Legal Market Overview
According to recent World Bank annual ratings, Brunei is ranked 55 out of 190 economies in terms of the ease of doing business. The government is keen to promote the development of sector expertise in various areas such as technology and the creative industries in addition to tourism and business services. The government is also keen to promote public-private partnerships, as well as further upgrade its road network and public transport system.
This Islamic-majority nation is eager to utilise its abundant natural resources and its favourable access to the Southeast Asian Markets through the continued development and production of oil and natural gas, which support the country’s major industries and results in its people enjoying one of the world’s highest standards of living. Brunei is an open economy that welcomes foreign investment so there are plenty of opportunities for lucrative investment.
The nation has a mixed legal system based on English common law and Islamic sharia law, the latter supersedes the common law in family and property law. In early 2019, the country introduced a sharia penal code which includes severe new punishments, such as death by stoning for adultery and gay sex. Following international condemnation, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah extended a moratorium on the death penalty to cover the new law, although the punishments remain on the statute books.
There are some excellent local law firms advising on a wide range of legal issues, while international firms Eversheds HEP Brunei and Herbert Smith Freehills LLP have established a strong foothold in the country.