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The Sultanate of Brunei (official name Brunei Darussalam, abbreviation Brunei) is located in Southeast Asia and, together with the states of Malaysia and Indonesia, has a share in the island of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. Brunei lies in the north of Borneo and borders on the South China Sea. The state area (total 5 765 km²) consists of two non-contiguous territories separated by Malaysian territory (Limbang Valley) and surrounded by Malaysian territory to the east, south and west.
Brunei has three types of landscape: Mountains, hills and coastal plains. The eastern part of Brunei, the Temburong district, is mountainous in the south, where the country has a share in the Crocker Range. The highest elevation is Bukit Pagon with 1 850 m. The central part of the Temburong District and most of the western part of Brunei are hilly areas with basins surrounded by ridges of hills between 100 m and 300 m above sea level. The north is occupied by coastal lowlands with wetlands. In the Temburong district the coast is strongly indented, in the western part there is a balancing coast.
In the Crocker Range and the ranges of hills, numerous rivers spring up and flow north into the South China Sea. The larger ones include Temburong, Pandaruan, Tutong and Belait. The capital Bandar Seri Begawan is located in the western part of Bruneis.
Brunei has a tropical rain climate with high temperatures all year round and lots of precipitation. In the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, the average temperature is 27 °C in January and 28 °C in July. In the coastal region, annual precipitation is around 3,500 mm, in hilly areas and mountains up to 7,000 mm.
Flora and Fauna
Around three quarters of the country is covered with tropical rainforest, which has countless plant species. In the area of river courses and estuaries there are swamp forests and mangroves on the coast.
Due to the extensive, partly undeveloped forest areas, the fauna of Bruneis is as species-rich as the flora. Animal species that have become rare in numerous other countries, such as the silver gibbon, the giant squirrel and several bird species (including the rhinoceros family) are still common. Reptiles and insects are also present in great diversity.
A total of around 375,000 people live in the Sultanate of Brunei. The most densely populated area is the coastal plain, where most of the larger cities are located. The average population density is 65 inhabitants per square kilometre. The largest city is Bandar Seri Begawan with about 50 000 inhabitants (agglomeration), further cities are e.g. Kuala Belait with 21 200 (agglomeration) and Seria with about 21 100 inhabitants (agglomeration).
About two thirds of the population are Malay, about 15 % are Chinese. More than 10% of the population are foreigners, mainly from India, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia. The official language is Malay, Chinese, English and local dialects are also spoken. The Islam of Sunni orientation is the state religion, around 67% of Brunei’s inhabitants are committed to it. The second largest faith group are Buddhists with about 13 %. Christians and followers of Confucianism and Daoism are religious minorities. Population growth was around 2.5 % in the mid-1990s and is now declining slightly (around 1.9 % in 2007) due to government restrictions on immigration.
The standard of living in Brunei is very high due to the sale of oil, and the social and health services are well developed. Average life expectancy is 75 years. There is no compulsory schooling, but attending classes is free of charge. The literacy rate is around 94%.
Brunei is an absolute Malay Muslim monarchy. The state gained independence from the British protectorate in 1984. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah has ruled the Sultanate of Brunei as absolute ruler since 1967. He is head of state and head of government in one person and at the same time the supreme guardian of the state religion Islam. Other political offices are held by members of the sultan’s family. In addition to an eleven-member Council of Ministers, there are other bodies such as the Council for Religious Affairs and the Council for the Succession to the Throne. All have purely advisory functions. The Legislative Council with 21 members appointed by the Sultan met in September 2004 for the first time in 20 years to adopt a constitutional amendment. It prescribes a council with 45 seats (15 elected and 30 members appointed by the Sultan), but also extends the powers of the Sultan.
Since 1962, Brunei has been formally in a state of emergency. Parties are forbidden. Brunei is divided into the four districts (daerah) Belait, Brunei and Mara, Temburong and Tutuong. The legal system is determined by the state religion and is based on the British system.
The economy of the Sultanate of Brunei is based on the sale of oil and gas. With an average per capita income of around 46,000 US dollars, Brunei is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The Sultan was once the richest man in the world, with an estimated private wealth of 40 billion US dollars; his wealth has now been reduced by half. In order to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil, the government is striving to expand luxury tourism and develop natural gas reserves off the coast of Bruneis. The growing unemployment rate is 3.7%. The main employer in Brunei is the state itself, which employs over 50% of the working population. There is hidden unemployment due to overemployment in the public sector.
Over 80% of the food and consumer goods have to be imported. Only about 3 % of the land area is used for agriculture, mainly for rice cultivation, fruit and vegetables; water buffalos and poultry are bred. State subsidies are to be used to expand agriculture and forestry.
The main buyer of oil and gas is Japan, followed by South Korea and Australia. In addition to food, machines and vehicles are imported. The main suppliers are Singapore, China and South Korea.
The road network covers a total of around 3,000 km and is largely paved. The most important ports are Bandar Seri Begawan, Kuala Belait and Muara. There is an international airport. Currency is the Brunei dollar (= 100 cents). It is pegged 1:1 to the Singapore dollar, both currencies are means of payment in both countries.