The tiny country of Brunei – a sultanate – consists of two unconnected parts, separated by the state of Sarawak in Malaysia. Most of the population lives in the larger western part. The two separate land masses face the coastline with the South China Sea
Brunei was a British protectorate from 1888 to 1984. And it was the only part of the larger Malay state that chose not to join the Malaysian Federation in 1963. It finally became independent from British rule in 1984.
The current head of state – Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, is part of a same dynasty that has ruled Brunei since the 15th century. The extremely wealthy Sultan is the supreme ruler. He rules by decree, although he is also advised by a council of ministers. In 2004 the Sultan brought back to life a parliament that had not functioned since 1984. Further democracy may come about with the expansion of the parliament, although no elections are scheduled.
Brunei’s wealth comes from its large oil and gas reserves, which gives the sultanate one of the highest GDPs in Asia. Bruneians pay no taxes. Oil and gas are the country’s two largest exports, and the nation is dependent on foreign imports. In recent years the country’s natural reserves appear to be depleting, which has led the government to make attempts to diversify the economy. The sultanate’s economy has also been impacted by the highs and lows of the Asian markets.
Islam is the official religion of Brunei and Malay the main spoken language. Ethnically two-thirds of the population is Malayan, but there are also Chinese, people of Indian descent, and indigenous groups, including Murut, Dusuns and Ibans.
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.
Sultanate of Brunei (Brunei Darussalam)
Form of Government:
Year of Independence:
1984 (from Britain)
Bandar Seri Begawan
Muslim (official) 67%, Buddhist 13%, Christian 10%, other (includes indigenous beliefs) 10%
5,765 sq km (2,226 sq miles)
Malay (official), English, Chinese
75 years (men), 80 years (women)
1 Bruneian dollar = 100 cents
Crude oil, liquefied natural gas, petroleum products, and clothing
GDP - Per Capita (PPP):
$51,000 (2007 est.)
International Dialing Code: