Brunei Darussalam - Foreign investment

In July 1983, the sultanate withdrew its investment portfolio of more than B $3 billion (about half of total investment) from agents of the British crown, who traditionally had handled investment banking for Brunei. The Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) was established in its place, charged with managing a substantial portfolio of assets invested around the world. The Sultan's younger brother, Prince Jefri, who was also finance minister, was head of the BIA, and he set up a conglomerate, Amedeo Development Corporation, to serve as a corporate umbrella for all non-petroleum sector investments. However, in the midst of the Asian financial crisis it in 1997 and 1998, Amedeo collapsed into bankruptcy, to the shock of most observers, including the Sultan who found out when he was forced to withdraw offers of aid he had made to other countries to help them through the crisis. It was subsequently revealed that as much as $28 billion of public investment funds had been misallocated and lost. Over 200 creditors brought suits, and charges were brought against Prince Jefri, who was removed from his offices and went into exile in London, and 71 others, including Prince Jefri's son, Prince Hakeem, who was suspected of having received over $1 billion. The Amedeo scandal shut off most foreign investment in Brunei in 1999 and 2000. In 2000, in a bid to become an offshore international banking center, the government established the Brunei International Financial Center, but it was not under August 2002 that the first international bank, the Royal Bank of Canada, registered under this legislation. A report issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2001 ranked Brunei 128th out of 140 countries surveyed in terms of attractiveness to outside investors, measured as the size of foreign investments relative to the size of the economy (apparently not counting, however, Brunei's 50–50 joint venture arrangement with Royal Dutch/Shell in the country's near monopolistic oil company, Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP), as involving foreign investment). By 2001, however, the government had reached some closure with the Amedeo matter and had taken some determined steps to make Brunei a more attractive environment for outside investment.

In January 2001, the Sultan issued two decrees, Investment Incentive Order 2001 and Income Tax (As Amended) Order 2001, that contained reforms designed to attract business. The first made application for tax incentives simpler for corporations, and the second broadened the tax incentives. Also in January 2001, the government took two steps that laid the basis for opening the oil and gas sector to increased foreign participation. First, it announced the creation of a new wholly government-owned national oil company, Brunei National Petroleum Company Sendirian Berhad (Petroleum BRUNEI), which would have dual functions as a regulatory agency and a commercial entity. Second, it announced that its mode of operation in the oil and gas sector would henceforth be though Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) in place of the former concession system. Both steps pointed to greater opportunities for foreign oil countries, particularly given that two of Royal Dutch Shell's concessions are set to expire in 2003.

In late 2001, the government added $1 billion to investment funds available for projects under its eighth National Development Plan. In 2002, earnings from Brunei's investments abroad for the first time exceeded its earnings from exports from its oil and gas sector. In 2002, the first exploration rights in deep-sea parcels in Brunei's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were awarded under the PSC regime.

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May 4, 2007 @ 5:05 am
asalam alikum
nice and informative article about Brunei

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