A Land of Opportunity – Aired September 2010
Brunei Darussalam. A land of opportunity. A small, peaceful and stable oil-rich Sultanate, Brunei is one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
Using the proceeds from oil and hydrocarbons to build a powerful economy, Brunei has made great progress in securing continued growth and stability for its citizens. Brunei has a solid macroeconomic stability rating and some of the highest GDP per capita figures in Asia.
Brunei is located on the northwestern shores of the island of Borneo, sharing borders with the Malaysian provinces of Sabah and Sarawak. It is roughly nine times the size of Singapore. The capital city is Bandar Seri Begawan.
Brunei is a nation with great potential, and plans are now under way to open up the economy even further to the rest of the world.
Brunei is home to the world’s longest unbroken reigning dynasty, with 29 Sultans of the same dynasty at rule since 1363. The current Sultan, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, has been integral in shaping Brunei’s political system and national character.
Brunei’s economy has been dominated by the oil and gas industry for almost a century, with hydrocarbon resources accounting for over 90% of its exports and more than 50% of its gross domestic product. However, there is a rising awareness in the country of depleting natural resources and the subsequent need to diversify the economy.
A conservative fiscal policy and high levels of budgetary surpluses have laid the foundation for Brunei’s solid economic framework, despite the recent global financial crisis. While foreign exposure used to be limited, the government of Brunei is taking active steps to bring international investors into the country.
The global financial crisis has had a limited impact on Brunei’s financial sector. Both domestic and international banks continue to be well-capitalized and profitable, due to a concentration on commercial and retail banking activities as well as a cap on personal lending. It is an example to the rest of Asia of continued financial resilience and stability.
Finance remains one of the fastest-growing sectors in Brunei. Today, Brunei is also working towards being a leader in Islamic or Sharia-compliant finance, and this segment has gained a considerable share of the country’s banking activity.
Brunei’s government has been pushing banks to take on a more active role in the development of local businesses as part of its long-term goal of economic diversification. The next few years could be profitable for the financial sector as it becomes a more active participant in Brunei’s economy.
Brunei has the potential and the resources to accommodate serious investors and projects. Here are some of the recent noteworthy initiatives spearheaded by the Brunei Economic Development Board.
The SPARK Industrial Zone is set to be a world class petrochemical hub and is currently the site of a Methanol Plant developed by the Brunei Methanol Company. Proposals from foreign investors in the petrochemical industry are definitely welcome.
The iCentre, Brunei Darussalam’s first ICT incubator, is the first phase of the Business and Technology Park being developed to support local business and technology development. Here a number of bright young entrepreneurs are developing innovative ideas helping to bring technology made in Brunei overseas.
The PMB Muara Island project is situated in Brunei Bay, where work is underway on an integrated development comprising a container port, export processing zone and manufacturing hub. Divided into economic, community and lifestyle & tourism zones, this project will fully capitalize on Pulau Muara Besar’s strategic location within Brunei and the rest of Southeast Asia.
Brunei has a very strong commitment to informations and communications technology development. Rather than expanding ICT manufacturing as an industry, Brunei is evolving its ICT service sector to be globally competitive due to the country’s small size and limited manpower.
The government of Brunei has allocated 12 percent of its National Development Plan budget to the ICT sector and includes funding to further enhance human capacity building and the development of small and medium sized enterprises. With modern infrastructure and high mobile penetration levels, the ICT sector is looking to introduce new value-added services and local innovations. Local telecom operators are converging voice and data services and transforming themselves into integrated IT media companies.
The Asian continent has always been a pioneer in ICT services, and Brunei is trying to make its own mark while keeping up with technology. In the end, everyone wins, and now more than ever the people of Brunei are enjoying successful means of communication.
The Halal food market is a huge international market, widely estimated to be worth over 500 billion US dollars a year. Halal food is food or drink that is prepared in accordance with Islamic law.
Brunei aims to tap into this highly lucrative market with the creation of the Brunei Halal brand. This intensive branding effort is a government project initiated by the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources in a move towards developing a diversified, competitive and sustainable economy.
Brunei has set sights in becoming one of the major players of the Halal industry globally, both in terms of Halal food production and certification, with the sheer aim of catering premium quality Halal food for the Muslim population worldwide.
Brunei’s halal standards are stricter than in many countries. This rigorous reputation goes along with the country’s image of spiritual and environmental purity. The Brunei Halal brand is truly global in the sense that it can be attached to any product that meets its precise standards, regardless of where the product is manufactured.
Halal food is not only intended for Muslims. While many consumers around the world see Halal as being associated with the Islamic community, Halal is for everybody and can be viewed as a form of food safety, regardless of religion.
BRUNEI’S TOURIST DELIGHTS
Don’t be fooled by its small size. Brunei is known as the Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures, and visitors can have a variety of memorable experiences. Here are some of the country’s tourist highlights.
At number 5 is the opulent Royal Regalia Museum. This gives a good insight into the decorum and pomp of Brunei’s royalty, including some of the Sultan’s most cherished mementos.
The famous Ulu Temburong National Park makes it to number 4 on our list, where serious nature lovers can experience the rainforest at its most pristine and appreciate having untouched, unfettered jungle almost to themselves. Truly, the green heart of Borneo.
One of the Islamic world’s architectural wonders, the majestic Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien mosque is a sight to behold, making it to number 3 on our list.
At number two is Kampung Ayer in Bandar Seri Begawan. This is the world’s largest water village, where wooden houses on stilts combine a traditional lifestyle with the amenities provided by the wealth of the country.
And what tops our list? The Empire Hotel and Country Club. A true Asian jewel, this opulent and sprawling resort is a haven of tranquility and has some luxurious suites affordable only to the world’s rich and famous.
Whether it is enjoying bountiful nature… admiring the grandeur of Brunei’s ancient yet thriving monarchy… or discovering the rich culture and heritage of the Malay people…, Brunei is Asia’s best-kept travel secret. Brunei does not aim to be the next Thailand or Malaysia. Instead, its strengths lie in its natural and cultural purity. It is truly something different.
Brunei’s tourism department is committed to strategic marketing, working closely with both local and foreign industry partners in ensuring a sustainable tourism policy and maintaining a unique tourism image.
One of the areas where Brunei has a competitive edge is in the area of luxury tourism, as evidenced by its world-class hotel and resort infrastructure.
Vast stretches of tropical rainforest still cover 80 percent of the country. The Sultan of Brunei is intent on preserving this pristine environment, and ecotourism programs are abundant.
There is no better time to experience Brunei. Now that tourism development is firmly on the agenda for the future diversification of the oil dependent economy, Brunei is ready to make a memorable mark on the global travel market.