Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah during a press conference at the Ministry of Health. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

The coronavirus has inadvertently ushered in a new age of development for the sultanate, bringing about an unprecedented rate of digitisation the likes the country has never seen.

With social and physical distancing measures becoming the new standard of living, residents of the nation were called on to be resilient and adapt to this new way of life, one that actually brings Brunei closer towards its goal of being a smart nation.

This was said by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister of Finance and Economy, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah during a press conference on Thursday.

It was in response to a question posed by the media which enquired the minister on how the residents of Brunei are coping with the sudden surge in digitisation.

File photo of the BIBD Biznet app developed by BIBD. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

According to YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin, despite the ruinous impact the coronavirus has had towards the local and global economy, the pandemic has undoubtedly changed “the way we live, the way we work and the way we play”.

“I have mentioned previously that due to COVID-19, business activities have gone down because consumption has gone down. People are spending less during these uncertain times,” he said.

“Now, if we look at the economy during COVID-19 and post COVID-19, people should start spending once we come out of this; the aggregate demand would, of course, revert back to where it was before.

A customer browsing heydomo. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“However, the way that people buy, the way that people trade, it will have changed because of the digitization that we see today,” he added.

The minister pointed out how the Bruneian populace has already begun to behave differently, mobilising towards e-platforms and technology brought on by the country’s COVID-19 policy responses such as the closure of schools and the suspension of dine-in services for the food and beverage sector.

“The government has also introduced a number of economic relief measures, which actually looks into preparing our people for this new normal,” he said.

“We (the government) are spending money on free training for our local employees, these trainings include areas of IT and (business) management because these measures are actually meant to protect jobs (and) make them ready for life post COVID-19 where things are more digital,” he explained.

File phot of a customer seen trying out the food samples by one of the vendors at the 23rd Consumer Fair at ICC. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

The finance and economy minister noted how a number of businesses in Brunei have already embraced the digitisation “trend”, however, a certain number of enterprises are still maintaining “the traditional way of doing business”.

“Now, how fast society is moving along towards this digital economy? That depends on all of us because this is the trend (now) and businesses might find themselves doing business in a different competition landscape post-COVID-19,” he continued.

YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin highlighted the need for businesses to get with the times and to “catch up” in order to survive, adding that the public discourse on e-learning and e-commerce platforms has managed to spur public interest in digitisation and the digital economy.

“All these measures, they are actually meant to prepare our people and our businesses so that they can come out of this pandemic stronger,” the minister concluded.

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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