According to countryaah, Brunei gained independence under extremely favorable circumstances, considering that it is a third-world country: a relatively small population; one income per population of approx. $ 20,000 annually; a modest unemployment; a generous social system and a considerable reserve of foreign capital: $ 14,000 million in 1984.
The main causes of conflicts from that point on became the internal power struggles in the royal family and the presence of foreigners on all key posts in the public sector, in the economy and in the army.
The main internal problems were the lack of basic education and the conditions for the country’s minority groups, especially the Chinese. Even with refined legislation providing financial aid for transportation and food for students, illiteracy continued to rise – an estimated 45% of the population was illiterate in 1982 – and significantly weakened the opportunities for national participation in local administration.
On the other hand, the Sultan, who was prepared to economically depend on a volatile natural resource such as oil, sought to make production less one-sided and promoted the formation of a new class of landowners who were encouraged to seek self-sufficiency in the food field; Brunei imported almost 80% of its food. Only about 10% of the country’s total land was cultivated and there was a widespread tendency for the smaller landowners, especially rubber farmers, to move to the larger cities.
Brunei has become financially dependent on a complex of multinational corporations. The company Brunei established with Brunei Shell Petroleum and Mitsubishi to extract natural gas deposits, plus the shipping agreement entered into with Royal Dutsch Shell, as well as the oil extraction concessions issued to Woods Petroleum and Sunray Borneo, led to national decision-making processes came an element of powerful foreign interference.
In March 1985, the government formed an Energy Control Board to oversee and control the activities of the semi-state, semi-multinational Brunei Shell Petroleum Co..
Brunei’s accession to ASEAN and, as UN member 159, in 1984, provided international support for the new nation.
The Sultan’s Palace Istana Nurul Iman was completed in 1984. It had cost 1.5 billion. US $ to build, had 1,800 rooms, including a banquet hall where 5,000 could be eaten and covered an area of 200,000m 2.
20% of the Sultanate’s inhabitants live below the $ 500 monthly subsistence minimum. 90% of all consumer goods, including food, are imported and therefore the cost of living is quite high.
In early 1987, it was reported that the Nicaraguan counter-movement had received $ 10 million in financial assistance as a donation from the Sultan of Brunei. It was a response to an inquiry by U.S. Colonel Oliver North about illegal support for the contras, and the amount had been transferred to a bank account in Switzerland.