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18 JUNE 2003

And a Very Good Morning to All


First of all I would like to thank Awang Abdul Ghani Pengiran Haji Metussin, the Director of ASEAN-EC Management Centre for inviting me today to address and officiate the launching of the ASEAN-EC International Conference 2003.

This morning’s event is very significant as this conference is a milestone event for Brunei Darussalam as it will leverage the immense challenges and opportunities that the K-economy has to offer to our country and people.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Knowledge is something hard to define. Yet, it is weightless and intangible and it can travel easily throughout the world. Knowledge enlightens the lives of people if one has access to it or understands it.

The difference between the rich and the poor is not that one is wealthy and one has nothing. The difference is that one has knowledge and the other one has less knowledge. Access to knowledge and the ability to create knowledge makes the difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ or the ‘have-nows’ and the ‘have-laters’ in the society as well as between the different countries in the world today.

Knowledge is the cornerstone of every economic transaction in the world. It reveals preferences and demands, it gives clarity to market exchanges and it therefore informs the markets. It is the lack of knowledge then which causes markets to collapse or never even come into being.

In today’s information age, knowledge has become the world’s gold standard. If Brunei Darussalam is to prosper in this third millennium, it is vital that we understand the implications of this change. If we don’t change the way we compete in the global economy, our way of life and standard of living are at risk.

The knowledge based economy thus present the way forward to achieve sustainable rapid growth and for us to remain globally competitive in the medium and long term. In order to develop a knowledge-based economy, we must understand what are the issues and the constraints and we must resolve them.

It is thus timely that the ASEAN-EC Management Centre had taken the lead and initiative in organizing this conference so that we can update ourselves on the latest breakthrough as well as learn from the best practices from other countries in the areas that this conference will focus on, namely e-government, info-communication techno-logies, small and medium enterprises and human resource development. The Prime Minister’s Office fully supports and endorses this conference.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

We must recognize the fact that with the Brunei Darussalam economy heavily dependent on the petroleum sector, it is extremely vulnerable. A significant proportion of employment is also indirectly dependent upon government oil and gas based expenditures.

The National Development Plans have always given high priority to economic diversification, through the development of private sector non-oil related manufacturing and commercial activities. However, despite the adoption of this objective, progress admittedly has been modest.

The growth of the private sector therefore will be the government’s main concern in its drive to push the private sector to be the engine of growth in today’s knowledge based economy.

We all have our roles in the k-economy. The government’s role in the k-economy will be to narrow the knowledge gaps through the facilitation for the acquisition, absorption and communication of knowledge. The acquisition of knowledge requires the absorption of knowledge, abetted by universal basic education and opportunities for life-long learning. Human capital will be the key driver of growth and will determine the competitive position of the nation, therefore, the quality and availability of education will play a major role.

The government must continue to improve policy and business environments to create conditions favourable to trade, especially exports as one of the ways for countries to obtain knowledge from abroad. The government must also leapfrog the nation towards the convergence of computing and telecommunication as this will greatly facilitate the acquisition and absorption of knowledge, improve policy formation and widen the range of opportunities for the businesses and the poor.

The private sector similarly must also be aware of their roles and knowledge and the implications for their businesses. They must recognize the importance of knowledge to their business bottom line. They must develop new measures of corporate performance based on knowledge. They must systematically enhance learning and knowledge through new processes. They must provide a technology infrastructure to enhance knowledge creation and sharing. They must encourage the sharing of knowledge through effective internet settings and business practices.

In the knowledge economy, the interlocking driving forces are changing the rules of businesses and national competitiveness. Markets and products are more global. Productions and processes are also globalised. The use of information and knowledge are more intensified. The more developed have efficient production based on information and know-how where many workers use their heads more than their hands. The networking and connectivity bring the global village ever smaller.

To succeed, the private sector will have to adopt the best practices. Entrepreneurial and managerial skills must be sharpened to handle new challenges. Risks have to be undertaken and the willingness to venture into new areas and opportunities must be taken especially with those that come with the k-economy and globalisation.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

These are indeed exciting times for the economics of information and knowledge. The ICT revolution is pushing to eliminate distance. It is imperative that we understand the ways in which the production and distribution of knowledge differs from that of goods like steel and cars. Processes where knowledge plays a driving role will tend to display positive feedbacks.

To succeed, we must work together. The partnership between public and private sector must be forged so that a more comprehensive development framework can put new focus into effect. The challenge of creating and nurturing a culture of innovation and change will have to be faced and overcome.

For Brunei Darussalam, this conference will serve as a statement of its commitments to harness the tremendous potential of the k-economy as it continues to move in the new millennium.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Finally, let me reiterate what Awang Abdul Ghani Pengiran Haji Metussin, the Director of ASEAN-EC Management Centre. I would like to solicit your generous support of this conference in the form of delegates participation and additional support. I especially seek the kind support of our friends from the diplomatic corps.

Your Excellencies, may I request that upon your return to your offices, that you inform your countries’ governments and business organizations about this seminar. I would also like to make a special request to representatives of the various chambers of commerce and industries and government agencies and institutions present this morning, to generously and actively support this conference by sending delegates to attend as well as sponsorship. With all your strong commitment and active support, I have every confidence that this conference will be able achieve its objectives.

On that note, let me thank and wish everyone here all the best in your future undertakings. I hope you all will enjoy attending the conference.

With the kalimah Bismillah Hirrahman Nirrahim, I now officially launch the ASEAN-EC International Conference 2003 – the K-economy – competitiveness, survival and growth.

Wabillahit Taufik Walhidayah, Wassalamu ‘Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh And Thank You.

(c) Pg Dato Hamid/Rozan Yunos