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BRUNEI/ECONOMY/OUTLOOK Citizens urged to brace for future


February 22, 2008

Citizens urged to brace for future beyond oil reliance

The government of oil-dependent Brunei wants its citizens to change their lifestyles and prepare for a future when their oil and gas reserves are exhausted.

"It isn't a question about choice or option — rather it is a question of survival," Associated Press quoted Brunei's Minister of Energy Awang Yahya as saying in a speech Wednesday to business leaders in Singapore.

Yahya stressed that oil and gas were not merely an energy source for the tiny sultanate on Borneo island, but the origin of everything from export earnings and employment to government revenue and investment opportunities.

The petroleum sector contributes 94 percent of Brunei's state revenue, 96 percent of its exports, 74 percent of investments and 69 percent of its gross domestic product, Yahya said.

"Every hydrocarbon molecule matters," Yahya said. "We cannot allow utilization of these resources that doesn't bring maximum return or benefits, and wasteful consumption of these resources must not be permitted at all."

Brunei's oil and gas resources have long made it one of Asia's richest economies. Experts have estimated the country's oil reserves should last another 25 years, while its gas reserves are predicted to be enough for 40 years.

Yahya said the government practices conservation policies that cap oil production to 200,000 barrels a day, but added that people need to envision a "sustainable future beyond oil and gas."

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