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Brunei Darussalem: An oily economy in search of an alternative path

Ali, A. (1997) Brunei Darussalem: An oily economy in search of an alternative path. Asian Profile, 25 (4). pp. 281-301.


Brunei Darussalam (the abode of peace) is a Malay Muslim microstate, confined to a land area of just under 6000 with a population of 261,000 in the census year 1991. Geographically located in the north-west coast of the island of Borneo, its territory is bifurcated by the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Almost three quarters of the land and 95 percent of the population are in the western wing of the country which is the hub of all activities. Climatically, the country is equatorial with uniformly high temperatures, humidity and rainfall. With an average temperature of 28 degrees Celsius and 82 percent humidity, Brunei receives an average annual rainfall of 4,000 mm in the highlands of the Temburong district and between 2,400 and 2,900 mm in the other areas. The country is relatively free from natural disasters like typhoons, floods, and earthquakes which periodically devastate some of her neighbouring countries. Politically, Brunei is an absolute monarchy. The sultan rules and rules absolutely with a cabinet of ministers all appointed by him including his two brothers each of whom holds the important ministries of foreign affairs and finance respectively. There is obviously no popular democracy in the western sense but the traditional system of peoples' representation through village chiefs appears to have found acceptability amongst the elite and the elders and provides the necessary political stability for a top-down development. In terms of religion, Brunei is an Islamic country of the Shaffiite school of the Sunni sect and in culture it is Malay. These three elements, the monarchy, Islam and the Malay culture blend and provide the basis for the country's national ideology, Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB). Economically however, the country belongs to that group of Third World nations which were thrust to the forefront of monetary affluence in the 1970s following the unprecedented price hike for hydrocarbon. With a GDP percapita of B$38,021 in 1984- the year of Brunei's independence- which was equivalent at that time to about US$20,000 the kingdom emerged in the eighties as one of the richest countries in the world.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Business
Publisher: Asian Research Service
Copyright: The Author
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