Kuala Belait - Local Business Development (LBD) is an obligation that all local companies in the oil and gas industry must comply with if they are to continue standing any chance of receiving tenders, and ignoring it is not something that the Energy Department at the Prime Minister's Office (EDPMO) will tolerate.
This was made clear by the Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister's Office, Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awg Hj Mohd Yasmin bin Hj Umar, in an interview with the Borneo Bulletin after visiting a number of local oil and gas related companies in the Belait District.
Figures from the recent Oil and Gas Service Sector Job Fair show that Brunei has around 5,000 jobseekers in the oil and gas industry, based on their submissions to the EDPMO, said the minister.
"At the moment, my target for next year is 1,600 (new jobs). That's what I'm hoping, but the reality is we need to have more jobs in the oil and gas sector," he said, adding that the aforementioned figure of 5,000 submissions will be re-checked to see how reliable they are.
"At the end of the day, what it means is if I can only give jobs in the industry to, say 2,000 people, with 5,000 on the jobseekers list, then I would only be giving work to two out of every five people.
"I would not be able to give work to every three people out of that five," he said. "This means a lot in terms of how we plan for our human resources. This is the area in which we really need to sit down with all the other government agencies and is an area which we need to think through very thoroughly.
"As far as the industry itself is concerned, I cannot accept that some of the companies who have been around here and won contracts in Brunei worth more than a $100 million still only employ a workforce of only 11 per cent or 20 per cent Bruneians.
"Yet, these are the companies being awarded more than $100 million worth of contracts every year," he reiterated.
"So where do we go from here?" he asked rhetorically, saying that this is not helping the cause of Local Business Development.
"I have asked the international players to rethink their strategy in Brunei, because at the end of the day, if they have the mentality that they don't need to bother to do anything, or are arrogant towards Brunei, and as such do not care about the creation of jobs in Brunei, then we shouldn't welcome them here.
"There are other international companies which are equally capable, equally interested and also have a very good LBD agenda," he said. "This is why I am quite confident that we can create more than 2,000 jobs, but we need to think about how we are going to do it.
"This is because if I have 2,000 jobs this year, and next year I can only give 1,500 jobs, that is not sustainable," he said, stressing that sustainability is needed for providing consistent employment in the industry, making the industry grow and ensuring that people in the industry know the Energy Department's Local Business Development agenda.
The minister also went on to make it clear that this is not an anti-foreigner stand. "This is not trying to be against them. All we are saying is give us our dues. Our dues are this: you've been winning the tenders, so it's only fair that we ask you to please do something about your local business development obligation."
Some of the big companies working in Brunei's oil and gas industry are still being financed by outside banks, which the minister described as being totally unacceptable, and added that blatantly ignoring the facts is something that is totally unacceptable to the government.
"Local Business Development obligation, as I said during my Visits to the companies, is a drop-dead criterion. It is a must, before you can even go to the next round of any tender competition.
"There are some companies now employing a workforce of 200 expatriates, of which roughly 30 per cent are Bruneian. If you ask me whether they have a framework to develop locals, I'd say no, and if they do, then I'm not impressed with it.
"Don't tell me that such big companies with foreign partners only have one or two Bruneians working abroad, yet 200 people can come to Brunei and work for that same company."
The minister said that his concern is that there are companies still very happy staying in their comfort zone.
"The easiest way out is to, of course, get foreign talents and ignore your duty for the nation to employ and train locals. Yet, the government is giving all sorts of incentives to do that duty" he said, citing tax rebates for courses and training conducted as an example.
He affirmed that the Energy Department is firmly putting its foot down and that they "mean business".
"There are some international companies who are still arrogant, who still think they can get away while ignoring their LBD obligations," he said. "What we tell them is we welcome them in Brunei, but if they have no interest at all in LBD, then please don't come to Brunei, because LBD is important to the country
"There are other capable international companies around that can do the same job with more respect to the Bruneian needs," the minister added.
"We will work very hard, we will create job opportunities in the oil and gas (sector)," he continued. "It's an uphill battle and it's challenging, but Insha Allah, with our perseverance, we will succeed."
The minister affirmed his commitment towards the creation of job opportunities for Bruneians, saying, "What we really want now is to look at these figures very seriously, and I will not stop doing my bit towards trying to create employment for Bruneians."--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin