Legal market overview in Brunei

Having taken a double hit to its economy due to Covid-19 and the ensuing slump in worldwide oil prices, Brunei’s economy looks to regain its momentum through the resumption of tourism, trade, and domestic development projects.With some of the highest per capita GDP in the world, Brunei’s economy is pillared on its production of fossil fuels, with crude oil and natural gas accounting for roughly 95% of its exports. The small, energy-rich sultanate looks to follow the example of Saudi Arabia and diversify its economy to complement fossil fuels as main agent of growth. The government hopes to kickstart this diversification by encouraging both domestic and foreign investment in the technology, banking and finance, telecoms, and real estate sectors. The “Brunei Vision 2035” initiative by the Economic Development Board seeks to showcase the country’s high education rates, quality of life and “dynamic and sustainable economy”. Foreign investors continue to be attracted to Brunei, due to its natural resources, stable governance, and tax incentives. Though traditionally Japan, Singapore and the Philippines have been Brunei’s largest trading partners, China has been increasing its foreign direct investment in the market and looks set to continue this trend to achieve its strategic goals in the region.Firms must cater a niche legal system incorporating both English common law and Sharia law, the latter superseding in certain key areas. This need for specialisation is central to the operations of both domestic and international firms. International and regional firms Ashurst LLP and HEP Law compete with Brunei’s leading domestic firm Abrahams, Davidson & Co for the lion’s share of high-value work, with Shearman & Sterling LLP set to move into the jurisdiction in the near future.

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