relationship between the two brotherly countries even further.
Since establishing diplomatic relations, the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam have concluded numerous agreements and Memorandums of Understanding in different fields of cooperation.
Bilateral relations are discussed and reviewed on regular basis by the Foreign Ministry of the Sultanate of Oman and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam through the “Bilateral Consultative Meeting”; mechanism that was established in 1992 to strengthen bilateral relations. So, far twenty meetings have taken place, alternating between the two capitals of Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei and Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman.
Despite the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic our two brotherly countries bilateral relations continued to grow from strength to strength. On 11th January 2021, the Foreign Ministries of the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam held the 20th Bilateral Consultative Meeting (20th BCM), via video-conferencing.
During the 20th BCM, the two sides acknowledged and agreed to further strengthen the existing bilateral cooperation between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam in various areas, including trade and investment, energy, agriculture and fisheries, higher education, tourism, health, defense, and people-to-people exchanges.
Cultural cooperation is one of the strong dimensions of Oman-Brunei bilateral relations. Oman has participated on regular basis in Brunei international book fairs. Brunei also took part in Muscat book fairs during the past few years.
In this regard it worth mentioning that, on the year 2019, the Sultanate of Oman was privileged to be the first country ever to be invited as a country of honor at Brunei Book Fair, since it was inaugurated almost two decades ago.
Additionally, in line with the Embassy’s efforts to make the most of the Bruneians admiration for Arabic language, a fifth batch consisting of four teachers from the Ministry of Religious Affairs studied Arabic Language in the Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic Language to Non-Native Speakers, for duration of eight weeks during the year 2019, on a partial scholarship from the Government of the Sultanate of Oman.
The first four batches consisted of students from Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) and the Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB).
So far, a total of twenty-four participants from Brunei had benefited from this program. Currently arrangements are underway for the sixth batch of Bruneian students to study Arabic Language in the Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic Language to Non-Native Speakers during the course of next year.
Furthermore, recently the Ministry of Education of the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei’s Ministry of Religious Affairs established an impressive cooperation in the field of Arabic language teaching and learning, that has resulted in several promising initiatives that further strengthened the teaching and learning of Arabic language in Brunei Darussalam.
The Embassy has also emphasized promoting people-to-people exchanges between Brunei and Oman. As part of this effort, six Omani publications corners were officially launched at the library of Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) in February 2016 and at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD)’s library in May 2017, at the Library of the Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB) on 25th July 2018, at the library of Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) on October 2019 and the library of Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) Défense Academy on October 2020, with the latest Omani publications corner launched at the Library of the Language and Literature Bureau on 27th July 2021. Thus, the total number of Omani publications contained in these six corners are more than two-thousands (2,000) publications.
Additionally, as part of the Embassy’s effort to foster ties with the People of Brunei, within the framework of public diplomacy, which is considered an effective tool to help formulate people’s perception of each other’s countries and cultures.
The Embassy continued its annual practice of inviting batches of students from local public schools to visit the Embassy’s premise. During these visits I personally presented on aspects of Oman’s cultural and tourism appeal such as its geographic location, natural beauty and diverse landscapes, in addition to its culture and heritage. My presentation also explored some of the similarities between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam including the form of governance practiced in both countries, and efforts to modernize while maintaining distinct cultural identities, as well as the strong bonds of friendship forged through shared historical, cultural and social ties between the two countries and their peoples.
Moreover, our two brotherly countries enjoy productive cooperation in the field of education; the Sultanate of Oman continued to offer Bruneian students’ scholarships under the Omani program for Cultural and Information cooperation. At the same time, we are also grateful that over the past years the government of Brunei Darussalam has accepted many Omani students to pursue their studies in various local universities and institutions of higher learning on Brunei government scholarship.
Speaking of students’ exchange, several Omani students from Sultan Qaboos University and University of Nizwa studied in UBD for one academic semester, during the past few years.
Oman and Brunei also enjoy promising cooperation in the field of sports, only last April 2021, The National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Oman Football Association. The MOU entailed cooperation in vast areas including conducting more exchanges between the two Football Associations as well as the hosting of friendly matches.
Moreover, in a move that took trade and investment cooperation between the two sultanates to a higher level, Brunei inked a deal with Oman in April 2009, to establish a US$100 million investment fund, shared between the two sultanates and based in the Omani capital of Muscat. This deal resulted in the unveiling of Oman Brunei Investment Company (OBIC).
OBIC invests in private equity of high-growing sectors through acquisition, or by investing in existing companies or starting new projects.
OBIC continued to make the most of business opportunities available in the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam local markets, in order to further boost the two countries economic development and contribute to their economic diversification plans.
OBIC has invested in many projects in the Sultanate of Oman since its establishment 12 years ago. Among the most important of these projects are Kempinski Hotel, located Al Mouj-Muscat; the European Hospital being built in Al Ghubra; and the desalination plant in Sohar.
On the year 2019, OBIC has acquired (50 per cent) share of Golden Corporation Sdn Bhd (GC), a company that specializes in fish farming, in addition to providing high-quality seafood products, based in Brunei Darussalam. This was OBIC first investment in Brunei.
Furthermore, on 9th December 2019, Oman Investment Authority (OIA) of the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) agreed to increase the capital of Oman Brunei Investment Company (OBIC) by another USD 100 million. Thus, bringing the total capital of the company to USD 200 million.
Additionally, both countries have identified and explored over the years during the Bilateral Consultative Meetings between the Sultanate of Oman Foreign Ministry and Brunei Darussalam, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a number of new investment opportunities in various industries including the upstream and downstream, oil and gas sectors, halal food, banking and finance, agriculture and fisheries. With the hope that these investments won’t be limited to either Oman or Brunei, but could also be extended to joint investment in third countries.
Moreover, the longstanding shared values and similar energy landscapes of Brunei Darussalam and the Sultanate of Oman have been key in nurturing close ties between the two countries, with the Brunei-Oman Joint Seminar – first held in 2014 in Brunei and the second held in Muscat, Oman in 2016 and third taking place in Brunei 2019– symbolizing this partnership. We are hopeful that the fourth session of the aforementioned seminar will take place next year 2022, at Muscat.
The biennial seminar, hosted alternately between Brunei and Oman, was established as a platform to share best practices in areas of mutual interest between both countries and to foster joint opportunities, as well as to enhance understanding of the business and investment environments in both countries, especially in industry sectors.
Cooperation in the field of energy and related fields further fortified with the exchange of professionals through the staff cross-posting between Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP), Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and Oman Liquefied Natural Gas (Oman LNG), an arrangement which has been ongoing for several years.
Défense cooperation is another dimension of Brunei-Oman bilateral relations that has also grown steadily over the past years, with both countries armed forces regularly participating in command and staff courses and other military events held in the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam.
With reference to what I have highlighted earlier it’s evident that relations between the two Sultanates have extended beyond the political spheres to include other important areas of cooperation and we firmly believe that with the joint efforts of both sides, more positive results will be yielded in the Sultanate of Oman-Brunei Darussalam excellent and mutual beneficial cooperation.
Therefore, based on these cooperative relations shaped by economic necessity and investment opportunities and incentives, there is ample reason to expect our two countries partnership to reach new heights and cover more sectors including industries, tourism, logistics, fisheries, as well as, technology, health care, water, environment, and renewable energy.
Furthermore, we hope that the friendship and cooperation between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam will grow from strength to strength and we are confident that with the outstanding leadership of their Majesties Sultan Haitham bin Tarik and Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, the bonds of friendship between Oman and Brunei will be further cemented in the years ahead.
I would therefore like to express my thanks and appreciation to the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for their kindness, generosity support and cooperation in promoting the good relations between our friendly countries.
I am, thus confident that our two friendly countries relations in the coming years will witness further enhancement of closer bonds of friendship and partnership. Ultimately, my heartfelt wishes to Brunei Darussalam to further success, progress, peace and for the Oman-Brunei relation further development and prosperity.
Celebrating Renewed Renaissance, Setting Further Milestones:
It is with great pride, immense happiness, deep love and gratitude to the Builder of Modern Oman, the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Bin Taimur and His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, that Omani people celebrate the 51st National Day on the 18th of November 2021.
The achievements brought about over the past 51 years can be seen in all fields and on every yard of the Sultanate of Oman’s territory. The late His Majesty established the pillars of a modern state on solid grounds of justice, equality, responsible citizenship and rule of the law as part of His Majesty’s keenness on safeguarding the unity of the nation and the solidarity of citizens in every part of the country.
The main focus of the Sultanate of Oman’s Renaissance has been on the creation of a modern nation based upon a system of laws and institutions that reflect the development of its society and state. The Basic Law of the State embodies all aspects and helped establish ‘the state of institutions and rule of law’ and paved the way for wide-scale cooperation between executive and legislative institutions within a framework of equality, in earnest quest to facilitate citizens’ access to justice.
Oman National Day is an occasion in which citizens exhibit their joy over the achievements made, as well as their love and gratitude to their benevolent leader.
The celebration comes at a time the Sultanate of Oman is making progress in every field, inspired by the directives of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik, who continued charting the roadmap of the renaissance. That’s how modern Oman has emerged as a country admired by the whole world, because of its civilized contribution to human experience and its dignified presence in regional and international arenas.
Royal directives to tackle coronavirus pandemic:
To contain coronavirus (Covid-19) that wreaked havoc in countries of the world, the Sultanate of Oman formed a Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The Supreme Committee has been taking ‘moderate’ decisions and precautionary measures that ensure the safety of citizens and residents, while at the same time catering to social and economic implications on this benign land.
The Supreme Committee is responsible for cooperation with the departments concerned and regulating social response. It worked for the procurement of internationally approved vaccines and oversaw the implementation of a national immunization campaign. This was commended by His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik when he chaired the Supreme Committee’s meeting on 18 August 2021. His Majesty said that, “This improvement could not have happened had it not been for the appropriate decisions taken and the efforts exerted by the departments concerned in the Sultanate of Oman, albeit the health sector.” His Majesty the Sultan of Oman lauded the “high sense of responsibility shouldered by all members of society through abidance with the decisions and the measures set by the authorities concerned to safeguard public health—individuals and society at large”.
The decisions resulted in the improvement of Covid-19 indicators in the Sultanate of Oman, which, the reports said, registered great decline in mortality, infection and hospitalization rates, while recovery from the disease reached 98.5%.
Meanwhile, the government accorded special attention to the ensuing economic impacts of Covid-19. The decisions, which took into account the fallouts of the pandemic on establishments and companies, included exemption from fines of some services. Special exemptions were sanctioned to small and medium enterprises and holders of Riyada Card for Entrepreneurs. This is in addition to a package of incentives for borrowers, individuals, banking institutions, financing and leasing firms.