A peaceful country with a total land area of 5,765 sq km, its small size has not impeded its social and economic progress, which is helped by having some of the largest oil fields in Southeast Asia.Due to the underground riches, Brunei has been able to spare most of its above-ground resources, and the country boasts some of the most intact primary rainforest in all of Borneo.
Filled with gentle people and a culture of decorum and hospitability, this nation is a reflection of the Malay way of life which makes it a rather relaxed and even charming little corner of Borneo with enough attractions to make it an interesting stop between Sabah and Sarawak. His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam is the head of the faith and rules the country according to the established values and traditions of Islam.
Brunei Darussalam, a Malay Muslim monarchy, lies on the northwest coast of Borneo island where it faces the South China Sea. With a land area of 5,765-square kilometre, it shares borders with Sarawak, an east Malaysian state which divides Brunei into two – the eastern part is the Temburong District while the western portion consists of the Brunei-Muara, Tutong and Belait Districts.
The 570-square kilometre Brunei-Muara District, where the capital Bandar Seri Begawan is located, is the smallest but the most important and populous of the four districts. The 1,166-square kilometre Tutong District, the third largest, is home to indigenous groups like Tutong, Kedayan, Dusun and Iban. The Belait District, the centre of the oil and gas industries, is about 100km from the capital. Hilly lowlands, swampy plains and alluvial valleys dominate the Brunei-Muara, Tutong and Belait districts in the larger western portion of the Sultanate. Mountainous terrains abound in the eastern district of Temburong, which has a land area of 1,288-square kilometer.
Brunei Darussalam has a tropical equatorial climate with high rainfall and warm temperatures all year round. Monsoon winds influence the climatic variations. The Northeast monsoon blows from December to March. The Southeast monsoon occurs from June to October. Two inter-monsoon periods prevail from April to May and November to December.
The annual rainfall is generally high. The two rainy seasons are from September to January, with December as the wettest; and May to June.The drought period is from February to April. Due to unstable climatic influences, well-defined seasons have not been outlined.
The drought months of March and April are the warmest. Humidity is high throughout the year due to high temperature and rainfall. Air temperature is relatively uniform throughout the year. Brunei is not directly in the path of tropical storms, cyclones and typhoons that pass through the South China Sea. Yet, it is heavily affected by tides.
DISTRICTS AND CAPITAL
The Capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, in the Brunei-Muara District
Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city, is a neat, clean, modern city with wide roads and overstated public buildings. It is a busy business area and consists of many government departments, which have seen even more development in recent times.
Several areas such as Lambak, Kampong Pengkalan Gadong or Tungku Link, Kg Mata-Mata Gadong, Jalan Muara, Jalan Tutong, Serusop, Berakas have been turned into business hotspots dotted new buildings, offices and shop lots.
While these areas are developing, the existing commercial areas of Gadong and Kiulap have further expanded with the emergence of brand new shop-houses offering products and services of all kinds.
The Mall in Gadong – Brunei’s first, largest and most sophisticated shopping complex – houses more than 150 shops, a hotel and a Cineplex.
Elsewhere, existing landmarks such as the Jerudong Park Playground theme park (which is currently under renovation), the newly expanded and refurbished Brunei Darussalam International Airport, the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium Complex and the International Convention Centre continue to garner attention.
The historical attraction of Kampung Ayer, the world’s largest water village which is home to more than 30,000 people, remains a favourite place of interest along with the rest of Brunei’s jewels like the Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Mosque, the Jame’ ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah – arguably the most magnificent mosque in Brunei, the Royal Regalia Museum, the Brunei History Centre, the Royal Ceremonial Hall or Lapau, the Dewan Majlis or Parliament House and Istana Nurul Iman – the world’s largest residential palace in the world.
The 1,166-square kilometre Tutong District, the third largest of Brunei’s four districts, is home to indigenous groups like the Tutong, Kedayan, Dusun and Iban. Tutong is almost midway between BSB and Kuala Belait.
Temburong has a land area of 1,288-square kilometres. It is mostly covered in dense, unexploited forestland with mountainous terrain in the eastern part of the district. The main town is Bangar.
The Belait District, the centre of the oil and gas industries, is about 100km from the capital. Seria and Kuala Belait, situated about 65km from the capital, are its largest towns.
POPULATION, LABOUR, IMPORT, EXPORT AND GDP
In 2012, Brunei’s population was 422,700. In 2013, JPKE statistics showed that Brunei Darussalam’s population rose by 0.1 per cent from the previous year. Brunei citizens accounted for 274,755 of the total population, while 33,816 were permanent residents and 114,129 temporary residents. The ethnic groups that subsist in Brunei account for 278,982 Malays, 46,497 Chinese and 97,221 comprising of other races.
The Brunei-Muara District is recorded to be the most populous area with about 245,166 people, followed by Belait with a population of about 97,221, Tutong at an estimated 42,270 and Temburong as the least populous area with approximately 38,043 inhabitants.
The population demographics by age include approximately 245,166 residents aged 20-54 years old, and about 105,675 residents aged 5-19 years old. The remaining population accounts for 33,816 who are aged four years old and below, 21,135 aged 55-64 years old, and 16,908 aged 65 years old and above.
Brunei Darussalam, a member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) since 2007, has ratified two of the ILO’s eight fundamental conventions, namely the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention 1999 (No.182) and the Convention on the Minimum Age 1973 (No.138).
In Brunei, all local employers and employees working in the private sector are required to contribute to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). Employees contribute five per cent of their wages and employers another five per cent.
Employers are also required to provide insurance and medical cover for their employees. There is no minimum wage legislation. in Brunei. As long as both parties (employer and employee) agree on the wage, it is sufficient, thus labour disputes are very rare.
Non-Bruneians who work in Brunei need to apply for a two-year work permit with the Labour Department. Upon recommendation by the Labour Department, the Immigration Department will then give permission for the worker to enter the country. The Labour Department should be given either a cash deposit or banker’s guarantee to cover the cost of a one-way airfare to the home country of the immigrant worker.
An approved labour licence cannot be altered for at least six months after it is issued. Those interested in gaining employment in Brunei Darussalam must arrange with their employers to obtain employment passes prior to their arrival, while their spouses and children aged 18 years and below are required to obtain dependent passes.