Brunei retains 19th spot in Asia Power Index

Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam maintained its ranking at 19th place out of 26 nations, in the Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index for this year.

According to the global think tank, Brunei had the biggest gains in diplomatic influence (+0.8) in 2020, but lost the most points in defence networks (-0.5). Elsewhere, it improved in resilience (+0.3) and future resources (+0.2), while trending down in economic relationships (-0.4), cultural influence (-0.3) and economic capability (-0.1). The score for military capability was unchanged this year.

“Brunei is a minor power in Asia. Its overall score has remained unchanged over the past year,” it said in its overview of Brunei.

“Brunei performs best in the resilience measure, where it places 15th. This reflects its internal stability and favourable, but declining energy trade balance. In 2020, Brunei saw its greatest improvement in its future resources, where it moved up three places. However, it has also slipped by two places in the diplomatic influence measure relative to 2019.

“Brunei exerts less influence in the region than expected given its available resources, as indicated by the country’s negative power gap score. While Brunei is a net underachiever in Asia, its negative power gap improved in 2020.”

The Lowy Institute’s 2020 Asia Power Index ranks 26 countries in the Indo-Pacific, including the United States (US), through 128 indicators across eight thematic measures. These include economic capability, military spending, resilience and future resources as well as cultural and diplomatic influence.

According to the study, around half of the data points involve original Lowy Institute research, while the remaining is collected from publicly available national and international sources.

While the US is still the most powerful country in the region, it has gone from a 10 point lead over China two years ago to five points in 2020, scoring a rating of 81.6.

“Despite its continuing pre-eminence, US standing has waned in all but one of the eight Index measures,” the report said. Japan and India came in third and fourth.

The Lowy Institute’s annual Asia Power Index, launched in 2018, ranks the relative power of states in Asia by measuring their economic, political and diplomatic influence. The project records “the existing distribution of power as it stands today, and tracks shifts in the balance of power over time”.

The 2020 edition, which covers three years of data, is the most comprehensive assessment of the changing distribution of power in Asia so far. Among other things, it aims to sharpen the debate on the geopolitical consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project evaluates international power in Asia through 128 indicators across eight thematic measures: military capability and defence networks, economic capability and relationships, diplomatic and cultural influence, as well as resilience and future resources.

Over half of their data points involve original Lowy Institute research, while the rest are aggregated from hundreds of publicly available national and international sources.

This year, the Index includes three new indicators that track major ecological threats, bilateral and plurilateral defence dialogues, and perceptions of the international and domestic handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Papua New Guinea, a Pacific country on the geographical continuum of Southeast Asia, has also been included for the first time.