BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced its $123.1 million budget plans for the 2023/24 fiscal year on Saturday.

The proposed budget – 3.1% lower than last year’s – allocates $44.3million (36%) towards salaries for local and overseas staff, $68.4million (55.6%) for recurring expenses, and $10.3 million (8.4%) for development plans.

“Despite the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic, global uncertainty continues to pose challenges to political and international security,” said second minister of foreign affairs, Dato Erywan Yusof.

He added that regional competition between major powers has challenged the international rules-based order, and that the ripple effect of ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has prompted a global spike in food and energy prices.

In his budget readout at the Legislative Council, the minister said MFA prioritises creating “dynamic and effective” diplomatic relationships in line with Brunei’s strategic objectives.

The sultanate will continue to work closely with other countries to advance our mutual interests and support the rules-based system, he said.

Brunei has established diplomatic relations with 172 countries and has 43 diplomatic missions abroad.

“To further strengthen our relationships with other countries, MFA has held strategic dialogue sessions or consultative mechanisms with countries such as Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Japan, Australia, the UK, UAE, Oman, Iran and India last year. This effort will continue in the coming years,” Dato Erywan said.

Bilateral cooperation has also helped build capacity among government officials through exchange visits, knowledge and expertise exchange.

“These engagements enable the ministry to plan and establish more structured cooperation in areas such as economy, trade, education and defence,” he added.

Dato Erywan said MFA remains committed to strengthening its relationships with organisations such as ASEAN, the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Commonwealth.

“Through its involvement in ASEAN, Brunei has been able to play a vital role in regional and international issues such as trade, geopolitics, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which would have been difficult to handle alone.”

He added that ministry is offering 20 tertiary scholarships to foreign students to study in Brunei, saying these programmes helped build understanding and goodwill between students of different backgrounds.