New PA rule may hit investment

Sunday, March 18, 2012

THE new Power of Attorney (PA) rule has forced many investors residential or commercial to consider moving out of Brunei to other investment-friendly destinations for the security of their investments, a Legislative Council (LegCo) member mentioned yesterday.

In his closing remarks on the last day of the Eighth Legislative Council (LegCo) session, Yang Berhormat Hj Ahmad Morshidi Pehin Orang Kaya Di-Gadong Seri Di-Raja Dato Laila Utama Hj Abdul Rahman said that the matter must be taken "seriously" by the ministries concerned so that the investors do not make any hasty decisions."If delayed, Brunei could lose out on investment because investors may withdraw their money from Brunei and added that they may continue their businesses here, however they may not reinvest in the Sultanate," he said. YB Hj Morshidi said those affected were worried because the rule was not yet clear about what will happen in future.

The Minister of Development announced on March 8, 2012, that permanent residents and foreigners will no longer be able to purchase property or land through PA or trust deeds (TD), making it clear that land can only be owned by those eligible, namely Bruneian citizens.

However, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Suyoi Hj Osman said that effective immediately all property purchased through PA or TD will be converted into 60-year leases.

Yesterday, YB Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi explained that the reason for implementing the PA/TD rule was to safeguard the interests of Bruneians and to ensure that the land in Brunei does not end up in the hands of those who don't have the right to own it.

YB Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi urged the public not to misunderstand the motive behind the new law.

"Those who are not Bruneian, can still use part of the land, or property owned, by the registered owner of the property through the Land Code Strata Act, Chapter 189, for commercial purposes. This includes shopping areas, residences and so on," he said.

The minister stressed that: "We did not do this to discourage investment in the country; or restrict non-Bruneians from staying in the country, or engage in economic activities in Brunei. That is not the purpose."

YB Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi said he hoped that residents and citizens in Brunei will welcome this change, as an effort to maintain ownership of land for Bruneians.

"This new rule, is the same as what is done in other countries," he said.

The minister informed that there are more than 47, 243 PAs issued and registered in the Attorney General Chambers (AGC) with a total land area of 4,959.3223 acres throughout Brunei.

He added that currently, there are three times of PA/TD, the first, is equitable ownership where the real owner is registered with the Land Department, whilst the PA holder is registered at the AGC.

The second PA is for development, whereas the third is for the purpose of collateral for bank loans, where the PA will be terminated and returned to the original landowner.

The Brunei Times