Brunei is a one-off exception within ASEAN. It’s a small but very wealthy state which, blessed with huge oil and gas resources, doesn’t need to try too hard to attract FDI or even compete regionally to support its tiny population of less than 0.5m. The long-ruling, autocratic Sultan’s reign has been benign although citizens and observers alike have looked askance at his embrace of strict Sunni Islam in the latter years of his rule. The Brunei Investment Agency’s sovereign wealth fund is genuinely large but something of a “black box”. None of which much worries the country’s citizens who typically receive generous government salaries, pay no income tax and benefit from excellent free education and health care. “Don’t worry, be happy” in Brunei.
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