This article provides an overview of Brunei for those keen on exploring the possibility of living and working there. The information presented is gathered from open sources and is not exhaustive or meant to supplement or substitute legal and professional advice.
- Official name: Brunei Darussalam
- Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
- Land area: 5,765 sq km
- Population (2019): 459,500
- Head of state: His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah
- Official language: Malay
- Currency: Brunei Dollar (BND)
- GDP (2019): BND18.375 billion
- GDP per capita (2019): BND39,989
Brunei Darussalam is located at the northwestern part of the island of Borneo, facing the South China Sea and surrounded by East Malaysia. Oil and gas has been the backbone of the country’s economy since its discovery in 1929. The country’s culture is deeply rooted in its Malay origins. These are reflected in its language, architecture, ceremonies and customs.
Brunei’s commitment to continued prosperity and stable macroeconomics is underscored by Wawasan 2035, its government’s national vision. Wawasan 2035 provides for the promotion of investments both in downstream industries and economic clusters beyond the oil and gas industry. It comprises 13 strategies that include education, political stability and security, institutional development, local business development, infrastructure, social security, and environment.
In 2019, the Bruneian population was 459,500, up from 442,400 the previous year. Brunei citizens accounted for the largest share of the population with 72.2 percent (331,800 persons), while permanent residents and temporary residents made up 7.3 percent (33,500 persons) and 20.5 percent (94,200 persons) of the population respectively. More than 74 percent of its population were aged between 15 and 64 years old, 20.6 percent were below 15 years of age and 4.83 percent were 65 years and older. Malays form the majority of the population at 65.8 percent.
In 2019, Brunei’s gross domestic product (GDP) reached BND18.375 billion, with a GDP per capita of BND39,989. Its GDP was valued at BND18.301 billion and the per-capita GDP was BND41,366 in 2018. The economic growth in 2019 was attributed to the growth in the oil and gas and non-oil and gas sectors.
Foreign trade and investment
Brunei’s foreign direct investment (FDI) totalled BND1.245 billion in 2018. Hong Kong SAR contributed the largest share of total investment with BND902.4 million (72.5 percent) – an increase from the BND651.5 million recorded the previous year. The manufacturing sector was the largest recipient of FDI inflows in 2018, which amounted to BND945.6 million.
One of the Singapore companies in Brunei is Ley Choon Group Holdings Ltd. In 2013, it received new contracts totalling BND29.6 million for the building of a flyover bridge at Jalan Gadong and Jalan Telanai and for infrastructure works involving the supply and installation of sewerage systems at Berangan, Kianggeh and Subok. In 2010, ST Engineering secured a S$66.5 million project in Brunei to design and construct a waste management facility in Sungai Paku. Greatearth Construction Pte Ltd, through its subsidiary in Brunei, Greatearth (B) Sdn Bhd, has “an extensive track record in housing and infrastructure projects”
The energy sector – which includes oil and gas exploration and production, petrochemical and refineries, fuel, power, energy efficiency and conservation and renewable energy – is a core pillar of Brunei’s economy. A significant contributor to the government’s revenue, the energy sector also spurs development in other sectors of the economy.
In recent years, the Brunei government is increasingly reducing the country’s reliance on its hydrocarbon exports. It is shifting its focus to diversify its economy by investing on industries such as information and communication technology and halal manufacturing.
Brunei aimed to double the number of tourist arrivals by air from 218,000 in 2015 to 450,000 by 2020, and increase services relating to tourism which can contribute significantly to its GDP growth. In 2018, the country saw a total of 278,136 international tourist arrivals by air, up from 258,955 recorded in the previous year.
To boost tourism, the country is focusing on strengthening the attractiveness and diversity of its tourism products and improve the quality of tourism services. To this end, it is working on refining existing tourist destinations such as Temburong, Bandar Seri Begawan, Kampong Ayer, Tutong, Belait, and other recreational destinations including its beaches, forests and parks. Brunei is also enhancing some activity-based products such as diving and birdwatching, as well as community-based tourism such as homestays and village activities.