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We look at the reforms to the insolvency law of Brunei prompted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Written by Nava Palaniandy, Partner of Ahmad Isa & Partners. Nava is the author of the Bruneian chapter of Corporate Restructuring and Insolvency in Asia 2020 published by the Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI).
Brunei Darussalam, an oil-rich wealthy nation in Southeast Asia, has so far reported less than 150 confirmed coronavirus cases and three deaths. While the number of cases is much lower compared to other places in the region and beyond, the country will not be able to escape unscathed from the economic fallout of the pandemic, especially its private sector. Fully aware of this, the Government of Brunei has introduced a number of measures to support and assist businesses.
In particular, to lessen the financial burden on affected businesses (and individuals), an economic relief package worth an estimated total of BND 250m came into effect on 1 April 2020. This package, together with earlier fiscal assistance, has increased the total amount of stimulus to BND 450m. Among the measures introduced are deferment on principal repayments of financing or loans to all sectors, deferment on repayments of the principal of property financing, restructuring or deferment on principal repayments of personal loans and hire purchase such as car financing, for a period not exceeding ten years, and waiver of bank and fee charges for deferment and restructuring applications (including restructuring of outstanding credit card balances), excluding third-party charges, until 30 December 2020.
While no clear-cut policy is announced, since borrowers are allowed to convert credit card debts into term loans, it may be argued that some kind of protection has been granted to interim or new financing.
Moreover, for a period of six months from 1 April 2020, rental discount, reduced corporate income tax, utility bill rebate and exemption of customs and excise duties will apply to targeted sectors and eligible businesses. Eligible micro, small and medium-sized enterprises will also enjoy salary subsidies and deferment of social security contributions for six months and three months respectively from 1 April 2020.
Brunei so far has not introduced measures such as suspending directors’ liabilities for insolvent trading, raising the threshold of bankruptcy, etc as have been seen in a number of other countries such as neighbouring Singapore.
A tracker of insolvency reforms globally produced by LexisNexis in partnership with INSOL Europe is now available: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Tracker of insolvency reforms globally.
We look at various countries worldwide which are expediting reforms to their restructuring and insolvency laws, temporarily suspending onerous insolvency law provisions, increasing limits for statutory demands, suspending enforcement powers and introducing other measures to deal with the coronavirus crisis. As the situation is rapidly evolving with more countries adding new measures daily, you should contact local lawyers in the relevant jurisdiction to check the current measures in force.
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Neeta started her legal career at Allen & Overy in 2008 in the midst of the global financial crisis and the collapse of Lehmans where she gained most of her paralegal experience.
Neeta also did a short stint in litigation at the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office in 2006. Neeta graduated with a 2:1 honours degree from University of London, Queen Mary College and went on to obtain a distinction from the College of Law in the Legal Practice. She has been working at Lexis Nexis since April 2013.
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