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    Brunei marches ahead in e-governance, education

    |    Danial Norjidi     |

    BRUNEI Darussalam was included in the findings of a number of studies released towards the end of last year.

    One such study was the United Nations e-Government Survey 2018, in which Brunei rose 24 places to rank 59th among 193 countries.

    As was reported on December 24, 2018 the country scored high in the Online Service Index (OSI) and high e—Participation Index (EPI), improving from 0.50 to 0.75 points.

    Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Brunei Darussalam was ranked fifth after Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

    The Sultanate came in 83rd in the e-Government Development Index (EGDI) in 2016 with a score of 0.529. In 2018, the nation’s EGDI jumped to 0.6923.

    The EGDI 2018 is divided into four subgroups: Very-High, High, Middle and Low. In this year’s edition, 40 countries scored ‘Very-High’, with EGDI values in the range of 0.75 to one.

    The EGDI is a weighted average of normalised scores on the three most important dimensions of e-government: the Online Service Index (OSI), the Telecommunication Infrastructure Index (TII), and the Human Capital Index (HCI). The OSI plays a main role in improving the EGDI.

    Another study was the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Gender Gap Index 2018, according to which Brunei’s women’s labour force participation has narrowed down its gender gaps.

    The Global Gender Gap Index 2018 ranks 149 countries on health, education, economic and political indicators, including wage equality, educational attainment and representation in national government.

    As was reported on December 23, the WEF announced that the country placed 12th in Asia in gender equality rating, while globally it ranked 90th, up by 12 spots from the previous year.

    The country’s reputation in education enrolment also showed a marked improvement with the Sultanate earning top marks being placed first in secondary and tertiary education enrolment. In the health and survival indicator, Brunei also ranked first in sex ratio at birth.

    The Sultanate also showed improvements by being placed 16th in economic participation and opportunity with increased wage equality. It also recorded a high score at 19th place in other indicators including professionals like legislators, senior officials and managers.

    Brunei Darussalam’s education attainment received recognition from a recent global survey called the Sustainable Trade Index 2018, which was released by the Hinrich Foundation.

    According to the study, under the social pillar, educational attainment is one of the best performing indicators in the index, where the Sultanate is one of the countries recording marked improvements.

    The Sultanate has seen a 2.83 per cent increase in the attainment of A-C grades passes across all five subjects in this year’s Primary School Assessment (PSR) results, compared to 2017 (73.58 per cent versus 70.75 per cent).

    The index seeks to measure the capacity of 20 economies – 19 in Asia along with the US – to participate in the international trading system in a manner that supports the long-term domestic and global goals of economic growth, environmental protection and strengthened social capital.

    The index includes 24 indicators, grouped in economic, social and environmental pillars, that together measure whether a country is engaged in sustainable trade.

    On the whole, Brunei Darussalam ranked 15th out of 20 economies in the index, including the US, while Brunei also ranked sixth in terms of gross domestic product (GDP).

    Meanwhile, as was reported on December 7, 2018, financial advisory firm Arton Capital’s passport index found Brunei to have the world’ 18th most powerful passport, showing an increase of four places from its previous ranking.

    The study is released every year and focuses on the strength of the world’s passports based on the number of countries that citizens can travel to without having to apply for a visa.

    Another notable recent study was the Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Report 2018, which showed that Brunei Darussalam remains in the top 10 best performing Islamic finance markets out of 131 countries.

    As was reported on December 1, 2018, the study takes into account data accumulated in 2017, and revealed that Brunei’s score in the Islamic Finance Development Indicator (IFDI) increased from 47 to 50 – thus ranking the country ninth this year and second in ASEAN after Malaysia.

    The IFDI provides rankings and profiles for different Islamic finance markets around the world based on five broad areas of development as main indicators. These include Quantitative Development (Islamic Banking, Takaful, other Islamic Financial Institutions, Sukuk and Islamic Funds); Knowledge (Education and Research), Governance (Regulations, Syariah Governance and Corporate Governance); Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR Activities and CSR Funds Disbursal); and Awareness (Seminar, News and Conferences).

    Brunei attained the top 10 position in the Seminars and Conferences Sub-Indicators under the Awareness indicator, rising from sixth to third place for Seminars and second place for Conferences – ranking the country in the top five countries for Islamic Finance Events in 2017.

    The report also indicated Brunei as one of the countries with a strong regulatory landscape where governance is assessed through regulations, corporate governance, and Syariah governance.

    In addition, the report noted that growth for total assets was also recorded in Brunei’s financial sector. In the banking sector, Islamic banking asset increased from BND10.9 billion in 2016 to BND11.2 billion in 2017, accounting for 64 per cent of the total market share of assets. Takaful asset size rose from BND466.8 million in 2016 to BND491.8 million in 2017.

    It was also shared that capital market asset size increased from BND52.2 million in 2016 to BND102.5 million in 2017.

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