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Understand Brunei

Posted by in on 6-17-13

Brunei is a pint-sized and fabulously wealthy oil-rich sultanate with a population of 398,000 as of 2008.

Government Of Brunei Darussalam [2]

History

The Sultanate of Brunei’s heyday occurred between the 15th and 17th centuries, when its control extended over coastal areas of northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines. Brunei subsequently entered a period of decline brought on by internal strife over royal succession, colonial expansion of European powers, and piracy. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate. It was offered to join Malaysia as a state in 1963, but opted out of the Federation due to a disagreement on the amount of its oil income that would have to be given to the central government in Kuala Lumpur. Independence was achieved in 1984. The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries.

Independence
1 January 1984 (from UK)
National holiday
National Day, 23 February (1984); note – 1 January 1984 was the date of independence from the UK, 23 February 1984 was the date of independence from British protection
Constitution
29 September 1959 (some provisions suspended under a State of Emergency since December 1962, others since independence on 1 January 1984)

Landmarks

The Istana Nurul Iman is the world’s largest residential palace in occupation. The 300-acre palace sits on a man made hill with a clear view of Kampong Ayer. Istana Nurul Iman is the residence of the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and the palace is quoted to have an estimated value at US$600 million.
Economy

The backbone of Brunei’s economy is oil and gas and the Sultan of Brunei is, famously, one of the richest people in the world with an estimated personal wealth of around 40 billion dollars. Per capita GDP is far above most other developing countries, and substantial income from overseas investment supplements income from domestic production. The government provides for all medical services and subsidizes rice and housing.

All sectors of economy are fairly heavily regulated and government policy is an odd mixture of subsidies, protectionism and encouragement of entrepreneurship. Brunei’s leaders are attempting to balance the country’s steadily increasing integration into the world economy with internal social cohesion. It became a more prominent player in the world by serving as chairman for the 2005 APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum. Plans for the future include upgrading the workforce, reducing unemployment, strengthening the banking and tourist sectors, and, in general, widening the economic base beyond oil and gas.
Culture

Brunei is officially an Islamic state, with many large beautiful mosques across the country. Sale of alcohol is banned. Bringing in meat, (other than seafood) which has not been certified “halal”, (slaughtered according to Islamic law), is also banned. During the fasting month of Ramadan, many shops and restaurants will be open. However, eating, drinking or smoking in front of people who are fasting is considered rude and asking permission is appropriate.

The bulk of the population is Malay (67%) and there is also a significant Chinese minority of some 15% as well as a number of indigenous peoples, including the Iban and Duson tribes who inhabit the jungle upriver and the Temburong district, (the smaller eastern part detached from the rest of Brunei). There is a large number of foreign workers who work on the oil and gas production or in lower positions such as restaurant staff, field workers and domestic staff. The male to female ratio is 3:2. More than a quarter of the people are short term immigrant workers, most of whom are men.
Geography and climate

Brunei’s climate is semi-tropical, and Bandar Seri Begawan’s is sub-tropical. The temperature ranges from 14°C to 33°C – January being the hottest month. Rainy season is always mild and humid, followed by a hot and humid dry season. The difference between the two seasons is not that marked, however.

Brunei’s topology is of a flat coastal plain rises to mountains in the east, the highest point being Bukit Pagan at 1,850 meters, with some hilly lowlands in the west.

There are no typhoons, earthquakes, severe flooding and other forms of natural disasters to contend with, and the biggest environmental issues is the seasonal haze resulting from forest fires (that is caused by illegal clearing of land) in nearby Indonesia.

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