07 Oct Land of riches & zero income tax
Negara Brunei Darussalam (State of Brunei, Abode of Peace [Darussalam]),or just Brunei, is a small, equatorial sultanate along the northern coast of the island of Borneo in South-East Asia. The South China Sea lies to the north and on all other sides it is bordered by the Malaysian state of Sarawak, which divides it in two. The western segment is the larger of the two and contains the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan. Brunei achieved independence in 1984, after having been a British protectorate since 1888. It is a member of the Commonwealth and ASEAN.
The country shares maritime borders with China and Malaysia and has claimed a continental shelf/exclusive economic zone stretching 200 nautical miles from its coast, which extends Brunei territorial waters deep into the middle of the South China Sea.
Brunei’s prosperity comes from its rich resources of petroleum, natural gas and timber. The country’s wealth means that the government is able to provide free medical services and free education through to university level. Bruneians pay no income tax. However, low oil prices since 2013 have led to budget deficits and economic growth has started to weaken. In 2019, the GDP of Brunei stood at US$13.46 BN, according to the World Bank. Over the last 10 years, the growth of GDP has been erratic in Brunei, growing by a mere 3% from 2009 to 2019. In 2021, as per EIU reports, the country grew at 3.2%.
A country slightly larger than twice the size of Luxembourg, in 2014 Brunei became the first East Asian country to adopt the Islamic sharia law. In April, 2019, the Syariah Penal Code Order (2013) was fully implemented. The code prescribes death by stoning for adultery and gay sex in certain circumstances, although actual enforcement by authorities has been extremely rare.
In the wake of international condemnation, the Sultan of Brunei said that a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty would be applied as it had been for more than two decades in common law cases.