The Sultanate of Brunei's influence peaked 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; independence was achieved in 1984. The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries. Brunei benefits from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields, the source of one of the highest per capita GDPs in Asia.
chief of state: Sultan and Prime Minister Sir HASSANAL Bolkiah (since 5 October 1967); note - the monarch is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government:
Sultan and Prime Minister Sir HASSANAL Bolkiah (since 5 October 1967)
Council of Cabinet Ministers appointed and presided over by the monarch; deals with executive matters; note - there is also a Religious Council (members appointed by the monarch) that advises on religious matters, a Privy Council (members appointed by the monarch) that deals with constitutional matters, and the Council of Succession (members appointed by the monarch) that determines the succession to the throne if the need arises
the Sultan appointed a Legislative Council with 29 members in September 2005; he increased the size of the council to 33 members in June 2011; the council meets annually in March
last held in March 1962 (date of next election NA)
note:the Legislative Council met on 25 September 2004 for first time in 20 years with 21 members appointed by the Sultan; it passed constitutional amendments calling for a 45-seat council with 15 elected members; no timeframe for an election was announced
Supreme Court - chief justice and judges are sworn in by monarch for three-year terms; Judicial Committee of Privy Council in London is final court of appeal for civil cases; Sharia courts deal with Islamic laws (2006)
National Development Party or NDP [YASSIN Affendi]
note:Brunei National Solidarity Party or PPKB [Abdul LATIF bin Chuchu] and People's Awareness Party or PAKAR [Awang Haji MAIDIN bin Haji Ahmad] were deregistered in 2007; parties are small and have limited activity
yellow with two diagonal bands of white (top, almost double width) and black starting from the upper hoist side; the national emblem in red is superimposed at the center; yellow is the color of royalty and symbolizes the sultanate; the white and black bands denote Brunei's chief ministers; the emblem includes five main components: a swallow-tailed flag, the royal umbrella representing the monarchy, the wings of four feathers symbolizing justice, tranquility, prosperity, and peace, the two upraised hands signifying the government's pledge to preserve and promote the welfare of the people, and the crescent moon denoting Islam, the state religion; the state motto "Always render service with God's guidance" appears in yellow Arabic script on the crescent; a ribbon below the crescent reads "Brunei, the Abode of Peace"
Brunei has a small well-to-do economy that encompasses a mixture of foreign and domestic entrepreneurship, government regulation, welfare measures, and village tradition. Crude oil and natural gas production account for just over half of GDP and more than 90% of exports. Per capita GDP is among the highest in Asia, and substantial income from overseas investment supplements income from domestic production. The government provides for all medical services and free education through the university level and subsidizes rice and housing. A new monetary authority was established in January 2011 with responsibilities that include monetary policy, monitoring of financial institutions, and currency trading activities.
general assessment: service throughout the country is good; international service is good to Southeast Asia, Middle East, Western Europe, and the US
every service available
country code - 673; landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-3 optical telecommunications submarine cable that provides links to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe; the Asia-America Gateway submarine cable network, scheduled for completion by late 2008, will provide new links to Asia and the US; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 1 Pacific Ocean) (2009)
state-controlled Radio Television Brunei (RTB) operates 4 channels; 3 Malaysian TV stations are available; foreign TV broadcasts are available via satellite and cable systems; RTB operates 5 radio networks broadcasting on multiple frequencies; British Forces Broadcast Service (BFBS) provides radio broadcasts on 2 FM stations; some radio broadcast stations from Malaysia are available via repeaters (2009)
per Letters of Exchange signed in 2009, Malaysia in 2010 ceded two hydrocarbon concession blocks to Brunei in exchange for Brunei's sultan dropping claims to the Limbang corridor, which divides Brunei; nonetheless, Brunei claims a maritime boundary extending as far as a median with Vietnam, thus asserting an implicit claim to Lousia Reef
current situation: Brunei is a destination, and to a lesser extent, a source and transit country for men and women who are subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution; men and women from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China, and Thailand migrate to Brunei for domestic work or other low-skilled employment, but sometimes face conditions of involuntary servitude after arrival
Tier 2 Watch List - the government has yet to prosecute a human-trafficking case using its 2004 anti-trafficking law, has not shown evidence of increased efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year, and has not identified or assisted any trafficking victims (2011)