BANDAR Seri Begawan is marked as top visiting spot for Asean leaders this year. As chair of Asean, Brunei's doors have seen a continuous flow of government officials and politicians from nine other Asean countries as well as dialogue partners.
The meetings, which started with the regional tourism ministers in January, will culminate in the East Asia Summit when the who's who of the global economic giants will meet. About the same time, the first Asean-US leaders meeting will also be held.
The string of meetings, with the most recent being the Asean economic ministers meeting and the Asean defence ministers meeting, are all crucial as the vibrant region fends off discordant notes in the shaping of one of the biggest econo-mic blocs and maritime disputes which have been stirring tensions.
Added to that is the much-talked about Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement's 19th round of negotiations, which was hosted by Bandar Seri Begawan in August, attracting the large interest of Japa-nese government officials.
With so much on its calendar of events this year, it is a wonder how Bandar Seri Begawan has been able to cope with the public transportation needs when thousands of foreign visitors turn up.
Oil dependent Brunei, like Malaysia, is concerned with the depleting hydrocarbon resources, which account for over 90 per cent of its exports and more than 50 per cent of its GDP.
Like Malaysia, it is also looking beyond oil and gas (it is the ninth largest exporter of LNG in the world) to maintain or increase the government's coffers.
For one of the smallest sovereign states in the world, which imports 80 per cent of the foodstuff, broadening the market access also means enhancing capital and encouraging transfer of technology, expertise and innovation. In short, it would increase economic activity in the Sultanate.
Its existing investment incentives enable prospective investors to enjoy a wide range of incentives including up to a possible 20 years exemption from corporate tax, exemption from import duties taxes on raw material, machinery, equipment, component parts, accessories or building structures and adjustment of capital allowance and losses.
Brunei, as one of the original members of the P4, or Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership in 2005 before it evolved into the TPP, chose the path to not only gain market access but for others to use it as a base.
Like the other 11 countries, including Malaysia, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, the veteran foreign affairs and trade II minister, says it fitted well with Brunei Vision 2035 efforts, which open up bigger and better opportunities for locals by way of jobs and standard of living.