Despite its reputation as a rich country, Brunei has suffered a bit in recent years. The government has been forced to recognise a small but increasing unemployment rate and disaffected youths have been held responsible for the isolated incidents of crime, none more so than the sultan’s younger brother, Prince Jefri. Jefri’s extravagance in both his private life and, more seriously, as the country’s financial minister bred scandals and loud rumours of corruption, forcing the sultan to sack his brother in 1997. By that stage, Brunei’s reputation was damaged and its financial reserves severely depleted.
Despite this, Brunei still continues to enjoy a high standard of living. The average life expectancy is 77 years and there are pensions for free medical care, schooling, sport and leisure, subsidies for purchases, short working weeks, and no income tax. With new economic diversification and deep-sea exploration for oil beginning to take off, Brunei aims to keep itself completely financially independent.