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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

05
Jan

Hope is all around

Written by Rano Iskandar. Posted in News, RA News

 

Transiting to 2016 
 


Kicking off the new year with a beach gathering with my tennis buddies and coach Aiman Abdullah at Muara Beach
 

It feels great to be back on the court. I really love tennis, even at this age of reaching the four zero, my passion will override my physical being. I have many deadlines but only little to do with blog related. Though I have many stories to share, I shall be focusing more on my final draft to complete my 10th speech project.

Toastmasters. My final speech project for toastmasters (Competent Communicator) is scheduled for next Tuesday, 12th January. If you are interested to catch and be inspired, you are more than welcome to catch me live at Brunei Speakers’ Club meeting at SEAMEO Voctech at 7:30pm. As a toastmaster, I’ve learnt not only to be an affluent speaker but learning the ropes of a true leadership in guiding and mentoring members along the way. It’s always difficult to break the stigma that many thought that toastmasters is all about “talking/speaking” in public and that has become their biggest fear than taking a ride on a rollercoaster. So it is always nice to hear guests’ comments that they benefited from being a spectator, witnessing how role players played important roles in helping others to grow with positive criticism.

It took me three years to realise this as I wasn’t being present (in my mind) during toastmasters meeting back in 2011. After returning back to the arena, I rediscovered a whole new game and only then, I saw the true core values that I aspired to be and I never looked back since. Hence, I’m here as a toastmaster to make a difference, be the difference, in aspiring others to take the first step to grow as a leader and we have many qualified mentors to guide you through that journey. A big thank you to Shawn Narcis for seeing and believing in me and now I have a huge responsibility as I’m the organizing chair for the upcoming Brunei Toastmasters Conference in October 2016. I’m excited and also nervous.

Employment. Today’s headlines seems to be bring some hope to our community. It read – “Unemployment declines by 7% in October”. This data was issued by JPKE (Department of Economic Planning and Development). But then again, they have reported that these figures doesn’t really represent that the decline means that the jobseekers have a job. There are factors relating such as the previous registered jobseekers have left for further studies and also a handful have not renewed their registration as job seekers. Hence, it’s not a complete data representation but it’s the most comprehensive data to date. I’m pretty sure that not all jobseekers registered themselves as “jobseekers” to give a more accurate assessment on the level of unemployment in Brunei. With the decline of oil prices, there have been a major shake up in the oil and gas industry with some private companies forced to downsize their operations, hence low employment opportunities as compared to before.

Other streams of opportunities. So much emphasis has been given on SMEs. Let me spell it out – Small Medium Enterprises. It was good news to hear that His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’zzaddin Waddaulah and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam said in his titah to call for a new body to handle SME. This highlights how we are too reliant on the Oil and Gas sector and did you know that almost 90% of our revenue generates from that sector alone. There were also changes in the some of the SME divisions in the Brunei Economic Development Board. Some of the divisions/departments from BEDB have been transferred to the Ministry of Energy and Industries. I’m not sure how the governing body of SMEs will run the system but it will be nice if all the separate bodies of SMEs to work under one-roof and bring out the best in our entrepreneurs. Let’s see how 2016 will unfold for them.

The new eye of Kiulap. There is so much difference when you compare Setia Kenangan I and Setia Kenanga II buildings. The latter is located next to Regent Square and it’s picking up pace in terms of retailers. It’s quite amazing how shops and brands are popping up in times of the depreciating oil prices. We have the likes of Pepperlunch, Tomato KidZ (kids furniture), Wrap in a Box, Nerdee Cafe, Games & Latte cafe, two Escape rooms, WoMen salon (co-owned by Wu Chun), Alsa Living, Yugo Desserts (coming soon), De Cottage and the newly relocated Euro Classic which hasn’t been opened yet. I’m beginning to like the selection and choices of shops at Setia Kenangan II. The only problem is that there will be more road congestion leading to Regent Square and Setia Kenangan II.

 

 

 

 

Wu Chun, new business line 
 


Wu Chun officially launched the opening of the WoMen salon in Setia Kenangan II, Kiulap last Sunday. Image courtesy of Vincent Hong.
 


Wu Chun with his daughter during the opening of the salon. Image courtesy of Vincent Hong.
 

At the cutting edge of the rising global beauty industry, WoMen Hair, a unisex hair salon which started their first outlet in Taiwan, is a dream team of talents who are driven to create a new revolution in re-defining the real power of Asian beauty.

Behind the curtain of Women Hair is a team of award winning stylists and international celebrities. WoMen hair creates a state-of-the-art technology with top-end platform for aspiring trendsetters and successful figures that pursue an artistic taste of a cosmopolitan lifestyle.

The WoMen Hair salon is now officially opened in Brunei and this is an extension of Wu Chun’s personal philosophy. Wu Chun shared, “Our end goal is to deliver happiness to our clients. WoMen Hair is both hip and incredibly relaxed – the perfect environment for exceptional consultation, styling and attention. It is more about being private than about being exclusive.“

Coined the ‘anti-salon’, WoMen Hair is an ever evolving space with art collaborations and a 2 floors of super chic yet vintage interior with unique features such as container built-up box and a vibrant trendsetting lounge fully designed by Wu Chun.

According to Wu Chun, “We push the boundaries of hairdressing, delivering creativity, quality and consistency to every client. I have to admit our services are a bit pricy but with such good level of standards, its not easily available elsewhere in South East Asia and even if there is, it might be more costly.”

WoMen Hair contributes on a wealth of high profile international campaigns and editorial features in some of the world’s leading publications. Highlights have included Elle, Bazaar, Esquire, Men’s Health, Marie Claire, Madame Figaro, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and more.

WoMen Hair Salon has now opened its door and is located at Kiulap’s new commercial shop lot – Kenangan II shopping complex is situated right behind Regent Square.; (Behind Excapade Restaurant). They are currently having an introductory offer for first-time customers to enjoy a 30% off on all their services.

For all the beauty enthusiasts who wants to have a new great look for 2016, please call 2236262 for the appointment that will re-define your beauty. Images courtesy of Vincent Hong.

 


Wu Chun with his invited guests
 


Wu Chun sporting a new hair cut
 

 


Wu Chun with the international hair stylists
 


A celebrity with an entrepreneurial spirit
 

 

 

21
Sep

Wake up call

Written by Rano Iskandar. Posted in News, RA News

 

Brunei Travel Fair
 


Mark your dates this weekend and plan your travels 😀
 

 

 

The cracks are showing
 

[Edited]: Is Brunei going through a recession? It’s still early days to say for that but I know that some of my friends’ businesses are feeling the pinch(es). These are just from my observations as well as business environment shared by my peers. Let’s not forget some of the outside factors as well as policies that can influence the Brunei economy.

Let’s lay down some scenarios here from my knowledge. I know there could be more (factors) but I will just based them on my findings. First is the falling of oil prices. I remember once a top senior official said that such fluctuating prices won’t affect the Brunei economy earlier this year. However, I’m pretty sure it did (affect) in a long run as oil prices hasn’t been encouraging and it has a detrimental effect on the Brunei economy. Furthermore, at some point, Brunei’s export on crude and oil hasn’t been blossoming like the old days. Have the oil prices affected oil production in Brunei? Earlier this year, it was reported that Brunei’s exports went down by 39% (source: Department of Economic Planning and Development (JPKE).

 

 

It’s no big surprise that oil prices is a big factor here (weaker demand, higher supply). Imagine the previous year that the price of oil was at least USD $113 per barrel and now it’s averaging at USD $50 per barrel. It was also reported in Reuters that despite the improvement in prices, worldwide production won’t be producing last much as it’s “uneconomical” if oil prices are at USD $50 or below.

With low demand for export and also lower oil prices, this will mean that money flowing into the Sultanate will be lower than usual. This would also mean less activities or projects coming from Brunei Shell Joint Ventures or any companies relating to Brunei Shell.

Early in March 2015 during the Legislative Council, the Ministry of Finance that Brunei will be in the deficit in terms of spending (BND 1.58 billion) and this is related to the fall in oil prices. Did you know that 90% of the export of Brunei is oil and gas? So this is what we always mean when we say that we are relying too much on oil and gas.

 

Now I have touched on oil prices. How about other factors? One thing that has affected Brunei is the recent policy introduced by Authoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) – the total debt service ratio or loan cap (at 60 per cent for those earning a minimum net salary of $1,750). So who will be affected because of this policy? Not the consumers but the car dealers as sales has seen a drop of at least 15% and it keeps dropping every month ever since the introduction of the loan cap in June 2015.

If the car dealers are affected, this would also affect the finance companies such as Baiduri Bank and BIBD At-tamwil who finance the hire purchase of the cars. NBT (Toyota) used to sell an average of 300 units every month but recently the figures have gone below 200 units. Back in 2012, at one stage, cars sold in a month would break the 1,500 mark but recently it has lesser numbers (1,137 cars in July 2015 and 1,005 cars in August 2015). Last weekend, I even bumped into an NBT roadshow at The Mall (which is quite rare) and one of the representatives said that business wasn’t good so they needed to do more roadshow and promotion.

Yes, the business side of the automotive industry is feeling the pinch but the idea of the policy by AMBD is to ensure that the residents of Brunei will have enough savings and finances instead of using their disposable income for loan repayments. With the current situation of oil prices, such move (of the policy) has not benefited the local economy as loans are hard to come by especially those in the lower tier income group. In a long run, the TDSR or loan cap will be good for the country as people will have more disposable income than rather ending up using majority of their salaries to pay off loans. Remember the credit card policy? That really worked well, right? and this shouldn’t be a problem. It will just take time to adjust to the new financial environment. Car dealers will have to come up with better deals or promotions just like how Boustead are currently executing with their promotions with Suzuki and Nissan (tablets and smartphones respectively) to attract customers.

 

Another theory that cannot be discounted is the fact that the Malaysian ringgit has caught interest of Bruneians. The exchange rate now is BND 1 to RM 3 which is a real steal for us. For many Bruneians, Miri is still considered a shopping paradise. Just imagine this – It was reported that over two million arrivals from Brunei to Miri alone in 2013. I’m pretty sure the statistics will be even more in Year 2015 with the current weak currency of the Ringgit. Shopping will be cheaper and they will even buy their groceries across the border as it’s a cost saving measure.

So who are at the losing end? Of course, our local retailers and the department store owners. I interviewed two sources on how the supermarket business in Kuala Belait and Bandar and both gave similar responses – “people prefer shopping and spending across the border.” One commented that usually after Hari Raya season, their supermarket business is slower but this year, it’s even quieter and slower than last year. Even the extension of the opening hours across the border is not helping the Brunei economy.

Now that I have laid some of my findings based on reports and interviews, it’s not too premature to say that Brunei is undergoing a small recession – budget cuts, deficits, lower car sales and lower revenue in local supermarket as some of the effects.

 

Need action, less talking: I have attended many lectures, talks, keynote addresses, you name it,  for the past 10 years and the same topic remains – “Diversification” and we all have become accustomed to the over-abused word but it has only become a mere phrase than a means to an end. From the progress of Brunei, we have taken baby steps to diversify by creating new industries – pharmaceutical, the halal brand and also the Mitsubishi Gas Chemicals and Itochu Corporation from Japan for the methanol plant at the Sg Liang Industrial Park (SPARK). These are all good signs to come as it creates more job employment.

Even earlier this year, Brunei Economic Development Board and South Korean company DongYang GangChul, said that the BND 107 million project at the Bukit Panggal Industrial Park in Tutong will be a major boost to Brunei’s economy. The idea is the plant will produce billet and aluminium extrusion and export back to Sout Korea. I’m not really sure what are the status of this project as I have not seen any updates.

My biggest curiousity is the Pulau Muara Besar (PMB) project. There have been many mentions of the PMB project but as far as I know there is very little happening as the big players such as Hengyi Industries Sdn Bhd, a petrochemical firm, will only begin their refinery operations by early 2017. Of course, this is no easy project and it requires intensive homework and making sure all the criteria are met. This is perhaps the biggest project for the Brunei economy as the refinery will cost at least BND 4 billion. But now it’s more of a waiting game until early 2017.

From the looks of it, Brunei needs a good number of Foreign Direct Investment, just similarly like Hengyi Industries. It’s never an easy task to bring foreign investors to pump in money into the economy. I believe that Brunei is a very ideal hub for this kind of industries and of course, the foreigners will need our vote of confidence in order to succeed. The PMB project would have been talking point (with action) if nothing was delayed and the refinery plant up and running by now. Maybe I’m just tired listening to the same old phrase and the emphasis of “diversification”.

On a positive spin, what’s trending (and booming now) are the influx of food and beverage outlets such as Rack & Brew, The Library Cafe, Ner|Dee Cafe, Chatime and coming soon (end of the year), Cinnabon. If you are thinking of opening a business, then F&B is a better approach as we still have the culture to dine out or even limteh. And let’s not forget the upcoming travel fair by Royal Brunei and we Bruneians love to travel (so maybe, just maybe, people are saving to spend on traveling).

What’s my outlook on Brunei 2016? It’s hard to say. I just hope that we can help one another and let our egos down that Brunei needs a wake up call. Our voices can be a stimulus and hopefully the Government of Brunei and the private sector can work together to tackle a growing (bad) seed before it can turn to a plant.

This article doesn’t represent the opinions of others apart from my own. I typed this because I feel it’s very relevant to our community and I also want to help to contribute to the betterment of our Brunei economy. If you have any queries or comments, you can drop me an email ranoadidas gmail and I’m more than happy to hear from your end. Sources of facts: The Brunei Times.

 

 

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