Brunei: A paradise for ordinary people?

But in the pursuit of the spiritual world, this is no longer heaven.

When it comes to Brunei, what do you think of? Is it the popular Brunei Chinese singer Wu Zun, a stunning luxury royal wedding, or a pocket-sized impression of “small and rich”?

Brunei, the “shining pearl” inlaid on Borneo in Southeast Asia, is named “Brunei Darussalam”. “Darussalam” means “place of peace” in Islamic religious language, and Brunei is often hailed as “state of peace” from this. But has Brunei really been quiet for years?

History of the death of an empire
It is hard to imagine that Brunei, a small country with a territory of only 5,765 square kilometers and a population of less than one million, used to be a huge empire that ruled the entire island of Kalimantan and the central and southern Philippines in the 14th and 16th centuries.

In the era of a small country with few people and self-sufficiency, the island of Kalimantan, where Brunei is located, has abundant rainforest resources. Whether it is picking or hunting, it provides enough supplies for survival, nurturing many residents, and gradually forming a relatively large population base. A large chieftain nation-“Fun Nation”.

“Funni Kingdom” is the original title of Ming Taizu Zhu Yuanzhang for the current main empire of Brunei in the “Huang Ming Zu Xun”. At that time, the Huni country was a small country with weak national power and vacillating winds and rains. It continued to become the subject of some “surgery” kingdoms, and suffered from oppression. It was also in the process of constant country rotation. The Hunni country gradually accepted the powerful Islamic ideas of the Malacca Sultanate and officially became an Islamic country in the 14th century.

The delimitation of religion has laid an important foundation for the centralization and development of this country. When the surrounding countries gradually declined and the rising powers were gradually reduced to internal conflicts, the Huni country instead began to expand its territory by relying on a gradually powerful army and a gradual cohesion of people’s hearts. In the 16th century, the title of “Brunei Empire” replaced the small “Funni Nation” and began to stand on the island of Kalimantan and flourished for a while.

/ The civil war that led the wolves into the house directly led to the decline of the powerful Brunei empire. /

However, with the advent of the great maritime era, the newly rising Brunei empire, like other Southeast Asian countries, cannot escape the fate of being attacked. The discovery and opening of the waterway allowed more experienced colonial countries to focus on the Brunei Empire: in the 17th century, the Netherlands established bases in Malacca and Ceylon; in the 18th century, the British established the East India Company, which was almost radiant. The entire Southeast Asia region… To make matters worse, the internal unity of the Brunei empire has also begun to collapse. In order to gain the upper hand in the succession to the throne, members of the Brunei royal family will not hesitate to introduce colonists as foreign aid and provoke a civil war-a civil war that draws wolves into the house. Lead to the decline of the powerful Brunei empire.

On October 5, 2017, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah held a parade for the 50th anniversary of his ascension to the throne

In the internal and external troubles of the Brunei Empire, the old colonial countries such as Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom successively captured the Philippine Islands, the north and south of Kalimantan, Sarawak, and Labuan. The huge Brunei empire “shrank” in an instant.

After that, Brunei entered the period of British rule in 1888, not only losing its huge territory, but also completely losing its sovereignty, falling into a cycle of colonization, war, and recolonization. It was not until 1984 that Brunei regained its sovereignty, and only a small piece of land and population.

Rich paradise
The wealth of ancient Brunei originated not only from the “primitive accumulation” brought about by natural gifts, but also from the “fishermen’s profit” in the infighting of the once prosperous Malacca dynasty.

In the 15th century, the Malacca dynasty plunged into chaos due to the corruption of the royal family. A large number of businessmen who lived by the Malacca dynasty were forced to flee under the turbulent situation. Brunei, which is also a transportation hub and a superior geographical location, became the unique goal of these businessmen. Ground. Merchants brought wealth, trade opportunities and precious shipping routes, giving Brunei the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of many “giants” to develop trade and accumulate wealth.

In modern times, with the transformation of wars and disputes and wealth accumulation methods, the capital brought by businessmen has disappeared. However, at the beginning of the 20th century, huge and high-quality oil and natural gas reserves were discovered along the coast of Brunei. These precious non-renewable resources have become the artery of Brunei’s continued development. The flowing “black blood” brings new opportunities.

On March 31, 19, in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, a newlywed couple took a photo near the mosque

Today, Brunei has embarked on a path that relies on resource extraction to maintain and develop its national economy. As the second largest oil producer in Southeast Asia and the fourth largest natural gas exporter in the world, the wealth gained from mining and exporting non-renewable resources can sometimes account for more than 70% of Brunei’s annual GDP.

Street view of Kampong Air Water Village in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Under the huge income brought by resources, the luxury of the royal family and the nobles needless to say. The news items such as “Royal Wedding” and “Royal Wealth” are even more luxurious. The life of ordinary people is also rich enough. Brunei’s welfare policy is second to none in the world, ranging from taxation to people’s livelihood protection, and strive to let the people share the wealth brought by resources.

Brunei is almost a “tax-free” country. The personal income tax, export tax, sales tax and other taxes that we are familiar with do not exist in Brunei; even the income tax, stamp duty, and oil tax of some large companies are symbolic. By reducing taxes, the wealth of individual citizens will have more accumulation.

In addition to taxation, Brunei also fully protects the welfare system. In terms of national education, basic national education for 11 years in elementary and middle schools is free; in terms of medical care, Brunei pursues the “one-yuan medical system”, that is, only 1 Brunei dollar is charged for any disease. The level of domestic medical development in Brunei is limited. If there are intractable diseases or major diseases, Brunei citizens can apply for subsidies and seek medical treatment overseas. In addition to ordinary medical expenses, the government even pays for round-trip air tickets and living expenses including three relatives.

In daily life, Brunei allocates a large number of public rental housing and only collects a nominal amount of rent. These public rental houses are almost all single-family villas. Brunei’s car ownership also reflects the wealth of this pocket-sized country on the side of “traveling”: Brunei, with a population of about 400,000, has more than 300,000 cars, and almost every adult who can drive has at least a car. The king of Brunei owns a Boeing 747 passenger plane, more than 20 private jets, and more than 7,000 luxury cars. He is also the person who owns the most Rolls Royce in the world.

/ Brunei pursues a “one-yuan medical system”, that is, only 1 Brunei dollar is charged for any disease. /

Lost new road
When basic life is adequately guaranteed or even overflowing, when food, clothing, housing, transportation and even business operations no longer need care, people’s ultimate attention will be focused on the pursuit of the spiritual world-at this point, Brunei is no longer a paradise.

Brunei is currently one of the few countries in the world that still strictly enforces the Islamic Criminal Law. This ancient law, which was born out of the “Quran”, imposes strong restrictions on the daily behavior and lifestyle of residents in the country, including tourists, is old, and the punishment is harsh. Some of the regulations on daily life can almost be regarded as barbaric.

Women in Kampong Air Water Village

For example, for acts of adultery and homosexuality, cruel caning, corporal punishment, and stoning must be carried out. As long as there is no marriage certificate between a man and a woman, all sexual acts are considered adultery. Therefore, unmarried men and women who live in the same room in Brunei, kiss in a public place, or wear revealing clothing or cross-dressing, etc., will face fines and imprisonment.

Brunei is a total ban on smoking and alcohol prohibition, and even alcohol-containing beverages are hard to find. If you are a tourist, you can bring up to 2 liters of alcohol into the country, but you can only drink it in private environments such as hotel rooms. If you drink in public places, you will also be punished severely. In addition, Brunei is also one of the countries that has eliminated “foreign festivals” most thoroughly. If you celebrate Christmas in Brunei, or do any behavior that reminds people of Christmas, you will face at least 5 years. Imprisonment.

The political system of Brunei is equally old and criticized. The Sultan of the monarch is “dominant”. If you look at the preparations and celebrations that must be completed by various strata of society in Brunei on the birthday of the Sultan, you will find that the surrender of the monarch here can be described as the culmination. This also makes people wonder, in such a country that depends on resources for survival, although everyone looks prosperous, is the allocation of resources reasonable?

In addition to the shackles of thought, the more serious problem facing Brunei people has always been the “resource curse”: As a completely resource-dependent country, what should we do when the oil and natural gas resources are exhausted?

In order to cope with the possible depletion of oil and gas resources in the future, Brunei began to invest overseas in the 1980s. The investment amount was as high as 30 billion U.S. dollars and the annual income reached 3 billion U.S. dollars. With continuous overseas investment, the scale of the wealth fund in the name of Brunei’s national sovereignty is now close to US$50 billion. Even if oil production and natural gas extraction are now stopped, Brunei’s accumulated wealth can be sustained for another 20 to 30 years.

But the “Sword of Damocles” of resources is always hanging high.

In 2014, due to the nearly 50% drop in international oil prices, Brunei’s resource-dependent economy suffered a huge impact. In the following three years, Brunei’s GDP has shown negative growth, foreign trade has shrunk sharply, fiscal revenue has plummeted, and deficits have been serious. Since 2018, with the fluctuation of international oil prices and the emergence of various alternative clean energy sources, Brunei’s domestic oil market has fallen in volume and prices, and the economic aggregate has declined year after year. Brunei has begun to propose “economic diversification” and “strengthening the financial industry.” Wait for new development direction.

In the future, can Brunei break through the double shackles of religion and resources, find a new path of development, and reach new heights in this small land?