Brunei

Ease of Doing Business Rank: 66

Overview

 

Geographic location

Brunei, or Negara Brunei Darussalam, is an independent Islamic sultanate on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. The remainder of Borneo is divided between Malaysia and Indonesia.

The South China Sea lies to the north and all other sides of the country are surrounded by the East Malaysian state of Sarawak. This state divides the country into two disconnected segments.

Spoken language

The official language of Brunei is Standard Malay spoken by 94% of inhabitants. English is widely used in business and spoken by most of the population.

Brunei also has a large expatriate community of Indians, Filipino, Indonesian, Chinese and Dutch.

Population

The 2019 population estimate is 433,285.

Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital and largest city (64,409), followed by Kuala Belait (31,178) and Seria (30,097).

Popular industries

The top industries in Brunei are oil and gas, cement production and products, clothing, food production, publishing and printing.

Education

The Times World University Rankings include the Universiti Brunei Darussalam among the top 500 universities in the world.

Popular entity types

The most common type of business entities in Brunei are Sole Partnership, International Business Company, Limited Partnership, Partnership, Private Company and Public Company

The overwhelming majority of businesses are in the form of a Private Company.

Brunei incentives for business

Brunei’s corporate tax rate is 18.5%; the second-lowest rate in ASEAN. The country does not tax capital gains and companies do not pay payroll tax.

The country offers many investor incentives in pioneer industries such as agri-business, building and heavy equipment, chemicals, petrochemicals, plastics, construction, ICT and others. Some service sector activities such as finance may also qualify.

Businesses with a pioneer certificate and fixed capital expenditure of between BN$500,000 and BN$2.5m enjoy a five-year corporate income tax exemption. Companies investing more than BN$2.5m are exempt from CIT for eight years. This is extended to 11 years if the project is within a designated high-tech industrial park.

Pioneer companies are also eligible for import duty exemptions on machinery, equipment, component parts, accessories and building structures and raw material unavailable in Brunei.

A foreign tax credit is available for tax paid on foreign income, limited to the tax assessed at half of Brunei’s rate.

History & Features

 

Main cities for business

Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital and financial center of the country.

Popular historical & tourist attractions

Brunei is a small nation, but includes many cultural, architectural, and natural wonders.

The greater Bandar Seri Begawan area features several grand mosques. Omar Ali Saifuddien has a massive reflective pool and gold-topped dome and minarets while Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah is the largest mosque in the country.

Bandar Seri Begawan also includes the world’s largest palace. Built for a sultan, Nurul Iman has 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, a banquet hall that can hold up to 5,000 guests, a 110-car garage and five swimming pools.

Kampong Ayer is the world’s largest stilted village connecting numerous settlements through a series of wooden boardwalks. It has its own mosques, schools, and shops, but you’ll need a boat to get around.

Brunei also has many unspoiled areas including 17 miles of pristine sand at Muara Beach. Ulu Temburong National Park is only accessible by boat, and offers outstanding biodiversity in a lowland rainforest, boardwalks, suspension bridges and a canopy walkway to view the amazing flora and fauna.

For watersport enthusiasts, Serasa Beach offers jet skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, regatta sailing, power boat racing, aqua sports training and water skiing.

History

Pre-Islamic history is very unclear. However, by the 14th century documents show Islam dominated the area.

Between the 15th and 16th centuries the Brunei Sultanate rose to prominence and controlled the coastal areas of Northwest Borneo and other regions.

Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish arrived in the area after the 16th century. The Sultanate lost many of their outlying possessions with the rise of British and Dutch colonial power.

In 1838, Charles Brooke, a British soldier, helped the Sultan of Brunei put down a rebellion from inland tribes. The Sultan granted him the power to rule and the title of Rajah in 1841.

In 1884, a rebellion caused the Sultan to cede some territories to other kingdoms, but he did not want to lose the fertile Limbang district in the center of the country. Hoping to stem further territory loss, Brunei became a British protectorate in 1888. However, Limbang became part of the Kingdom of Sarawak (Malaysia) in 1898, which split Brunei into two regions.

By 1906, Brunei had a British resident as a colonial manager. The Sultanate would remain the ruling dynasty and the British resident would advise the Sultan on all matters except those concerning local customs and religion.

In 1929, oil was discovered in Brunei. During World War II, Japanese forces occupied Borneo. Allied forces liberated the island after the Japanese surrendered in 1945.

In 1959, a new constitution provided self-rule. The constitution was revised in 1971, granting the Sultan full control over all internal matters, with the United Kingdom retaining responsibility for defense and foreign affairs. Brunei finally became a fully independent sovereign state in 1984.

Today, Brunei operates under an absolute monarchy and has a mixed economic system.

Other relevant facts

According to 2010 data, most Bruneians identify as Malay (65.7%), followed by non-Malay indigenous peoples (24%) and Chinese (10.3%).

According to the CIA World Factbook, most inhabitants identify as Muslim (79%), followed by Christian (9%), Buddhist (8%) and other religions (4.7%).

Additional Information for Business

According to Forbes’ 2019 Best Countries for Business, Brunei is 61st in the world for conducting business.

The 2019 Index of Economic Freedom rates Brunei 63rd globally and states, “Large budget deficits continue, exacerbated by relatively low oil and gas prices that reduce government revenue.”

World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings rate Brunei 66th for ease of doing business in the world.

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