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Brunei Darussalam



Nation of Brunei, Abode of Peace

Negara Brunei Darussalam

CAPITAL: Bandar Seri Begawan

FLAG: On a yellow field extend two diagonal stripes of white and black, with the state emblem centered in red.

ANTHEM: National Anthem, beginning Ya Allah lanjutkan usia ("God bless His Highness with a long life").

MONETARY UNIT: The Brunei dollar (b$, or ringgit) of 100 cents is valued at par with, and is interchangeable with, the Singapore dollar. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 10,000 Brunei dollars. b$1 = us$0.59165 (or us$1 = b$1.6902) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Imperial weights and measures are in common use, as are certain local units, but a change to the metric system is slowly proceeding.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; National Day, 23 February; Anniversary of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, 31 May; Sultan's Birthday, 15 July. Movable holidays include the Chinese New Year and various Muslim holy days.

TIME: 8 pm = noon GMT.


Brunei occupies 5,770 sq km (2,228 sq mi) on the northwestern coast of the island of Borneo. Comparatively, the area occupied by Brunei is slightly smaller than the state of Delaware. It comprises two small enclaves separated by the Limbang River Valley, a salient of the Malaysian State of Sarawak, which surrounds Brunei on the e, s, and w. Brunei's total boundary length is 381 km (237 mi).

Brunei's capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan, is located in the northern part of the country.


Brunei's western enclave contains most of the country's population, as well as the capital; the thinly populated eastern zone is mainly dense forest. The land generally consists of primary and secondary tropical rain forest, with a narrow coastal strip on the western enclave. The eastern enclave is more hilly, rising to 1,850 m (6,070 ft) in the nation's highest peak of Mt. Pagon in the extreme south. The longest river in the country is the Belait River which crosses through the western portion of the country; It has a length of 209 km (130 mi).


The country has a tropical climate, with uniform temperatures ranging from 2332°c (7389°f). Humidity is highabout 80% all year roundand annual rainfall varies from about 275 cm (110 in) along the coast to more than 500 cm (200 in) in the interior. Rainfall is heaviest during the northeast monsoon season (landas), especially in November and December.


The country is largely covered by mangrove and peat swamp, heath, montane vegetation, and Dipterocarpaceae forest. The rain forest and swampland are inhabited by a plethora of small mammals, tropical birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Mammals include both wild and domesticated buffalo, honey bear, deer, and monkeys. Insects are abundant and sometimes harmful, in particular the malarial mosquito and biting midge.


The nation has an extensive oil industry with reserves that are estimated to last 20 years. The forests, which account for about 79% of Brunei's land area, are strictly protected by the government. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 11 types of mammals, 25 species of birds, 4 types of reptiles, 3 species of amphibian, 6 species of fish, and 99 species of plants. Endangered species included the black-faced spoonbill, Sumatran rhinoceros, the Siamese crocodile, and the painted batagur. Brunei is a party to international agreements on ozone layer protection, endangered species, whaling, and ship pollution and has signed but not ratified the Law of the Sea.


The population of Brunei Darussalam in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 363,000, which placed it at number 166 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 32% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 108 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.9%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory, although there was concern about the high percentage of immigrants (over 30% of the population is foreign-born). The projected population for the year 2025 was 494,000. The population density was 63 per sq km (163 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 74% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.78%. The capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan, had a population of 61,000 in that year. Other important towns are Seria, Kuala Belait, and Tutong.


There is little emigration except among the Chinese minority. The government is battling considerable illegal immigration, especially from Indonesia and Sarawak. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as 3.45 migrants per 1,000 population. In 2000 there were 104,000 migrants residing in Brunei, which was almost one-third of the total population.

Under Brunei's immigration law children born to Brunei women in Brunei with foreign fathers are stateless. According to Migration News, in November 2000 there were about 5,000 such stateless children in Brunei.


Malays make up about 67% of the population. Minorities include an estimated 15% Chinese, 6% indigenous, and 12% designated as other. There is a small Caucasian minority, chiefly of English, Dutch, American, and Australian stock.


Malay is the official language. English is also widely spoken, as is Chinese. The principal Chinese dialect is Hokkien, with Hakka, Cantonese, and Mandarin dialects also in use. Many native dialects are spoken as well.


The Shafeite sect of Islam, the official religion, dominates nearly every aspect of public and private life. According to unofficial estimates, 67% of the population are Muslim. About 13% practice Buddhism, 10% are Christian, and 10% are tribal folk-religionists and members of other religious groups. Primary Christian denominations include Anglicans, Catholics, and Methodists.

Religious practice is controlled by the influential Religious Affairs Department. The constitution allows for the peaceful practice of other faiths, but non-Muslims, as well as non-Shafeite traditions, are restricted in practice. Religious groups are required to register even to have the right of assembly. Some zoning laws prohibit the use of private homes as places of worship. Proselytizing of non-Muslim faiths is prohibited. All students are required to study Islam in school, including students at private Christian mission schools, where Christian instruction is prohibited. The Melayu Islam Beraja concept, a national philosophy, discourages ecumenism and the general understanding of or openness to non-Muslim faiths.


Two seaports, at Muara and Kuala Belait, offer direct shipping services to Hong Kong, Singapore, and several other Asian ports. However, wharf facilities at the deepwater port of Muara, though expanded to about 550 m (1,800 ft) in the mid-1980s, remain inadequate. In 2005, Brunei had 8 liquefied gas tankers with a total capacity of 465,937 GRT. The Brunei River, which flows by the capital, is a major thoroughfare. However, the country's 209 km (130 mi) of navigable waterways are useable only by craft with a draw of under 1.2 m (3.9 ft).

In 2002, there were 1,712 km (1,063 mi) of main roads, of which 1,284 km (798 mi) were paved. Links between the capital and the other western towns are good. Road connections between Brunei and Sarawak are being built. Buses are inexpensive but unreliable. River taxis and cars are for hire. In 2003, the sultanate had 73,500 passenger cars and 15,550 commercial vehicles registered.

A 13-km (8-mi) railway is operated by the Brunei Shell Petroleum Co. In addition, there were two airports in 2004. As of 2005, only one had a paved runway and there were also three heliports. The national carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines, operates regular flights to Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and other cities. Some foreign airlines serve Brunei International Airport at Barakas, outside the capital.


From the 14th to the 16th century, Brunei was the center of a powerful native sultanate occupying what are now Sabah and Sarawak and extending northward through the Philippines almost to Manila. By the 19th century, much of this empire had been whittled away by war, piracy, and the colonial expansion of European nations. In 1847, the sultan concluded a treaty with Great Britain for the suppression of piracy and furtherance of commercial relations. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate, and in 1906 a resident British commissioner was established. By a 1959 agreement (amended in 1971), Brunei was recognized as fully self-governing, with Britain retaining responsibility for defense and foreign affairs. Brunei's first elections, held in 1962, resulted in a victory for the Brunei People's Party, militant nationalists who denounced Brunei's entry into a proposed federation with Malaysia, which had attained independence in 1957. Prevented from taking office, the nationalists, with Indonesian backing, revolted against Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin in December 1962; the revolt was quickly put down with British assistance, but the sultan decided against federation in any case. From that time on, the sultanate has ruled by decree under a national state of emergency. In 1967, Sultan Omar abdicated in favor of his son, Muda Hassanal Bolkiah. Sultan Omar, who after his abdication remained as defense minister and assumed the royal title of Seri Begawan, died in 1986.

During the 1970s, Brunei emerged as the richest state in South-east Asia, profiting from its oil wealth and the steep increases in international oil prices. Much of this vast oil income was expended by the state on modernization and social services. Brunei renegotiated its treaty with the United Kingdom in mid-1978 and, on 7 January 1979, concluded a new treaty providing for independence within five years.

On 1 January 1984, the country attained full independence and was also proclaimed a member of the British Commonwealth. On 7 January 1984 Brunei joined the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and joined the United Nations in the same year. Brunei is also a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference.

In 1985 a new political party was formed, the Brunei National Democratic Party (BNDP), comprised predominantly of businessmen loyal to the Sultan. However, government employees were forbidden by the Sultan to join. The Chinese community was also excluded from membership. In 1986 an offshoot of the BNDP was formed, the Brunei National United Party (BNUP), which emphasized greater cooperation with the government. The BNUP favored the establishment of an elected prime-ministerial system, however. The BNUP's membership was open to Muslims and non-Muslims, but still excluded Chinese. In 1986, Brunei was solicited by the US government to aid the Nicaraguan Contras, but the $10 million donation was credited to the wrong bank account and never reached its intended destination. The donation was eventually traced and returned to Brunei with interest.

In 1988 the top two leaders of the BNDP, President Haji Abdul latif bin Abdul Hamid and Secretary-General Haji Abdul Latif bin Chuchu, were arrested as they were about to fly to Australia. They were held under the Internal Security Act, which allows detention for up to two years without charges being filed, and were detained until 1990. In May of that year, Haji Abdul latif bin Abdul Hamid died. In 1990 the government released six other political prisoners who had been detained since 1962.

Increasing emphasis on Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB) as a state ideology has resulted in the affirmation of traditional values due to increasing concern about an affluent and worldly younger generation. In 1991 the import of alcohol and the public celebration of Christmas were banned. His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah celebrated 25 years on the throne in October 1992. Once taken to be the richest man in the world, as of 2001, the Sultan was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the fifteen wealthiest individuals in the world, with us$16 billion.

Brunei established diplomatic relations in 1993 with China, Vietnam, and Laos.

In 1998 Brunei's economy was hit simultaneously by falling oil prices, regional currency depreciation stemming from the region's economic crisis, and the collapse of the multibillion-dollar Amedeo conglomerate run by the Sultan's brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, who was removed from his post as the country's finance minister. However, tensions persisted between the Sultan and his brother, who fled to London. Upon his return in early 2000, the government sued him and dozens of other persons for misuse of public funds.

As the new century began, Brunei was looking for ways to diversify its heavily petroleum-dependent economy as its oil and gas reserves waned.

In November 1999, Brunei and the nine other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), agreed informally to create a free-trade zone by eliminating duties on most goods traded in the region by 2010. When ASEAN met in November 2002, the Southeast Asian leaders and China began concrete talks to create what would be the world's largest free trade area, encompassing 1.7 billion people and trade valued at us$1.2 trillion. The free trade area is expected to take 10 years to implement but tariffs on some agricultural products could be cut by early 2003. Products covered by the early package include live animals, meat, fish, dairy produce, other animal products, live trees, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Talks for trade in goods, services, and investments were due to be held in 2003.

On 16 December 2002, the Sultan met with US president George W. Bush, to strengthen trade between the two countries and to coordinate antiterror efforts in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. The terrorist attack on a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, on 12 October 2002 was also a warning that the Southeast Asian region was susceptible to, and perhaps a breeding ground for, the activities of international terrorist organizations.

Brunei, along with the People's Republic of China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines, is engaged in a regional dispute over claims to the Spratly Islands, situated in the South China Seas, which are strategically important and may have large oil and gas reserves. In one incident of friction, in August 2002, Vietnamese troops based on one of the Spratly islets fired warning shots at Philippines military planes. On the eve of the ASEAN summit held in November 2002, ASEAN leaders and China signed a declaration of conduct, agreeing not to attempt to occupy the Spratlys. The pact was not binding, but it was hoped that it would help ensure regional security.

In September 2002 Brunei's second-largest newspaper, News Express, closed. Publisher, Peter Wong Lik Young, was arrested for tax evasion as he attempted to flee Brunei with his wife, leaving behind debts of more than three million euros. The remaining paper, the government controlled Borneo Bulletin, was then Brunei's only daily paper.

In September 2004 two significant events occurred: Crown Prince, Al-Muhtadee Billah Bolkiah, age 30, married 17-year-old Sarah Salleh before 2,000 guests; and, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah re-opened Brunei's parliament with minimal powers, 20 years after it was suspended. The latter was considered a tentative step toward giving some political power to the citizenry.


Brunei is an independent Islamic sultanate. The 1959 constitution (parts of which were suspended in 1962) confers supreme executive authority upon the sultan and provides for five Constitutional Councils: a Privy Council, Council of Cabinet Ministers, Legislative Council, Religious Council, and Council of Succession to assist him. The members of these bodies are appointed by the sultan. The chief minister (mentri besar ) is also appointed by the sultan and is responsible to him for the exercise of executive authority.

The Legislative Council was from time to time reconstituted until a Cabinet-style Government was introduced for the first time in 1984. An elected Legislative Council was being considered as part of constitutional reform, but elections were considered un-likely for several years. In August 2000, the foreign minister confirmed that a review of the constitution had been submitted to the sultan for approval, and that "an element of an election" was in this report. On 25 September 2004, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah reopened parliament, 20 years after it was disbanded. The new parliament had 21 members, all of them appointed. The Sultan later signed a constitutional amendment, allowing for a 45-seat council with the direct election of 15 members of the next parliament. Elections were last held in March 1962. Future election dates were not available.

At his 1992 Silver Jubilee celebration the sultan emphasized his commitment to preserving Brunei's political system based on the concept of Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB), or Malay Islam Monarchy, as the state ideology. MIB combines Islamic values and Malay culture within a monarchical political framework with the monarchy as defender of the faith.


Parties were organized shortly after self-government was achieved in 1959. However, when the Brunei People's Party won 98% of the legislative seats in the country's only election, held in 1962, the sultan barred its candidates from office and outlawed all political parties under a continuing state of emergency. Political parties reemerged in the 1980s, but in 1988 they were banned and many of their leaders were arrested. At that time, the political parties were: the Brunei National Democratic Party (BNDP), founded in 1985, and the Brunei National United Party (BNUP), founded in 1986 by an offshoot of the BNDP. In contrast to the BNDP, membership in the BNUP was open not to Brunei Malays only, but to other indigenous people, whether Muslim or not. The Chinese were left with the option of forming their own party. (Under Brunei's restrictive naturalization policies only 6,000 Chinese had been granted citizenship.)

In 1995, the Brunei National Solidarity Party (PPKB in Malay), one of the initial parties that had been banned in 1962, formally requested authorization to hold a convention and elected Abdul Latif Chuchu, the former secretary-general of the BNDP, as its president. As of 2002, its president was Mohd Hatta bin Haji Zainal Abidin.


There are four administrative districts: Brunei-Muara, Kuala Belait, and Tutong in the western enclave, and Temburong in the east. Government is centrally controlled, but allowance is made for local tribal customs. District officers responsible to the ministers of home affairs administer each district. As part of the MIB ideology, village consultative councils have been introduced, making direct elections unnecessary. Instead, popularly elected headmen would function as mediators between the people and the central government. In June 1993 the Sultan stated "Brunei will strictly adhere to the MIB concept without resorting to fruitless political culture."


Brunei's judicial system is based on Indian penal code and English common law. There are five levels of courts with final recourse available through the Privy Council in London. Beginning with the courts of first instance, there are courts of Kathis that handle family matters such as marriage and divorce by applying Islamic law (Shariah). Lower courts called sultan's courts, presided over by magistrates, hear other ordinary cases involving minor disputes. Such cases may be appealed to the High Court, a court of unlimited original jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters. The High Court is presided over by a chief justice and justices appointed by the sultan. Decisions of the High Court can be taken to the Court of Appeal, presided over by the president and two commissioners appointed by the Sultan. The Supreme Court consists of the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

In 1995, the right to appeal to the Privy Council in London was terminated in criminal cases. Th is final recourse remained available only for civil cases. In May 2002, a State Judiciary Department was established in Brunei, which is responsible for the administration of Brunei's judicial matters.

Certain provisions of the 1959 constitution have been suspended under the state of emergency since 1962.


The Royal Brunei Armed Forces in 2005 consisted of 7,000 active personnel. The Army had 4,900 active members, whose weaponry included 20 light tanks, 39 armored personnel carriers, and 24 artillery pieces. The Navy had 1,000 personnel, whose major units were over six patrol/coastal vessels and four amphibious landing craft. Air Force personnel totaled 1,100 and whose primary equipment included a single transport and six training aircraft, and five support and eighteen utility helicopters. Paramilitary forces included a Gurkha reserve unit estimated at over 2,000 and 1,750 members of the Brunei Royal Police. Brunei's defense budget in 2005 totaled $357 million.


Brunei was admitted to UN membership on 21 September 1984, and is a member of ICAO, IMF, IMO, ITU, WHO, WIPO, the World Bank, and WMO. It is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, ASEAN, APEC, G-77, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Brunei became a member of the WTO 1 January 1995. The country is part of the Nonaligned Movement. In environmental cooperation, Brunei is part of CITES, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea and Climate Change.


Discovery of extensive petroleum and natural gas fields in the 1920s brought economic stability and modernization to Brunei. Today its economy, a combination of domestic and foreign entrepreneurship, government regulation, welfare programs, and village tradition, remained dependent on the oil and gas sector. Th is sector accounts for about 40% of GDP, almost 90% of exports, and about 90% of government revenues. Brunei's per capita GDP is one of the highest in Asia, estimated at us$15,000 in 2004.

Oil production peaked in 1980 at an estimated 270,000 barrels per day. Production was deliberately cut back since then to preserve the country's oil reserves, which were estimated to last through at least 2015.

Brunei, aware that its reserves will not last indefinitely, pours much of its oil revenue into international investments in order to provide for its future generations. The sultanate also uses the revenues to finance government spending. Free health care, education through the university level, and rice and housing subsidies are among the benefits that Brunei's people receive.

However, the practice of using oil money to finance investments and government spendingcoupled with the sultanate's reliance on oil production and exportsties Brunei's economic health closely to the health of the world economy itself. As a result, worldwide slowdowns tend to hit the sultanate hard. Brunei was still recovering from the effects of the Asian financial crisis of 199798 in 2005, as well as the 1998 collapse of the Amedeo Development Corporation (Brunei's largest construction company), both of which caused the country to slip into recession in the late 1990s. Fluctuations in oil prices also affect Brunei's economic strength. Brunei posted GDP growth in 2003 of 3%. Although GDP growth slowed to 1.75% in 2004, it was projected to return to 3% in 2005.

In early 2001, decrees designed to make investment in Brunei more attractive were put into effect by the Brunei government following a scandal in which key members of the Brunei sultan's family were accused of misusing public funds. A government-owned business, Global Evergreen Corporation, settled debts and took over public building projects tied to the scandal in 2002. The government was increasing efforts to promote Brunei as a destination for upscale tourism and ecotourism. Meanwhile, attempts to diversify the economy have moved slowly.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Brunei Darussalam's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $6.8 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at us$23,600. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.2%. The average inflation rate in 2004 was 0.9%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 5% of GDP, industry 45%, and services 50%.


In 2002, Brunei had a workforce estimated at 158,000 members, of which up to 40% were temporary residents, made up of foreign workers and members of the military. In 1999, (the latest year for which data was available), the government employed 48% of the workers, with 42% of employees in the production of oil, natural gas, services, and construction. The remaining 10% of workers were employed in agriculture, fishing, or forestry. The estimated unemployment rate in 2002 was 3.2%.

Although all workers including government employees can join and form trade unions (excluding military personnel, police officers and prison guards) the government neither facilitates or encourages the establishment of unions. In addition, collective bargaining has no legal basis in the country and strikes are illegal. The country's oil sector accounted for all three of Brunei's registered unions, of which 5% of the industry's workforce was unionized. However, all three unions were inactive. Wages and benefits were set by market conditions.

Children under the age of 18 may only work with parental consent and the approval of the Labor Commission. The law prohibits employment of children under the age of 16. There are no reports of violations of these child labor laws. Although there is no minimum wage, most employees earn a generous living wage. The workweek is limited to 48 hours of work for five days, with two mandatory 24-hour rest days. The more than 100,000 foreign workers in Brunei do not receive the same conditions and wages.


Temporary and permanent crops are actively cultivated on an estimated 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres), which represent 2.5% of total land area. Agriculture accounts for 3% of GDP and employs some 2% of the work force. Rice production is low (only about 1,000 tons per year), and Brunei imports more than 80% of its requirements. Urban migration and more profitable jobs in the oil industry have led to a shortage in farm labor. An agricultural training center, sponsored by Brunei Shell and the Department of Agriculture, was established in 1978 to encourage young people to return to the land. Crops for home consumption include bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava, coconuts, pineapples, and vegetables.


Cattle, buffalo, hogs, goats, and fowl are raised. In 1978, McFarm (a Mitsubishi subsidiary) set up a cattle-breeding station in order to reduce meat imports. The government owns a cattle station in Australia that is larger in area than Brunei itself. Livestock within Brunei in 2004 included 4,675 head of buffalo, 2,353 goats, 6,800 pigs, 1,200 head of cattle, and 12.5 million chickens. Meat production that year was estimated at 20,600 tons, with poultry meat accounting for 77% of the total. The government also encourages livestock production through the Mitsubishi Cattle Breeding Project.


Traditional fishing declined during the late 1990s and into the mid-2000s, with only 60% of home consumption provided by local fishermen. The Fisheries Department supplied a small trawling fleet, and continuing efforts were being made to develop both freshwater and saltwater aquaculture. Fish hatcheries were in operation on a six-hectare (15-acre) site near Muara. The annual fish harvest in 2003 totaled 2,157 tons, down from 7,405 tons in 1996.


Forests cover an estimated 82% of the land area. Forest reserves constitute about 41% of the land area. Exports of timber are restricted. There is a small sawmill and logging industry for local needs. In 2003, Brunei produced about 229,000 cu m (8 million cu ft) of roundwood.


Brunei's mining industry was engaged primarily in the production and processing of crude oil and natural gas. Principal nonfuel mineral resources in 2003 were cement carbonate rocks, coal, kaolin, sand, gravel, and other varieties of stone. In 2000 construction started on a silica-processing plant to produce silica plates from the country's reserves of high-quality silica sands in Tutong District. In 2003, cement production totaled 235,000 metric tons.


Commercial oil production, which began in 1929, dominates the economy. Production of crude oil in 2003 amounted to 196,000 barrels per day, of which 170,000 barrels per day largely consisted of low-sulfur crude oil. Output of liquefied natural gas (LNG) was about 26,000 barrels per day for that same year. As of 2002, exports of crude oil and natural gas accounted for 8090% of all exports and more than 50% of gross domestic product (GDP). Exploratory drilling for new reserves continued, and capital expenditure on petroleum development remains high. As of 1 January 2004, proven reserves of oil totaled 1.35 billion barrels. After peaking at 240,000 barrels per day in 1979, crude oil production was deliberately lowered in 1988, through a self-imposed conservation quota of 150,000 barrels of oil per day, to extend the life of Brunei's reserves. There are seven offshore fields belonging to Brunei, of which the largest is the Champion field, with about 40% of the country's total reserves. Brunei opened its first deepwater drilling areas in 2001 and accepted bids by two international consortia. There were plans to expand LNG production by 4 million metric tons by 2008. Brunei continued to be a major supplier of liquefied national gas to Japan under 20-year contracts, the last renewed in 1993 by the then newly established Brunei Oil and Gas Authority. The LNG plant at Lumut, Brunei is one of the largest in the world.

Electric power and natural gas supplies are readily available at low cost. Installed electric power generating capacity was estimated, as of 1 January 2002 to be at 0.483 million kW, all of which used natural gas. In 2002, net electricity generation was estimated at 2.5 billion kWh. In the same year, consumption of electricity totaled 2.361 billion kWh. According to British Petroleum (BP), production of natural gas by Brunei in 2004, totaled 12.1 billion cu m. BP places the country's proven natural gas reserves at 0.34 trillion cu m (12.1 trillion cu ft), as of end 2004.


Industry is almost entirely dependent on oil and natural gas production. Brunei is the third-largest oil producer in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia and Malaysia, and the fourth-largest producer of liquefied natural gas.

Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP), a joint venture owned by the Brunei government and Royal Dutch/Shell, is the country's main oil and gas production company, and is the largest employer after the government. It also operates Brunei's refinery. The refinery has a distillation capacity of 10,000 barrels per day, and generally fulfills petroleum product needs within the country.

Natural gas is mostly liquefied at a Shell Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant, which opened in Brunei in 1972 and is one of the largest LNG plants in the world. Brunei sells about 90% of its liquefied natural gas to Japan, under a long-term agreement. In addition, Mitsubishi, a Japanese company, is a joint venture partner with Shell and the Brunei government in three companies: Brunei LNG, Brunei Coldgas, and Brunei Shell Tankers. Brunei also supplies liquefied natural gas to the Korea Gas Corporation.

Oil and gas exploration also are important industrial activities in Brunei, although deep water exploration activities have been on hold since 2003 because of a dispute with Malaysia. The French oil company ELF Aquitaine, which began petroleum exploration activities in Brunei in the 1980s, operates in the country as Total E&P Borneo BV.

Lagging the oil and gas industry considerably is Brunei's second-largest industry, construction. Since the collapse of Amedeo, a government-owned enterprise, Global Evergreen Corporation has taken over a number of projects, the Empire Hotel and Country Club, the Berakus Power Station, the DST Corporate Tower, and the Jerudong Marina. The construction industry was also stimulated by $1 billion made available by the government for projects in late 2001 and early 2002.

Brunei's small manufacturing sector includes production for the construction sector, sawmills, and brick and tile factories. Government support of small-scale projects in food and beverage processing, textiles, furniture making, and specialist optics has had limited results. Brunei also may establish a "cyber park" to encourage development of an information technology industry, and has announced plans to encourage the establishment of offshore financial institutions and Islamic banks.


Advanced science and technology have been imported in connection with development of the oil industry. Foreign technology expertise is employed in communications and other infrastructural programs. The Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources conducts agricultural research. The University of Brunei Darussalam, founded in 1985, has a faculty of science. The Technological Institute of Brunei, located in Bandar Seri Begawan, and the Jefri Bolkaih College of Engineering in Kuala Belair, offer engineering courses. Brunei hosted the sixth ASEAN (Association of South-east Asian Nations) Science and Technology week in Bandar Seri Begawan in September 2001.

As of 2002, Brunei had 282 researchers per million people actively engaged in research and development.


Most food products and other consumer goods come from Singapore, Japan, and Malaysia. Most of Brunei's beef is supplied by a government-owned cattle ranch in Australia, which is larger than Brunei itself.

Although oil and gas dominate Brunei's industrial activity, the country does have some activity in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and banking. Eggs and chickens are produced locally. Agriculture and fisheries are among the industrial sectors that the government has selected for highest priority in its efforts to diversify the economy.


Brunei's reliance on oil and gas production require it to import a wide array of goods. Nevertheless, the dollar value of its exports are considerably greater than its imports, which has allowed the country to maintain strong foreign reserves. Exports totaled us$5.057 billion in 2004 and were projected to reach us$5.994 billion in 2005. Of the exports total, us$4.624 billion were oil and gas products in 2004; oil and gas exports were projected to total us$5.626 billion in 2005. Major trading partners for exports in 2004 were Japan (38.1%), South Korea (14%), Australia (11.2%), the United States (8.6%), Thailand (7.9%), Indonesia (5.9%), and China (4.5%).

Imports totaled us$1.338 billion in 2004 and were projected to rise to us$1.458 billion in 2005. Key trading partners for imports in 2004 were Singapore (32.7%), Malaysia (21.2%), the United Kingdom (8.3%), and Japan (7.2%). However, these figures include transshipments; most of Brunei's imports pass through Singapore en route to the company and thus fall under Singapore's total even if the products do not actually originate in the city-state. Japanese products dominate local markets for motor vehicles, construction equipment, electronic goods, and household appliances.


Foreign reserves totaled us$534 million in 2004 and were projected to rise to us$590 million in 2005. Brunei had a trade surplus of us$3.769 billion in 2004; that figure was projected to grow to us$4.621 billion in 2005.

Brunei's account surplus was estimated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at us$4 billion in 2004, approximately 70% of GDP.


The banking industry is controlled by the Association of Banks, in liaison with the government. In 1999, there were nine banks operating in Brunei. Of these, three were locally incorporated and six were foreign, among them the Hongkong Bank, Malayan Banking, Berhard, and Citibank. The International Bank of Brunei, in which the sultan has a 51% stake, is the larger of the local banks. The other, the National Bank of Brunei, was seized in 1986 by the government, which charged the majority shareholders with irregularities, and later closed in the early 1990s. Other banks are the Bairduri Bank, Sime Bank, the Development Bank of Brunei, the

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 4,144.3 1,243.6 2,900.7
Japan 1,697.6 124.4 1,573.2
Korea, Republic of 463.7 29.3 434.4
Thailand 390.7 50.5 340.2
Australia 346.4 37.0 309.4
United States 321.2 143.1 178.1
China 276.3 60.5 215.8
Singapore 185.2 250.3 -65.1
Malaysia 152.8 251.8 -99.0
Indonesia 105.8 33.2 72.6
New Zealand 96.7 1.9 94.8
() data not available or not significant.

Overseas Union Bank, and the Standard Chartered Finance (Brunei) Berhad.

The managing director of the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA), Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, met France's Treasury director, Jean Lemierre, in mid-December, 1996 to discuss the possibility of opening a BIA office in Paris. BIA's French investments are currently managed from the agency's offices in London and Brussels. Approximately half of the country's revenue is now derived from the income from these investments.

The Brunei Investments and Commercial Bank, a subsidiary of the Brunei Investment Agency, acquired a 13.4% stake in the Australian Macquarie Bank in November 1996, making the BIA the largest single shareholder.


In 2003, Brunei had four companies providing general and life insurance: American International Assurance Co. Ltd., BALGI Insurance, General Accident and Life Assurance, and Simi AXA Assurance Berhad.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2003 Brunei Darussalam's central government took in revenues of approximately us$4.9 billion and had expenditures of us$4.2 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately us$700 million.


Citizens of Brunei pay no income taxes and are the beneficiaries of generous welfare subsidies. However, Chinese, who make up an estimated 16% of the population, are excluded from citizenship, and these benefits. They are either stateless or hold British protected persons passports. Only corporations are subject to taxation. Taxation on petroleum income is subject to a 55% rate, while the standard corporate tax rate is 30% on earnings. There is a double-taxation agreement between Brunei and the United Kingdom, and with Indonesia. Exemption from taxes can be granted by the Sultan in Council to industries deemed essential for the country's development. By Income Tax Order 2001, companies granted a Pioneer Certificate, foreign or domestic, are exempted from the 30% tax for two to five years, depending on the size of their capital investment, specified in round dollar terms with an obvious eye to outside investors: for less than $250,000 the exemption is for two years; for $250,000 to $500,000, three years; $500,00 to $1 billion, four years; and above $1 billion, five years. Pioneer and export industries are exempt from customs duties on imports of raw materials and capital goods.


Brunei levies tariffs ranging from zero to 30% on selected items including perfume, and has a single column tariff structure. The country joined ASEAN in 1984 and has reduced trade barriers with member nations.


The Brunei Investment Agency (BIA), which is part of the Ministry of Finance, manages the country's foreign reserves. Established in 1983, its mission is to increase the real value of the reserves through a diverse investment strategy. BIA offices in London and Brussels manage French and other European investments. Brunei in 2005 had holdings in the United States, Japan, Western Europe, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.

The Brunei government encourages more foreign investment by offering tax incentives, and through its already attractive climate of requiring not personal income or capital gains taxes. However, foreign investors are encouraged to maintain some level of local participation in whatever enterprises they set up. At least half of the directors of any company must be residents of Brunei.

In late 2001, the government added $1 billion to funds available for investment. In 2002, earnings from Brunei's investments abroad for the first time exceeded its earnings from exports from its oil and gas sector. In 2002, the first exploration rights in deep-sea parcels in Brunei's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were awarded.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development reported foreign direct investment (FDI) of us$103 million in 2004. Although this was down sharply from the us$2 billion in FDI reported to have flowed into Brunei in 2003, the country's foreign reserves remain healthy. FDI stocks stood at us$7.548 billion in 2004 compared with us$7.445 billion in 2003, and in 2004 comprised 135% of GDP. About us$481 million in FDI funds left the country in both 2003 and 2004 for investments elsewhere.


Two major themes shape Brunei's economic development plans: careful use of its oil and gas resources to prolong the capacity of the reserves, and gradual diversification beyond the petroleum sector.

While Brunei has successfully managed its reserves and invested much of its excess revenue abroad, efforts to diversify the economy have been sluggish, at best. Out of an interest in diversifying its economy, the Brunei's Economic Development Board announced plans in 2003 to use proven gas reserves to establish industrial projects. Two projects in 2005 were in the works: a 500-megawatt (MW) power plant to provide power for an aluminum smelting operation and a container hub at Brunei's Muara Port. Both projects depend on foreign direct investors.

Another challenge Brunei faces is balancing both its labor force and ownership of its businesses between its residents and foreigners. About 40% of the country's work force consists of foreigners, despite stringent immigration regulations set up to maintain the social cohesion of Brunei's society. One of the country's long-term goals is to encourage Brunei Malays to participate more in business leadership while at the same time maintaining its numerous relationships with multinational investors.


A provident fund and a universal old age and disability pension system are available to all employees who are citizens or permanent residents. Foreign workers are not eligible. The state provides free medical care, and remote regions are served by mobile clinics and a flying doctor service; there is also a school health service. There is an employer liability system for workers' compensation.

A major social change has been the increasing influence of Islam as a way of life. The extent of spousal abuse is not known. Women are denied equal status with men in many areas, including divorce, custody of children, and inheritance. However, the number of female students at universities has increased. Females are strongly encouraged to wear traditional head covering.


The state provides free medical care and remote regions are served by mobile clinics and a flying doctor service; there is also a school health service. There were eight hospitals, four of which are run by the government. In 2004, there were an estimated 101 physicians, 267 nurses, 14 dentists, and 27 pharmacists per 100,000 people. In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 13 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy for that year was estimated at 74.8 years. Approximately 96% of the population had access to health care services and 90% had access to safe drinking water. Malaria has been eradicated from Brunei (although it remained a problem in adjacent Sarawak) and cholera is close to nonexistent. There is, however, still some risk of filariasis, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and intestinal flu. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 200 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Since the mid-1970s, the government has supported an ongoing housing program through the National Development Plan to encourage and support homeownership for all citizens. As of 2000, interest-free home loans were available to all citizens (there was no personal income tax within the country either), however, this may change as the government reconsiders the sustainability of its oil-based economy. Through the Landless Indigenous Citizens Housing Scheme (LICS), the government has constructed at least eight housing project sites to offer affordable, modern housing to low-income residents. In the period 197297, over 4,000 new homes were built through the LICS.


The state provides free education from kindergarten up, including university training abroad. Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 12. Six years of primary school are followed by seven years of secondary education, the latter being divided into three years of junior secondary, two years of senior secondary, and two years of university preparation studies. The official policy is to promote bilingual education, Malay and English, in all government-supported schools. The academic year runs from August to May.

In 2001, about 44% of children ages three to five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. The same year, about 44,000 students were enrolled in primary schools and about 37,000 students were enrolled in secondary schools. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 13 to 1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was 11 to 1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 35% of primary school enrollment and 11% of secondary enrollment. Foreigners generally attend private mission schools, the International School, and the Chinese School. Brunei Shell also funds several schools, and there are numerous religious academies.

There are two teacher-training colleges and five vocational technical schools, including an agricultural training center. Brunei also has a university, established in 1985, and institutes of education and technology. The University of Brunei Darussalam (founded in 1985) has faculties for education, arts and social sciences, science, and management and administration. In 2003, about 13% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. Many students, however, continue their education in foreign universities at government expense. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 92.7%, with 95.2% for males and 90.2% for females.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.4% of GDP, or 9.1% of total government expenditures.


The University of Brunei at Gadon holds 29,000 volumes, while the Brunei Museum houses 60,000 volumes. The Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Library, established in 1963, is the primary public system. It sponsors four district branch locations in the country and a mobile library with 43 service points in 2002.

Notable museums include the Brunei Museum, which exhibits ethnology and the history of Borneo Island; the Malay Technology Museum; the Royal Regalia Gallery, a fine arts museum opened in 1992; and the Royal Brunei Armed Forces Museum, which features the world's fastest patrol boat.


In 2002, there were 90,000 mainline telephones and 137,000 mobile cellular phones in use throughout the country. Telephone service is generally considered to be of excellent quality. The government-operated Radio Television Brunei broadcasts radio programs in English, Malay, and Chinese, and television programs in Malay and English. While there are no other television stations in the country, three Malaysian television channels can be accessed by some viewers. Two satellite television networks are also available, offering about 28 different channels, including the Cable News Network, the British Broadcasting Corporation World News, and several entertainment and sports channels. As of 1998 there were 3 AM and 10 FM channels.

The only commercial daily newspaper serving Brunei is the English Borneo Bulletin, with a circulation of 25,000 in 2002. The government publishes the Malay weekly Peilta Brunei (2002 circulation 45,000) and a monthly English newsletter, Brunei Darussalam (14,000). There is one other Malay language press, the Media Permata, which circulates approximately 5,000 newspapers. The Straits Times of Singapore circulates widely in Brunei, as do Chinese papers from Sarawak.

In 2001 legislation took effect that places several restrictions on press freedoms. Editions of foreign newspapers or magazines with articles that were found to be objectionable, embarrassing, or critical of the Sultan, the royal family, or the government may be banned from the country. Journalists deemed to have published or written "false and malicious" reports may be subjected to fines or prison sentences. Magazine articles with a Christian theme have been censored. The government also retains the right to close down any newspaper without prior notice.


There are four chambers of commerce in the country, including the International Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bandar Seri Begawan. The Consumers' Association of Brunei (est. 2002) has worked to promote improvements in living conditions and legal rights of workers as well as serving as a consumer advocate group. There are some professional organizations, such as the Brunei Malay Teachers Association and the Women Business Council. There are also organizations promoting education and research in several fields, such as the Brunei Association for Science Education and the Medical Association in Brunei.

The powerful Religious Affairs Department permeates daily life; its activities include sponsoring Islamic pilgrimages and establishing village mosque committees. The Council of Women of Negara Brunei Darussalam, founded in 1985, strives to improve the economic, cultural, and social status of women. Nongovernmental youth movements in Brunei include the Brunei Youth Council, Boy Scouts, and Girl Guides. Sports facilities tend to be privately maintained, with some athletic groups sponsored through the Brunei Amateur Athletic Association. The Brunei National Olympic Committee coordinates activities for national youth sports federations.

There is a national chapter of the Red Crescent Society.


Known for the abundance of flora and fauna in its rain forests and national parks, Brunei is growing as a unique tourism destination. Among Brunei's newest and most remarkable sights is the sultan's 1,788-room palace, built at a reported cost of us$300 million and topped by two gold-leaf domes. Native longhouses and trips up the Brunei and Tutong rivers are also tourist attractions. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days, but a valid passport and onward/return ticket are necessary.

In 2002, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Brunei between us$123 and us$248 per day.


Omar Ali Saifuddin (191686) was sultan from 1950 to 1967 and minister of defense from 1984 to 1986. His son, Muda Hassanal Bolkiah (Bolkiah Mu'izuddin Waddaulah, b.1946), one of the wealthiest men in the world, has been sultan since 1967.


Brunei has no territories or colonies.


Braighlinn, G. Ideological Innovation Under Monarchy: Aspects of Legitimation Activity in Contemporary Brunei. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 1992.

Cleary, Mark. Oil, Economic Development, and Diversification of Brunei Darussalam. New York: St. Martin's, 1994.

Gunn, Geoffrey C. Language, Power, and Ideology in Brunei Darussalam. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1997.

. New World Hegemony in the Malay World. Trenton, N.J.: Red Sea Press, 2000.

Leibo, Steven A. East and Southeast Asia, 2005. 38th ed. Harpers Ferry, W.Va.: Stryker-Post Publications, 2005.

LePoer, Barbara Leitch (ed.). Singapore: A Country Study. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1991.

Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Oakland, Calif.: Lonely Planet, 1999.

Saunders, Graham E. A History of Brunei, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Singh, D. S. Ranjit and Jatswan S. Sidhu. Historical Dictionary of Brunei Darussalam. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 1997.

World Trade Organization. Trade Policy Review: Brunei Darussalam. Geneva, Switzerland: WTO; Lanham, Md.: Co-published by Bernan Associates, 2001.

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Brunei Darussalam


Nation of Brunei, Abode of Peace

Negara Brunei Darussalam



Located in Southeast Asia, bordering the South China Sea and Malaysia, Brunei is geographically divided by Malaysia into 2 unconnected parts. Brunei has an area of 5,770 square kilometers (2,228 square miles) and a total coastline of 161 kilometers (100 miles). Comparatively, the area of Brunei is slightly smaller than the state of Delaware. Brunei's capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan, is located on the northeastern coast of the country.


The population of Brunei was estimated at 336,376 in July of 2000, with a growth rate estimated at 2.17 percent. In 2000 the birth rate stood at 20.81 per 1,000, and the death rate stood at 3.39 per 1,000.

The population is generally young, with 31 percent below the age of 14 and just 3 percent over the age of 65. In 2000, male life expectancy was estimated at 71.23 years and female at 76.06, and that of the population as a whole at 73.58 years. By 1995, the literacy rate of the total population was relatively high at 88.2 percent, with 92.6 percent of males and 83.4 percent of females over the age of 15 able to read and write.

The Malay people comprise 62 percent of Brunei's population, with Chinese accounting for 15 percent, indigenous people 6 percent, and other groups 17 percent. Islam is Brunei's official religion and Muslims account for 67 percent of the population. About 13 percent are Buddhist, Christians make up 10 percent, and those with indigenous beliefs make up the remaining 10 percent.


Brunei is a wealthy oil-rich country in Southeast Asia. Oil and natural gas have been the basis of the country's wealth. Dependency on this single valuable commodity has made it vulnerable to international market fluctuations, however, and the government has been making efforts to diversify the economy. The economy is dominated by the oil and gas sector, but large-scale government expenditure on infrastructure programs has made the construction sector the second largest economic sector in Brunei. The country's main exports are oil and gas products, but it must import most of its food.

Brunei has a limited labor force . Most ethnic Malays work in the public sector administration and government departments and enjoy substantial benefits, but the Malay labor force is limited in number. The country hosts a large number of foreign skilled and unskilled workers, especially in the construction sector. In order to maintain the leadership of Brunei Malays, government policies protect and promote Malays involved in industry and commerce.

The government of Brunei has very large foreign reserves from oil, no foreign debt , and is a significant international investor. The Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) manages foreign reserves for the government (excluding the ruling sultan and other members of the royal family). The BIA tries to increase the value of Brunei's foreign reserves by spreading its investments across the United States, Japan, Western Europe, and the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).


Brunei has long been ruled by sultans (kings), though for much of its modern history those sultans have ruled in cooperation with European colonial powers. Spanish and Dutch colonists began arriving in Brunei in the 16th century. English colonists came during the 17th century, and the country was made a British protectorate in 1888, which meant that Britain provided military and economic assistance. During World War II (1941), the Japanese occupied the country. The British returned after the war, and negotiations began for Brunei's eventual independence. In 1959 a written constitution was introduced granting Brunei internal self-rule under British protection. In 1984 Brunei achieved full independence and became an independent sovereign sultanate governed on the basis of a written constitution.

The 1959 constitution granted the sultan full executive authority, but called for an elected legislative council. A limited effort to meet this requirement with a partially elected legislative body was tried but quickly abandoned. In 1962 the Partai Rakyat Brunei (Brunei People's Party, PRB) won the election for the legislative council but was denied access to office. The party's ensuing uprising was rapidly crushed by the ruling sultan and the PRB was then banned. Since that time the legislative council has been an appointed body. Currently, the Brunei Solidarity National Party (PPKB), with closer allegiance to the government, is the only legal political party. In 1995, for the first time in 10 years, the PPKB was permitted to hold its national assembly, but its activities were circumscribed, and the party has had little influence.

Brunei is an Islamic sultanate. The hereditary sultan is the head of state and holds ultimate authority. He is also the country's prime minister, minister of finance, and minister of defense, and presides over a council of ministers, a religious council, a privy council, and a council of succession, all of whose members he appoints. There are no popular elections and the Legislative Council functions in a purely consultative capacity. The concept of Melayu Islam Beraja (Malay Muslim Monarchy, MIB) was introduced as a state ideology, invoking Brunei's history of monarchy, Brunei Malay culture, and Islamic values, in order to justify absolute monarchy.

The government plays a large role in the economy. In the 1990s the government has made concerted efforts to diversify the economy from oil and gas. Industries promoted by the government are agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, commerce, and banking. In the Seventh National Development Plan (1996-2000), the government allocated more than B$7.2 billion for the implementation of various projects and programs. Thanks to such commitments, the non-oil sector's contribution to the GDP rose from 24.3 percent in 1991 to 66 percent in 1998. The government actively encourages more foreign investment. It extends "pioneer status" to aircraft catering services as well as the cement, textile, furniture, glass, plastics, and synthetic rubber industries. Pioneer status companies can get exemption from the 30 percent corporate tax.

One of the government's most important priorities is to encourage Brunei Malays to move into the private sector from the public sector where most are employed. The government policy of "Bruneisation" of the workforce encourages Brunei Malays to work in the private sector. The Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) company and the 2 largest foreign banks, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and Standard Chartered Bank, have had to increase the number of Brunei Malays on their staffs under this policy. The Bruneian government also boosts private business to nurture Brunei Malay leaders in industry and commerce.

The sole tax levied by the government of Brunei is the corporate tax, generally 30 percent. Otherwise, everything that is normally taxed in other countries capital, gains, import and export, sales, manufacturingis free of tax, and there is no personal income tax . The huge government revenues from oil and gas are sufficient to finance government expenditures, and Brunei is the least taxed country in the region and perhaps in the world.


Brunei's infrastructure is well developed. The road network serving the entire country is being expanded and modernized and totaled 2,525 kilometers (1,569 miles) in 1998. A 1,150-kilometer (715-mile) main highway, of which 399 kilometers (248 miles) are paved, runs the entire length of the country's coastline. It conveniently links Muara, the port at the eastern end, to Belait, the oil-production center at the western end of the state. Per capita car ownership in Brunei is one of the highest in the world. In 1995 there were 167,786 cars, of which 139,658 were private cars. Since 1996 the Brunei government has attempted to improve public transit by expanding taxi and bus services in Bandar Seri Begawan and its vicinity. Bus services to other districts are infrequent and irregular. Other than a 13-kilometer (8-mile) private railway line, there are no rail services in Brunei.

Brunei has 2 major ports: a large, deepwater harbor at Muara and a smaller port at Kuala Belait. They offer direct shipping to Hong Kong, Singapore, and several other Asian destinations. An expanded international airport is located at Bandar Seri Begawan. Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) serves long-distance destinations in Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Europe, as well as several short-haul destinations to East Malaysia and Indonesia, and Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) owns a small airport in the oil field at Seria.

Brunei has one of the best telecommunication systems in Southeast Asia. The rate of telephone availability is currently 1 telephone for every 3 persons. There are 2 earth satellite stations providing direct telephone, telex, and facsimile links to most parts of the world. There are 2 television broadcast stations and, by 1997, there were 196,009 TV sets. Brunei was connected to the Internet in September 1995 through Brunet. By the end of 1999 there were 15,000 registered Internet users in the country. Keen to develop e-commerce , the government is investing B$55 million in installing a countrywide multimedia highway called RAGAM 21 to serve both the private and public sectors.

According to the CIA World Factbook 2000, 2.56 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity were generated and 2.381 billion kWh consumed in Brunei in 1998. There were no exports or imports of electricity. All the electricity is produced from fossil fuels (oil and gas). The country has no nuclear or hydro-power plants.


Brunei's status as a major oil and natural gas producer and its political goal of promoting full employment for ethnic Bruneian Malays are the 2 forces most responsible for the shape of the Bruneian economy. Because it is the third largest oil producer in Southeast Asia, and the fourth largest producer of liquified natural gas in the world, the oil and gas sector dominates the private

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Brunei Darussalam 79,000 (1996) 43,524 (1996) AM 3; FM 10; shortwave 0 329,000 (1998) 2 201,900 (1998) 2 28,000 (2001)
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Philippines 1.9 M 1.959 M (1998) AM 366; FM 290; shortwave 3 (1999) 11.5 M 31 3.7M 33 500,000
Malaysia 4.5 M (1999) 2.698 M (1999) AM 56; FM 31; shortwave 5 (1999) 10.9 M (1999) 27 (1999) 10.8 M (1999) 7 1.5 M
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

economy. Along with the construction which is heavily funded by the Bruneian government, oil and gas contributed some 46 percent of GDP in 1996. The construction industry was greatly affected by the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98, but the industrial sector as a whole was expected to thrive with rising world oil prices in 2000. Services, including finances, accounted for 49 percent of GDP in 1996. Within the service sector, community, social, and personal services contributed a large percentage of GDP. The government has made consistent efforts to diversify its economy to boost non-oil sectors.

Government estimates, which do not divide employment according to agriculture, industry, and services, indicate that 48 percent of the population is employed by the government and 42 percent in the oil, gas, services, and construction industries. Only an estimated 10 percent of the workforce are employed in Brunei's agricultural sector, which contributed about 5 percent of GDP in 1996.


Agricultural activity in Brunei is not high. The government has attempted to increase agricultural production in order to achieve self-sufficiency in food, but results have been unsatisfactory. Agriculture made up only 5 percent of the GDP in 1996, and the country has had to import 80 percent of its food needs. While land, finance, and irrigation facilities are available, agricultural activities lack manpower resources. The gap between wages in farming and the public sector is large, and most Bruneians have little interest in agricultural production.

Brunei is nearly self-sufficient in vegetables, but only 1 percent of the nation's rice is produced locally. The production of tropical fruits is being encouraged. Cattleboth beef and dairybuffalo, and goat rearing are also being promoted. Pig farming has been banned since 1993, but the country is self-sufficient in egg production and nearly self-sufficient in poultry.


Fish is an important part of the local diet. The fishing sector, comprising catch, aquaculture, and seafood processing, contributed about 0.5 percent to the total GDP in 1998. In 1996 more than 60 percent of fish and prawns sold in Brunei were imported. The government hopes to develop the fishing industry, including fishing fleets and fish-processing factories, and sees foreign joint ventures as the way to obtain finance and expertise. The government believes the sector could become an important export revenue earner and employer. Brunei declared a 200-nautical mile fisheries limit in 1983.


Because of Brunei's mostly urban population and the wealth deriving from oil and gas, forest use has been limited. Currently about 80 percent of Brunei's total land is covered by forests, nearly 60 percent of it virgin. Forestry accounted for only 0.3 percent of the total economic output in 1998. The government is committed to preserving the important environmental, biotechnological, and other economic and social functions of its forests and hopes to develop their potential as a tourist attraction. Consequently, logging, limited to 100,000 cubic meters annually, is confined to meeting local needs only, and timber extraction for export is strictly prohibited.



Oil and natural gas mining is the backbone of Brunei's economy. In 1998 the oil and gas sector contributed an estimated 34 percent to GDP and dominated exports. In 1998 crude oil and partly refined petroleum accounted for an estimated 39 percent of total exports and natural gas for 49 percent. Brunei is the third largest oil producer in Southeast Asia and the fourteenth largest in the world; it ranks fourth in production of natural gas. Oil and gas mining is a capital-intensive industry and employs only a small percentage of the total labor force (5.2 percent in 1995). At the beginning of 1993 reserves were estimated at 1.4 billion barrels of oil and 320 billion cubic meters of gas. The government has pursued a national depletion policy since 1988 aimed at preserving resources and continuing exploration of new fields.

Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) is the biggest oil mining company. It has 7 offshore and 2 onshore oil fields in Brunei. The Brunei government is an equal shareholder with the Royal Dutch Shell Group in the company. Another important oil-exploration company is Jasra-Elf, a joint venture that has been actively exploring for hydro-carbons offshore and has made some discoveries.

Brunei's annual sales of liquefied natural gas (LNG) sales are currently nearly 6 million metric tons. LNG is as important a revenue earner as oil exports, and the bulk of it is purchased by 3 Japanese utility companies: Tokyo Electric, Tokyo Gas, and Osaka Gas. About 10 percent of LNG is used for domestic consumption.

Following the regional economic crisis in 1997, combined with concerns about falling oil prices throughout 1998, the Brunei government realized that the oil and gas industry can no longer limit itself just to exploration, drilling, and export. It is now aiming at developing a hydrocarbon products industry in Brunei.


The construction sector is the second most important industry in Brunei, contributing 6.6 percent of GDP in 1998. The sector's performance depends heavily on government spending. Indeed, the development of this sector is the direct result of increased government investment in developing infrastructure projects such as government offices, hospitals, schools, mosques, housing, fire stations, and sporting facilities.

Hit by the regional economic crisis in 1997-98, private sector construction projects almost collapsed. The government cut development spending on infrastructure projects by 50 percent from B$950 million in 1999 to B$550 million in 2000. Thus, growth in this sector is expected to be sluggish.


Manufacturing contributes only a small portion of Brunei's economic output. Its contribution to GDP has increased from 0.8 percent in 1980 to an estimated 3 percent in 1998. The major large-scale industries include food and beverage processing, garment making, cement production, and the production of pre-cast concrete structures. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) data for the year 2000, 23 industrial sites are being established in Brunei. Food processing and furniture manufacture are designated for further development, while ceramic tiles, cement, chemicals, plywood, and glass are considered to have development potential by the government.



Before the mid-1990s the only tourists visiting Brunei were relatives and friends of expatriates who were working there. Several factors have held back the development of tourism: access to alcohol is limited; the cost of accommodation in the capital is high; accommodation and transport outside the capital is not available; and the general perception about the country is that there is little of interest to see. However, Brunei does offer both natural and cultural attractions, and the government is now actively promoting tourism as an important part of economic diversification.

The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, is a neat, clean, and modern city. The cultural attractions there include the sultan's magnificent palace, the Brunei Museum, the Malay Technology Museum, and the Omar Ali Mosque. Kampung Ayer is a centuries-old collection of 28 water villages built on stilts in the Brunei River, and Jerudong Park is a recreational center located close to Tutong. The large tropical rain forest areas have been earmarked for ecotourism in sites such as Temburong National Park. However, the underdeveloped transport and accommodation facilities remain an obstacle to the expansion of the tourism sector.

In 1996 Brunei had 703,300 foreign visitors, most of them from the neighboring Sabah and Sarawak regions of Malaysia. Passengers on RBA flights to and from Australia are stopping over in the capital in increasing numbers. With 2000 designated as "Visit Brunei Year," the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) meetings were held in Brunei and proved a boost for Brunei tourism.


The contribution of financial services to the GDP was 6.4 percent in 1998. There are 9 banks operating in Brunei. The 2 largest foreign banks in the country are the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) and Standard Chartered Bank. There are a number of Malaysian banks and 3 locally incorporated banks: the Islamic Bank of Brunei (IBB), Baiduri Bank, and the Development Bank of Brunei (DBB). The IBB offers savings and loan facilities in accordance with Islamic principles. The other Islamic financial institution is the Tabung Amanah Islam Brunei (Brunei Islamic Trust Fund, TAIB). The financial sector also includes a number of locally incorporated and international finance and insurance companies. The authorities have been preparing to implement a comprehensive financial regulatory system via the proposed new Banking Act.


Until the late 1980s the retail sector in Brunei was not particularly sophisticated. Aside from the local market, there were only coffee shops, general provision shops, Chinese supermarkets, and a few Chinese restaurants. In 1986 a Japanese store group, Yaohan, opened its first department store in Brunei. Since 1995 a more international range of shops has come to Brunei, including the Body Shop, and the fast food chains McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The new Sultan Foundation complex of shops now stands in the center of Bandar Seri Begawan.


In 1999 the value of Brunei's exports reached US$2.55 billion, while imports were valued at US$1.3 billion. The country's export trade is dominated by petroleum products. In 1998 crude oil and partly refined petroleum accounted for an estimated 39 percent of total exports and natural gas for 49 percent. By far the most important export market is Japan, which took 42 percent of Brunei's exports in 1999, followed by the United States (17 percent), South Korea (14 percent), and Thailand (3 percent).

Since only a few non-oil products are produced locally, Brunei has to rely exclusively on imports for nearly all of its manufactured goods and most of its food. Singapore is the largest supplier of imported goods, accounting for 34 percent in 1999. The United Kingdom and Malaysia both provided 15 percent of imports, while the United States provided 5 percent. As in many other countries, Japanese products such as motor vehicles, construction

Trade (expressed in millions of US$): Brunei Darussalam
Exports Imports
1994 3290 2760
1995 3402 2959
1996 3498 3516
1997 3648 3258
1998 3443 2598
1999 N/A N/A
SOURCE: United Nations. Monthly Bulletin of Statistics (September 2000).
Exchange rates: Brunei Darussalam
Bruneian dollars (B$) per US$1
Jan 2001 1.7365
2000 1.7240
1999 1.6950
1998 1.6736
1997 1.4848
1996 1.4100
Note: The Bruneian dollar is at par with the Singapore dollar.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

equipment, electronic goods, and household appliances dominate Brunei's local markets.

Although Brunei enjoyed a positive trade balance (a trade surplus ) throughout the late 1990s, that surplus has been shrinking. This phenomenon was caused by reduced earnings from petroleum and an increase in imports due to a demand for higher living standards.


Brunei's financial system is operated by a currency board which regulates the issue and management of the currency. There are laws that govern and regulate the activities of banks and financial institutions, designed to ensure a stable and fiscally sound business environment.

The Brunei dollar is at par with the Singapore dollar and both are freely traded in their respective countries. The trend of interest rates follows that of Singapore. The peg to the Singapore dollar has helped maintain a stable macroeconomic environment. There are currently no exchange controls in Brunei.

The Brunei dollar appreciated (grew in value) steadily for years until the beginning of the Asian economic crisis in 1997, when the depreciation of currencies in neighboring countries caused the Brunei dollar to weaken in 1997 and 1998. The Brunei dollar continued to appreciate against these neighboring currencies but was offset by its depreciation against the U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, and major European currencies. This combined effect helped moderate imported inflationary pressures since ASEAN members account for 45 percent of Brunei's total imports, while the United States, Japan, and Europe account for 39 percent.


As the monarch of a rich state, Brunei's ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has been named as one of the richest men in the world. His wealth mainly comes from oil,

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Brunei Darussalam 21,758 29,442 21,152 18,716 18,038
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Philippines 974 1,166 967 1,064 1,092
Malaysia 1,750 2,348 2,644 3,164 4,251
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

and he has attracted international attention by purchasing luxury hotels in Singapore, Britain, and the United States, while making generous donations in the United Kingdom. All members of the Bruneian royal family are engaged in business transactions such as property purchasing and rental.

Wage and benefit packages in Brunei tend to be generous and the labor shortage ensures that most citizens command good salaries. There are nonetheless unemployed and poor members of society, but most of these live under the protection of an extended family system, where idle youth can find shelter and the aged and infirm are cared for. The citizens enjoyed a per capita GDP of US$17,600 in 2000.

Oil-rich Brunei has a wealth that enables the sultanate to maintain a welfare state . All Brunei citizens receive free education (through university for those who qualify), free health care, and various other subsidies such as subsidized housing, food, fuel, and low-interest loans for government employees. Brunei's health care system is one of the best in Asia. Every citizen of Brunei pays only a nominal fee for medical and dental services. Medical treatment unavailable in Brunei will be conducted overseas (usually in Singapore) at government expense.


Brunei suffers a serious shortage of both skilled and unskilled labor and has to recruit large numbers of these from abroad. It was estimated in 1997 that 60,000 out of the total workforce of 130,000 were foreigners. Many unskilled and manual workers from neighboring Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Bangladesh work mainly in the construction industry. The government is concerned that too large a number of foreigners in the country might disrupt Brunei's society and thus only issues work permits for short periods. Despite the need for foreign workers, there are still unemployed Bruneians, since they are reluctant to accept manual work (e.g. in the construction sector) and are not qualified to fill other vacancies. The unemployment rate in 2000 was 5 percent.

Brunei's dependence upon foreign labor stems from a cultural predisposition for public sector employment. Most Brunei Malays prefer to work in well-paid government jobs or for large companies such as Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP), Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA), and the banks. In the private sector, which is subject to chronic labor shortage in both professional and unskilled fields, Chinese and other foreign nationals make up the bulk of the workforce.

Women's participation in the labor force has increased significantly from 29.5 percent in 1986 to 52.3 percent in 1999, partly offsetting the labor shortage. Brunei law protects women and children. Women under age 18 are not allowed to work at night or on offshore oil platforms, and the employment of children below the age of 16 is prohibited. The government has continued to set up a number of technical and vocational training institutions to improve the abilities of job seekers. Occupational health and safety standards apply, but enforcement is lax in the unskilled labor sectors, especially where foreign laborers work.

Trade unions in Brunei are legal but must be registered. Conditions, however, are not conducive to the development of trade unions: the cultural tradition favors consensus over confrontation and workers have little interest in participating. There are only 3 trade unions, all in the oil sector, and they are not particularly active.


1847. Brunei signs a trade relations treaty with Britain.

1888. Brunei becomes a British-protected state.

1906. A treaty is established with Britain, introducing a representative of the British government, known as a British resident, to advise the sultan on all matters with the exception of local customs and religious matters.

1929. Oil is discovered and explored at Seria.

1941-45. Brunei is occupied by the Japanese during World War II.

1950-67. Sultan Omar Ali reigns.

1959. An agreement is signed with Britain replacing the 1906 treaty and giving Brunei self-governance under a new constitution. The British remain responsible for both internal and international security.

1962. The Brunei People's Party wins election to the recently established legislature but is denied access to office. Its ensuing armed uprising is crushed, and the sultan claims full executive authority.

1967. Brunei issues its own currency.

1967. The 28th sultan, Omar Ali, voluntarily abdicates in favor of his eldest son, Hassanal Bolkiah.

1970. The state capital, Brunei Town, is renamed Bandar Seri Begawan.

1971. The 1959 agreement with Britain is amended to give Brunei responsibility for its own internal security.

1972. A deep-water port is opened in Muara.

1973. The world's largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant opens.

1974. The Brunei International Airport is opened, followed a year later by the creation of the Royal Brunei Airlines.

1979. Brunei and Britain sign The Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation laying down a timetable for complete Bruneian independence some 5 years later.

1984. Brunei resumes full independent political sovereignty. Brunei joins the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the United Nations.

1997. The Asian financial crisis brings a recession to Brunei and hits the construction sector especially hard.


In 1998, hit by the Asian financial crisis and falling world oil prices, the Brunei economy slipped into a mild recession with a 1 percent growth rate. Rising oil prices in late 1999 increased Brunei's economic growth, estimated at between 3 and 3.5 percent in 2000. Despite the beneficial rise in oil prices, Brunei has continued with plans to restructure its economy away from over-reliance on oil and gas. The Brunei Darussalam Economic Council (BDEC) will oversee this development. The government will continue with its short-term economic stimulus plan, boosting manufacturing and tourism and attempting to create an offshore financial center. However, the diversification effort remains impeded by high public sector remuneration, restrictions on activities open to foreign participation, and cumbersome foreign investment approval procedures.

Whether Brunei can achieve sustained economic growth and maintain high living standards depends heavily on the world economy, especially on world oil prices, and on the government's ability to formulate and implement successful economic measures to bring economic diversity.


Brunei Darussalam has no territories or colonies.


Brunei Darussalam: Brunet Homepage. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Clear, Mark, and Shuang Yann Wong. Oil, Development and Diversification in Brunei Darussalam. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Brunei. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

"Economy Report-Brunei Darussalam." Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. <>. Accessed March 2001.

The Government of Brunei Darussalam Official Website. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Gunn, Geoffrey C. New World Hegemony in the Malay World. Lawrenceville, NJ, and Asmara, Eritrea: The Red Sea Press, 2000.

International Monetary Fund. "Brunei Darussalam and the IMF." International Monetary Fund. <http://www.img/org/external/country/BRN/index.htm>. Accessed September 2001.

Saunders, Graham. A History of Brunei. Kuala Lumpur, Oxford, Singapore and New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Background Notes: Brunei, October 2000. <>. Accessed January 2001.

Xingli Zhang


Bandar Seri Begawan.


Brunei dollar (B$). One Brunei dollar equals 100 cents. The Brunei dollar is at par with the Singapore dollar, and the currencies are interchangeable. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, and bills of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 10,000 dollars.


Crude oil, liquefied natural gas, and petroleum products.


Machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, and chemicals.


US$5.9 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$2.55 billion(f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$1.3 billion (c.i.f., 1999).

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Brunei Darussalam

Brunei Darussalam

Official name: Negara Brunei Darussalam

Area: 5,770 square kilometers (2,228 square miles)

Highest point on mainland : Mt. Pagon (1,850 meters/6,070 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres : Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 8 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: Not available

Land boundaries : 381 kilometers (237 miles)

Coastline: 160 kilometers (100 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


The small country of Brunei is an enclave (distinct cultural area or country surrounded by a larger country) on the northern coast of the island of Borneo. Brunei shares the island with two neighbors: the Malaysian state of Sarawak and Indonesia. Brunei has an area of 5,770 square kilometers (2,228 square miles), or slightly more than the state of Delaware.


Brunei believes it has rights to a fishing zone in an area of the Spratly Islands, land whose ownership is disputed among the Philippines, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Although Brunei has not made a formal claim on the territory, it does claim to have rights to fish in the waters around the islands.


The temperature of Brunei, a tropical country, averages from 23°C to 32°C (73°F to 89°F) year round. Humidity stays at around 80 percent. The northeast monsoon affects Brunei with heavy rains in November and December. On Brunei's coast the annual rainfall averages around 275 centimeters (110 inches), while inland rainfall amounts to 500 centimeters (200 inches) or more. Brunei is out of the path of most ocean storms such as typhoons, although it can be affected by tidal surges.


Brunei consists of distinct eastern and western segments, separated by Malaysia's Limbang River valley, but linked by the waters of Brunei Bay. The terrain in both the eastern segment (the Temburong District) and the more populated western segment is composed of a coastal plain rising gradually to hills and cut through by rivers running north to the sea.


Brunei is strategically located on shipping lanes linking the trade routes of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean through the South China Sea. The immensely valuable hydro-carbon deposits that have produced Brunei's petroleum export boom lie mainly under the South China Sea off Brunei's coast.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

The waters along the Brunei coast are filled with nutrients carried by the rivers, so there is an abundance of marine life, making the area productive for fishing. An estimated five hundred species of fish have been identified in the coastal waters.

Sea Inlets and Straits

In Temburong District, in the east, the steep muddy banks of Brunei Bay and its inlets form a major wildlife habitat.

Islands and Archipelagos

Brunei has thirty-three islands, comprising 1.4 percent of its land area. Two are in the South China Sea. The others are river islands or, like Pulau Muara Besar, are situated in Brunei Bay. The islands are important wildlife habitats and are mostly uninhabited by humans.

Coastal Features

The western section of Brunei has a coastline on the South China Sea, where sandbars lie between estuaries and the open ocean. The Belait, Tutong, and Brunei districts have three river estuaries and significant mangrove forests.


There are a few lakes in Brunei. In Tutong District, a 77-square-kilometer (30-square-mile) nature park surrounds the unusual, S-shaped Tasek Merimbun. The Wong Kadir and Teraja lakes are in Belait District.


Four indigenous river systems and one originating in the Malaysian state of Sarawak flow north through and between the regions of Brunei to the South China Sea. The Belait River, Brunei's longest waterway, flows through western Brunei, as does the Tutong River.

The Brunei River runs southwest from an inlet of Brunei Bay (where Bandar Seri Begawan is located). In the eastern segment of Brunei, the Temburong River provides drainage for the entire Temburong District. The Limbang River valley, which belongs to Sarawak, splits Brunei in two.


Brunei has no deserts.


Brunei's ecologically intact peat swamps (rare in north Borneo) are found in western Brunei.


In the west of Brunei, hills lower than 90 meters (295 feet) rise toward an escarpment and the higher hills approaching the Sarawak border. Brunei's highest peak, Mount Pagon (1,850 meters/6,070 feet), is located in this region. Brunei's eastern sector is also covered with low hills, which gain height close to the border with Sarawak. The mangrove forests of Brunei's estuaries are an ecological treasure, considered among the most intact in Southeast Asia. Mangrove forests cover an estimated 3.2 percent of Brunei's land.


Brunei has no mountains.


There are no notable caves.


There are no notable plateaus.


There are no man-made features affecting the geography of Brunei.



Edwards, David S. A Tropical Rainforest: The Nature of Biodiversity in Borneo at Belalong, Brunei. Torrance, CA: Heian International, 1995.

Pelton, Robert Young. Fielding's Borneo. Redondo Beach, CA: Fielding Worldwide, 1995.

Thia-Eng, Chua. Brunei Darussalam: Coastal Environmental Profile of Brunei Darussalam. Washington, DC: U.S. Agency for International Development, 1987.

Web Sites

Brunei Home Page. (accessed June 5, 2003).

Government of Brunei Darussalam website. (accessed June 5, 2003).

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Brunei Darussalam

Brunei Darussalam

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Brunei Darussalam
Region (Map name): Southeast Asia
Population: 336,376
Language(s): Malay, English, Chinese
Literacy rate: 88.2%

Brunei Darussalam, a tiny country situated on the northwest corner of the island of Borneo, has a media and press system that is highly censored and uniform, with little diversity or freedom.

The primary English-language daily newspaper is the Borneo Bulletin. The Malay-language newspaper is the Media Permata. The country also has one independent English-language daily, the News Express, and an online news service, Brunei Direct. The country has only one television station, state-controlled Television Brunei, with broadcasts in the Brunei's official language, Malay, as well as English. The country's one radio station, state-controlled Radio Television Brunei, broadcasts in Malay, English, Mandarin Chinese, and Gurkhali. Foreign broadcasts can be accessed through a cable network, lending diversity to the population's information access.

Brunei's press, although not considered free by Western standards, is what the government describes as a "socially responsible Press," which balances the rights of the individual and those of society. The authoritarian government, led since 1967 by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, rejects a press that is too liberal and free to print caustic criticism of its political leaders. The government is considered a Malay Muslim Monarchy and has maintained its independence, first by rejecting in 1963 the option of joining the Malaysian Federation (the country remained a British dependency), then by separating from the British monarchy in 1984, thanks to its newfound wealth of oil and gas deposits.

The country's population is well educated, well read, and enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world, with an average annual per-capita income of US $24,620. Brunei citizens pay no income taxes and enjoy free medical care and education.

Although newspapers and foreign media are censored, the government has loosened control somewhat in the early twenty-first century. However, religious leaders in Brunei have expressed their concern over less censorship because they believe the society will fall into moral decay, according the BBC News.


"Committee to Protect Journalists Statement," 25 Sept. 2001. Available from

"Country Profile: Brunei." BBC News, 26 Feb. 2002.

"Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Brunei." Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State. 4 March 2001.

"Global Press Freedom Declines." Freedom House, 29 April 2000. Available from

Hesseldahl, Arik. "Tough Times in Brunei." Forbes, 14 Sept. 2000.

"The World's Largest Prison for JournalistsAnnual Report Asia 2002." Reporters Without Borders, 25 April 2002. Available from

Carol Marshall

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Brunei Darussalam

Brunei Darussalam

Culture Name



Identification. Brunei Darussalam is a multiethnic society in which one ethnic group, the Barunay, has a monopoly of political power. Variations in tradition among other ethnic groups are not regional but cultural, social, and linguistic. Indigenous Muslims usually are referred to as Brunei Malays even if they are not native speakers of the Malay language.

Speculations about the etymology include derivations from the Malay (baru nah ("there!"), a Sanskrit form, and the Kelabit name for the Limbang River.

Location and Geography. The original home of Brunei culture is the area around the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. Settlements of Barunay and Kadayan also are found along the coasts of northern Sarawak and southwestern Sabah in Malaysia; Tutong and Belait settlements are found exclusively in Brunei. Bisaya, Iban, and Penan people also live in Sarawak and Dusun and Murut people in both Sarawak and Sabah.

Brunei Darussalam is 2,226 square miles (5,763 square kilometers), with a coastline of about 100 miles (161 kilometers) on the South China Sea coast of northwestern Borneo and along the western shores of the southernmost portion of Brunei Bay. Brunei is completely surrounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The climate is equatorial with high temperatures, high humidity, and heavy rainfall, although there is no distinct wet season. The country is divided into three contiguous administrative districtsBrunei-Muara, Tutong, and Belaitwith a fourth, Temburong, separated by the Limbang Valley of Sarawak. The names of the districts derive from their main rivers.

Approximately 75 percent of the country is forested, although the exportation of whole logs has been banned. The country is covered with a wide range of mangrove, heath, peat swamp, mixed dipterocarp, and montane forests. There are numerous rivers, whose broad valleys contain most of the country's settlements. The southern portion of Temburong is mountainous and sparsely populated.

Demography. The 1998 population estimate was 323,600. Malays constitute about 67 percent of the total; Chinese, 15 percent; other indigenous peoples (Iban, Dayak, and Kelabit, all mainly from Sarawak), 6 percent, and others, 12 percent. In the late 1980s, 24,500 immigrants worked primarily in the petroleum industry. The population has increased more than twelve-fold since the first decade of the twentieth century. The distribution of population is Brunei-Muara, 66 percent; Belait, 20 percent; Tutong, 11 percent; and Temburong, 3 percent.

Linguistic Affiliation. Malay is the official language, but English is widely used in commerce. The Brunei dialect of Malay has many unique lexical items and a distinctive syntax. Malay is in the Western Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of the Austronesian language family, which also includes the other languages spoken in Brunei. Various Chinese languages, English, and Philippine and mainland south Asian languages are spoken by guest workers. Many individuals are multilingual.

Symbolism. The national flag is a yellow field of two trapeziums with a white diagonal parallelogram stripe above a black diagonal parallelogram stripe, representing the offices of the first vizier (a Muslim official), the Pengiran Bendahara, and the third vizier, the Pengiran Pamancha. These were the only vizier offices occupied in 1906, when the first British resident took up occupancy. The flag is emblazoned in the center by the state crest in red, which was added in 1959. The crest is composed of a flag and royal umbrella; four feathers symbolizing the protection of justice, tranquillity, prosperity, and peace; two hands representing the government's pledge to promote welfare, peace, and prosperity; and a crescent symbolizing Islam and inscribed in Arabic "Always in service with God's guidance"; with a scroll inscribed in Arabic letters, Brunei Darussalam ("Brunei the Abode of Peace").

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The origins of the nation are only dimly known. Local traditions speak of a set of ancient local Bornean culture heroes, including Hawang Halak Batatar, who adopted Islam and became the first Muslim sultan of Brunei, Sultan Muhammad (reigned 14051415), and his brother, Patih Barbai, who became the second sultan, Sultan Ahmad (reigned 14151425). These heroes gave rise to the Barunay nobles. Many Barunay aristocrats trace their origins to the Pagar Uyung area of the Minangakabau highlands of Sumatra. The third sultan, Sharif Ali (reigned 14251433), who married a daughter of Sultan Ahmad, came from Arabia and was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, as were all the following sultans.

Chinese documents record the ruler of Brunei sending a mission to the emperor of China in 977 c.e. The Brunei Empire, stretching to Manila and the southern Philippines and the coastal areas of western and northern Borneo, reached its height in the sixteenth century; the nadir occurred in the nineteenth century. Two ultimately unsuccessful Spanish invasions from Manila occurred in 1578 and 1580. A twelve-year civil war occurred in 16611673. Brunei became a British protected state in 1888 and became internally self-governing after the promulgation of the constitution in 1959. After achieving full independent sovereignty in 1984, Brunei joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Organization of Islamic Conference, and the United Nations. In 1992, Brunei joined the Nonaligned Movements.

National Identity. In 1990, a new state ideology was launched to promote the unity of the diverse groups within a plural society. Malayu Islam Beraja (MIB, or Malay Muslim Monarchy) is based on the idea of Brunei as a traditional Malay state, a long-established Islamic state, and a monarchy.

Ethnic Relations. All the ethnic groups in the nation have always been under the authority and rule of the sultan.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

More than half the population lives in and around the capital. Other major towns include Tutong Town, seat of Tutong District; Kuala Belait, seat of Belait District; the small town of Bangar, seat of Temburong District; the deep-water port Muara, which opened in 1973 in Brunei-Muara District; and Seria, the center of the petroleum industry, in Belait District. There are also suburban developments around the capital and rural villages. The past two decades have seen a tremendous buildup around the capital. A network of roads and highways connects settlements in the three contiguous districts; Temburong is reached by boat from the capital area.

The architecture of the capital and its environs is dominated by the gold-domed Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque (completed in 1958); the Nurul Iman Palace (1983), the largest residential palace in the world; the Royal Regalia Building (1992); the Royal Audience Hall (1968); and the Legislative Assembly (1968). The Tomb of the Fifth sultan is two miles downstream from the capital. The Royal Mausoleum has been used since 1786. The Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium is the site of many large public celebrations. Numerous parks and recreation centers have been developed in the last decade.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The diet consists of rice and curries of vegetables, fish, shellfish, and fruits. Curries of water buffalo, chicken, and beef are consumed on special occasions. Game birds and animals (especially mouse deer, barking deer, and sambar) are eaten in rural areas. Many kinds of Malay rice cakes and confections are also eaten. Pork products are forbidden to Muslims. There is a wide range of open-air markets and restaurants in the main towns. A popular local drink is iced unripe coconut milk. Coffee is widely consumed; alcoholic drinks are forbidden to Muslims.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. At large Malay wedding feasts and the forty-day funeral feast, rice and coconut cream-based meat curries (santan ) are served, often to a hundred or more guests.

Basic Economy. Since World War II, the state's economy has been based on the exportation of petroleum and liquified natural gas (LNG), which account for about 36 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Brunei is the third largest oil producer in southeast Asia and the fourth largest producer of LNG in the world, exporting mainly to Japan, the United States, and ASEAN countries. Brunei produces only about 1 percent of its domestic needs for rice, 11 percent for fruit, 65 percent for vegetables, and some livestock (cattle and water buffalo). In early 1998, approximately 36,345 wage earners worked for the government and 106,000 were in the private sector. In rural areas an unknown number are still primarily subsistence producers. There are no sales, personal income, or capital gains taxes, only a 30 percent tax on corporate income. The workweek is Monday through Thursday and Saturday, with Friday and Sunday off. The national currency is known as the Bruneian dollar.

Land Tenure and Property. Before the land code of 1909, all land was either Crown Land, appanage land (held by high ranking nobles who were awarded "sacred" titles by the sultan), or private-heirloom land (held primarily by high-ranking nobles). Today any land not under private title is state land. Only citizens are allowed to own land. Rural villages have rights to state land for agricultural use.

Commercial Activities. Commerce is in its infancy. Local industry includes a water-bottling plant, a soft drink franchise, and garment companies. Foreign investment is encouraged but not highly developed. Priority is given to ensuring the stability of the natural environment, and all polluting industries are banned. Forest products and deep-sea fishing are not open to foreign investment. An international airport opened in 1974, and Royal Brunei Airlines began operation in 1975.

Major Industries. Commercial production of oil from land wells began in 1929. In 1963, production from offshore wells began. A major LNG production facility was completed in 1972.

Trade. The Bruneian economy is largely supported by exports of crude oil and natural gas, with revenues from the petroleum sector accounting for more than 50 percent of GDP. A 1990 study estimated that the commodities exported totaled approximately $2.2 billion, with the main exports including crude oil, liquid natural gas and petroleum. Brunei's main trading partners include Japan, the United Kingdom, and South Korea. The same 1990 study accounted for $1.7 billion in imported commodities. Brunei imports such goods as machinery and transport equipment, food, and manufactured goods. Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland are established as Brunei's main resources for these imported goods.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The dominant ethnic group, the Barunay, is composed of four ranked ascribed social classes: the nobles, the aristocrats, the ordinary people, and the slaves, although slavery is no longer practiced. Because class membership is strictly genealogical, a person assumes the class membership of his or her father and cannot rise or fall into any other class. There are no castes. The Kadayan have no social classes.

Symbols of Social Stratification. The only outward signs of social stratification are the prename titles of respect used in addressing or referring to nobles.

Political Life

Government. Brunei Darussalam is an absolute constitutional monarchy. There are no political parties, elections, or legislature. Attempts to establish political parties in 1956 and 1985 did not succeed. In 1996, the first General Assembly of over a thousand elected village and mukim leaders met to give input to the Government. The first written constitution was promulgated in 1959, naming the sultan head of state, assisted by five councils (Religious Council, Privy Council, Council of Ministers, Legislative Council, and Council of Succession), with internal self-government and defense and foreign relations run by the United Kingdom. It was amended in 1971 to establish joint Bruneian-British responsibility for defense; in 1984, a cabinet-style government was introduced when Brunei resumed full sovereignty.

The sultan appoints judges to the Supreme Court, which consists of the high court and the court of appeals, and the Subordinate Court, which consists of the magistrate's courts. In 1991, an intermediate court was given civil and criminal jurisdiction. Syariah courts deal with Islamic law.

Leadership and Political Officials. There are two forms of government administrationa modern administrative bureaucracy and a traditional system of ritual officeswhich are awarded to nobles and aristocrats by the sultan. Individuals can rise through the ranks in both systems. The traditional system includes for the nobles five offices of vizier and about sixty additional various offices, and for the aristocrats about seventy-three offices of minister (Pehin ). All occupants are males. Not all these traditional offices are always occupied at any given time; offices are not inherited on the death of their occupants but remain vacant until a sultan appoints a new occupant.

Social Problems and Control. While the incidence of child abuse appears to be low, it is punished severely. Spouse abuse can be a cause for divorce. In general, Brunei is crime-free, especially in terms of violent crime.

Military Activity. The Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) was founded in 1961. The RBAF was restructured in 1991 into land forces, an air force, a navy, support services, and a training corps. Service in the RBAF is voluntary. The main purpose of the military forces is defense.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Since 1955, citizens, permanent residents, and persons who have worked in Brunei for thirty years have been entitled to a monthly pension. Elderly persons with dependents below working age receive additional allowances.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Muslims in Brunei may not belong to international service organizations.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women have begun to assume positions of responsibility in government offices and departments. While women can be in the armed forces, they may not serve in combat.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Compared to Islamic societies in the Middle East, women have very high status. Muslim women are encouraged to wear the tudong, a traditional head covering.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Usually the parents of a young man arrange a marriage with the parents of a young woman. For a Muslim, the spouse must also be Muslim; thus, individuals, especially men, often convert to Islam in order to marry a Muslim. Interethnic group marriages are not uncommon. There is considerable minor variation in marriage ceremonies from group to group and within ethnic groups.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit may be either a nuclear family or an extended family. This domestic arrangement is generated by a tradition in which a newly married couple joins the household of the bride's parents. After some time, young married couples may establish their own independent household.

Inheritance. Islamic inheritance law applies to Muslims. For non-Muslims, traditional practices apply.

Kin Groups. There are no descent-based kin groups. Malay kinship terminology is generational, with all "aunts" and "uncles" referred to as "mother" and "father," and Hawaiian, with all "cousins" referred to as "siblings." The kinship network of relatives may be very wide in the case of the Kadayan, who treat a relative by marriage the same as a blood relative, or narrower, in the case of the Barunay.


Infant Care. Infants are watched over constantly by their parents, who often take them to the tasks in which they are engaged. Babies are fondly loved and appreciated by all.

Child Rearing and Education. Parents give young children responsibility for the care of their infant siblings at an early age, especially in rural areas.

Higher Education. The Universiti Brunei Darussalam opened in 1985 and offers a number of undergraduate degree programs, a few master's degrees, and a few certificate programs. Approximately two thousands government scholarship students study abroad, mainly in Commonwealth countries.


The following rules of etiquette are universal: pass items only with the right hand; refuse food by touching the container with the right hand, never verbally; use a thumb, never an index finger, to point; remove shoes whenever entering a home or public building, especially a mosque; shake hands gently and then gently touch the center of one's chest with the right hand afterward; never address a person by name alone; never consume items until specifically requested to do so; avoid public intersexual bodily contact; and never lose one's temper.


Religious Beliefs. The national religion is the Shafeite sect of Islam. Religious holidays have variable dates that are set according to a lunar calendar. Early Ramadhan marks the beginning of the holy fasting month; the Anniversary of the Al-Quran commemorates the revelation of the Holy Book of Islam; Hari Raya Adilfitri or Hari Raya Puasa celebrates the end of the fasting month; Hari Raya Aidiladha or Hari Raya Haji celebrates the Haj or holy pilgrimage to Mecca; Hijrah celebrates the journey of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alihi Wassalam from Mecca to Medina; Mulaud, or the Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, celebrates the birth of the founder of Islam; and Israk Mikraj commemorates the ascendancy of Muhammad into heaven.

Religious Practitioners. The sultan is the head of the Islamic faith. For all Muslims, matters of marriage, divorce, and the family as well as some sexual crimes are governed by Islamic law and fall under the jurisdiction of the religious court system.

Rituals and Holy Places. Sixty mosques are maintained by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Tombs of sultans are often treated as shrines.

Medicine and Health Care

Government health services are free for citizens, with minimal charges for permanent residents and immigrant government employees and their dependents. There are government hospitals in each of the four districts and two private hospitals, with the main referral hospital in the capital. Rural villages are served by scheduled Flying Medical Services by helicopter. Citizens are often sent abroad for treatment at government expense.

Secular Celebrations

The national secular holidays are New Year's Day, 1 January; National Day, celebrating Brunei's resumption of full independent sovereignty in 1984, 23 February; Royal Brunei Armed Forces Day, marking the foundation day of the RBAF in 1961, 31 May; the Birthday of His Majesty the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah the Yang Dipertuan of Brunei Darussalam, 15 July; Christmas, 25 December; and Chinese New Year's Day, whose date is fixed by a lunar calendar.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. History and local crafts are supported by a number of public institutions, including the Royal Regalia Building (1992), the Brunei History Center (1982) and the associated Churchill Memorial Museum, the Brunei Museum (1972), the Malay Technology Museum (1988), the Arts and Handicraft Center, and the Constitutional Museum.

Literature. The Language and Literature Bureau promotes the development of literature and folklore and publishes textbooks in Malay and English for use in primary and secondary schools. A form of poetry known as sajak is popular with schoolchildren. A number of local authors have become well known. The most famous work of traditional literature is the epic poem Sya'ir Awang Simawn, which recounts the exploits of the culture hero Simawn and constitutes a traditional history of the sultanate.

Graphic Arts. Traditional arts and crafts form a large segment of Brunei's cultural heritage. Boat making, silver-smithing, bronze tooling, cloth weaving and basket making are examples of the types of artistry celebrated and emulated in modern-day culture.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The Hassanal Bolkiah Aquarium is in the capital. The Kuala Belalong Field Studies Center, set up in 1991 under the joint sponsorship of the University Brunei Darussalam's Department of Biology and the Brunei Shell Petroleum Company, is located in the Temburong District. A department of sociology and anthropology was opened at the University Brunei Darussalam in 1997.


Brown, Donald E. Brunei: The Structure and History of a Bornean Malay Sultanate, 1970.

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Brunei Shell Group of Companies, Brunei Darussalam: A Guide, 1992.

Cleary, Mark, and Hairuni H. M. Ali Maricar. "Aging, Islam and the Provision of Services for Elderly People in Brunei Darussalam. David R. Phillips, ed., in Aging in East and South-East Asia, 1992.

Government of Brunei. Brunei Darussalam in Profile, 1988.

Hussainmiya, B. A. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin III and Britain: The Making of Brunei Darussalam, 1995.

Leake, David, Jr. Brunei, The Modern Southeast-Asian Sultanate, 1989.

Maxwell, Allen R. "Kadayan Men and Women." In Vinson H. Sutlive, Jr., ed., Female and Male in Borneo: Contributions and Challenges to Gender Studies, 1991.

. "Who is Awang Simawn?" In Victor T. King and A. V. M. Horton, eds., From Buckfast to Borneo: Essays Presented to Father Robert Nicholl on the 85th Anniversary of His Birth, 27 March 1995, 1995.

. "The Place of the Kadayan in Traditional Brunei Society." South East Asia Research 4 (2): 157196,1996.

. "The Origin of the Brunei Kadayan in Ethno-historic Perspective." In Robert L. Winzeler, ed., Indigenous Peoples and the State: Politics, Land, and Ethnicity in the Malayan Peninsula and Borneo, 1997.

Ranjit Singh, D. S. Brunei 18391983: The Problems of Political Survival, 1984.

Saunders, Graham A History of Brunei, 1994.

Web Sites

Government of Brunei Darussalam Official Web Site,

U.S. Department of State. "Brunei Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998,"

Allen R. Maxwell

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