Brunei is beautiful, friendly, safe and modern. This is a small country (Sultanate) located on the north coast of Borneo and fueled by energy – oil (black gold) and natural gas. Bandar Seri Begawan, is the capital of the Sultanate of Brunei. It is also the location of the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. The mosque is considered one of the most beautiful in the Asia-Pacific region. It is a place of worship, a major historical site and the most famous tourist attraction of the country.
While taking a bus in Brunei we sat up front and a Canadian couple sat across from us directly behind the driver. The Canadians were very eager to talk about the country and peppered the driver with questions. This is a part of that overheard exchange:
Canadian tourist – What form of government do you have here in Brunei?
Bus driver – We have the Sultan and the Legislative Council.
Canadian tourist – So the Sultan is the head of government?
Bus driver – Yes, he takes the role of Prime Minister
Canadian tourist – How often do you have elections and are there a number of political parties?
Bus driver – Oh, we don’t have parties or elections. The Sultan appoints each member of the council.
Canadian tourist– Does that much power concern you? Don’t you fear corruption?
Bus driver – No. The Sultan would remove anyone that was corrupt.
Canadian tourist – But don’t the people want a say in what the country does?
Bus driver – Why? We have the Sultan. He takes very good care of us…
You can learn a lot about people overhearing conversations 😉
What makes this thinking possible is an average per capita income of over US$40,000. The Sultan’s government makes sizable amounts of money from oil, which it solely controls, and number of the countries businesses and industry along with large investments from that oil money worldwide.
The Sultan does take care of his people. At one time a part of housing in Bandar Seri Begawan was in ramshackle water villages. But those picturesque houses on stilts standing out over the water had major problems. Sanitation was a serious issue, so the Sultan has been replacing them with new water villages with modern sewage treatment and solid structural supports. He has also been providing virtually everyone in Brunei with a free education, health care and a guaranteed job. Also modern, attractive, free public housing is popping up all around the country.