Don't be passive partners, Bruneians told
Bandar Seri Begawan - The government has warned Bruneians against the misuse of Business Licenses (Miscellaneous Licenses) by allowing foreigners to actively run the businesses and Bruneians assuming the role of "passive partners".
Minister of Home Affairs Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Badaruddin Pengarah Dato Paduka Hj Othman told The Brunei Times recently there is currently a phenomena of license holders taking on roles of "passive partners".
"The issue of foreigners operating businesses under permits issues to local citizens, who are relegated to the role of (being) mere "passive partners", and the resultant influx of many foreign workers via the lieenses issued to them is now an open story," the minister said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, as the ministry responsible for the issuance of such licenses, is currently monitoring the situation and is considering options, YB Pehin Dato Hj Badaruddin added.
However, the minister stressed that this did not mean that foreign businessmen are not welcome in Brunei, adding that the government welcomed their help in developing the private sector.
Out of 9,758 miscellaneous licenses issued throughout the country in 2011, the Minister of Home Affairs said 3,974 were for the purpose of conducting retail businesses to create job opportunities for unemployed Bruneians and jobseekers.
However, YB Pehin Dato Hj Badaruddin said the "truth was opposite", where majority of businesses operating under this category were hiring foreign workers instead of locals. .
"For instance, many restaurants, catering service providers and retail shops throughout the country - from towns to villages in the interiors and even stalls at the open-air markets selling local vegetables and fruits - are employing foreign workers," he said.
YB Pehin Dato Hj Badaruddin said the issue of the license holder's role being limited to that of a "passive partner" was a phenomenon that should be viewed from several aspects, not merely the authorisation business permits. Passive partners, who are holders of the Miscellaneous License, receive a certain income from foreigners who operate their businesses.
The minister said it is pertinent to make local business holders understand that taking advantage of the benefit by being a passive partner means they have failed to grasp and accomplish the real intention of the government - to promote and develop locals in business. "We want them to be aware that (they should not only think about) the benefit from gaining profits, but to safeguard the interest of the country in the long run." "They need to be realistic and positive in the likely event that the government policy has to be reviewed with consequences, such as stricter enforcement of terms and conditions and imposing a limit on the number of licenses issues," YB Pehin Dato Hj Badaruddin said.
Also, local business license holders need to realise that relegating themselves to the role of "passive partners", exposes them to being instrumental for the influx of foreign workers.
This, YB Pehin Dato Hj Badaruddin said, is proving difficult to control. "Every time they (local business license holders) submit applications for work permits that are based on numbers dictated by the de facto "operator", and are not 100 per cent genuine for a business, is quite insignificant." The minister urged license holders to give this "serious thought", which will hopefully lead them to realise the negative impact for both the short-term and longterm socio-economic and political well-being of the country.
He explained this was in respect to entry of foreign workers in such large numbers which do not really reflect the actual manpower needs of the country from foreign sources.
"We find that there are too many Miscellaneous Licenses being issued. Even in the interior areas, the licenses are operated by foreigners. So we ask whether it is necessary to have sundry shops and restaurants being operated by foreigners in those interior areas?" the minister said.
YB Pehin Dato Hj Badaruddin said the government is looking for residents to share their thoughts on whether this is appropriate.
"We are talking about developing the private sector and Foreign Direct Investments. The issue is that with licenses issued that are being operated by foreigners does not help local employment," he said.
He explained the current scenario with many was that once a license was issued, the passive partner would act as a "public relations person" with immigration and labour agencies to get work passes for foreigners.
The minister said it had become evident that foreigners were operating the businesses when their passive partners requested for more work passes.--Courtesy of The Brunei Times