Sensitivity crucial to ensure investment benefits directed to needs of people

HIS Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, yesterday attended a ministerial session of the 4th Annual Investment Meeting at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The meeting carries the theme ‘Investment Partnership for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth in Frontier and Emerging Markets’.

His Royal Highness delivered a statement highlighting the role of Foreign Direct Investment in long-term sustainable development, both in Brunei Darussalam and in the Asean region. The statement stressed on the need for sensitivity by governments and investors in ensuring that the benefits of investment are directed towards the needs of the people and their day-to-day lives.

In the afternoon, HRH attended a joint audience with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid AI-Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the patron of the event, before attending the grand opening ceremony of the 4th Annual Investment Meeting.

Following is the full text of the statement by HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah at the annual investment meeting in Dubai.

“My warmest respects to our patron, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and my thanks to the people of Dubai for their extremely kind welcome and most generous hospitality.

“Thank you very much for your opening statement, Minister, the excellent programme arranged for us this year and for the most distinguished gathering of experts and authorities you have invited. My congratulations to the Government and people of the United Arab Emirates.

“It is a great pleasure to be in this exciting city of Dubai. In many ways it shows what can be achieved from the principles listed in our theme here, investment partnerships, sustainable and inclusive growth, frontier and emerging markets.

“That’s why I am sure the expertise and experience offered here will certainly help us at a very high technical level. So, since investment is not my own field, I am looking forward to learning a great deal. And, when I go home, it will be a lot easier to answer the questions that foreign investment often raises.

“Having said that, however, as a Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, I am also hoping that we can keep something else in mind. And by this, I mean the viewpoint of the ordinary people we represent. In order for investment to succeed, governments and investors have to have the full support and confidence of our people and this is not guaranteed.

“For many of our people, foreign investment is not always a positive force for development. They do not yet see any true ‘partnership’. They see ‘growth’ in terms of the problems it brings, like rising prices and the cost of living. As for sustainability, there are things they do not wish to see sustained, such as, things which challenge their faith and traditional values. Nor, in the light of their ancient history, do they consider themselves as ‘emerging’. And they certainly don’t see themselves as ‘markets’. They wish to be seen as respected human beings.

“As a result, there is a danger that foreign investment can sometimes be seen as a new and powerful force for domination imposed by outsiders. This does not mean, however, that they are completely opposed to investment. They accept that globalism now defines our new century. It is no longer in the future. It is a daily reality in almost every walk of life.

“In Southeast Asia, our regional association has welcomed it. As members of the Asean Economic Community, this is very important to us in working out regional policies. We all want to benefit from regional economic integration. And we recognise that this means being ready to adapt and learn, not just from each other but from our partners all over the world. “The individual members of our regional association are at different stages of economic development but we all appreciate the part foreign investment plays in the overall long-term development of the region. We have all seen its benefits in new technology, employment and training. And certainly, at government level, we want to do all we can to make the region an easy place for doing business.

“What we have realised, however, is that, great sensitivity is needed on all sides expressed in straightforward human terms.

That is why I much appreciate the opportunity given here to share our thoughts on this aspect of investment. Gatherings like this are the essence of globalism and investment is the heart of globalism.

“And as such, we see this meeting as another valuable opportunity for governments and businesses to make sure that it is a strong and healthy heart. It gives us the chance to promote the sensitivities required by investors and governments alike and if sustainability is our aim, dialogue, mutual respect, and common understanding are the only ways to establish it.” - Borneo Bulletin (9 April 2014)