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Book Review, Brunei Darussalam

Bruneian Youths Should Aspire to Be More Outward Looking


The Sultanate’s growing call for the youths to be more proactive in the private sector and in conjunction with the recent 32nd national day celebration with the theme “Generation with a Vision” has prompted me to produce this letter piece, which involves a core message projected to the youths out there reading this work: Let us be more outward-looking.

Being a country with a population of less than half a million people necessitates us to ‘go global’ from the very start. This is required as a way to secure Brunei’s socioeconomic sustainability and prosperity, as it is true for small countries like Singapore, Luxembourg, and Switzerland.

These three countries have successfully tapped into the strengths of its youths and have managed to blaze ahead in the global economy. What is the secret to their success? Their small population enabled their senior figures to successfully mobilize their resources to mentor their youths to excel in their professions and skill-sets.

The good news is Brunei is set on this path as well, with all the latest programs set in place by the government, private sectors, and NGOs that would equip our youths to secure opportunities of tomorrow, today in this rapidly changing world.

But more needs to be done. And this article shall be targeted to the youths who form the bedrock for sustainable nation-building. To be outward-looking in this context for the youth readers simply means in securing three things. First, to have an international outlook. Second, to be brave in securing opportunities outside Brunei for self-development. Finally, in being pragmatic in bringing changes to the nation from the ideas we get from outside.

Firstly, Bruneian youths should aspire to have an international outlook which includes having them able to understand issues or opportunities happening around the world. Knowing the latest problems dealt and innovations set out by governments and businesses in the name of promoting human progress is a key element towards improving our understanding of the state of the world. So tune into CNN or Bloomberg in Astro, grab the Economist magazine or the Wall Street Journal in your local bookstores, and read the OECD or EU reports via the internet. Then have a healthy discourse with friends in the café or in your schools to see what ideas you can implement in advancing the interests of Brunei Darussalam.

Secondly, Bruneian youths must gather their strength to secure opportunities outside Brunei in the name of self-development. We Bruneians are inherently introverted but are highly talented in one way or another. And in today’s world, it is about time we become more active in showcasing our abilities to secure opportunities in building ourselves forward. For instance, my university’s LSE SU ASEAN society recently organized the UN-Model summit with a topic focusing on ASEAN issues. I was initially hesitant to participate, given my introvert personality and lack of experience at any UN-like model debates, but I took part in it anyway. Although I did not win any awards, I managed to project my voice and ideas out there. In that experience, I also learned a bit of diplomacy, IR, and resolutions writing. But the most important thing I learned from the Summit, it is that you have to be willing to try something new to learn new things.

Thirdly, we have to be pragmatic in bringing changes to the nation from the experiences and ideas we get from outside. The US-licensed TEDxGadong which my team and I have introduced in Brunei is a project built on the foundations of pragmatism. First, it serves as an opportunity to amplify Bruneian youth’s voices in the 20,000+ strong TEDx Global community. Second, it serves as a stepping stone for youths to furnish their experience and CVs and hence increase their chances of employment. Third, that project is sustainable in the long-run. Therefore any ideas which the youths wish to bring from outside must bring value to the community without bankrupting their own finances at the same time. This is true for small scale projects, this is true for large scale projects.

To conclude, the youths of Brunei Darussalam should aspire to be more outward-looking. They can do so by having an international outlook, to be braver in securing opportunities outside Brunei for self-development, and, finally, in being pragmatic in bringing changes to the nation from the ideas we get from outside.

What motivated me to write this article? It is simply because I have a strong belief in the youth’s potential in making long-lasting changes to society through their creative ideas, initiatives, and works. It is my personal duty, as I see it, in writing these letters to serve as a mentor to dispense useful advice and ideas on how they can effectively play their part in nation-building one day as well.

The key word “mentor” is an alien word to some youths in the country. But having a mentor or a figure to look up to is what they often need to build up their confidence to attain success. And it is my aspiration for all those in positions today, be they in the government, private sector or NGOs, to join me in the efforts to imparting knowledge to the youths so we can empower them with the right skill-sets, abilities, and mind-set for them to succeed.

And when they do succeed, we will all succeed. Together we build. Together we unite. Together we succeed.

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