No Longer ‘Ali-Baba’ But ‘Ali Chandran’ Businesses in Brunei Darussalam: An Exploration

Main Article Content

Li Li Pang


The issue of ‘Ali Baba’ businesses, specifically in the retail sector, has been long debated in Brunei Darussalam, socially and recently in the legislature. The definition of ‘Ali Baba’ business in Brunei Darussalam refers to expatriates use of citizens’ licence to conduct a business in the country. Although such practices are well-known and widely written in Malaysia and to a lesser extent in Indonesia, there is scarce academic literature of the phenomenon in Brunei Darussalam. This paper is a preliminary attempt to fill in the literature gap and to find out the extent and characteristics of ‘Ali Baba’ businesses in Brunei Darussalam, specifically in the retail sector. Semi-structured interviews were used to obtain empirical data as well as from personal on-site observations in a small Mukim or sub-district in Brunei Darussalam. The preliminary findings of the research were profound. This paper argues that the term ‘Ali Baba’ businesses is no longer suitable to refer the retail sector in Brunei Darussalam, rather, it should be known as ‘Ali Chandran’ businesses, as the expatriate partner is now commonly from the Asian sub-continent.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
PANG, Li Li. No Longer ‘Ali-Baba’ But ‘Ali Chandran’ Businesses in Brunei Darussalam: An Exploration. Policy & Governance Review, [S.l.], v. 3, n. 2, p. 107-126, june 2019. ISSN 2580-4820. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 29 sep. 2020. doi:


Anwar, M. K., & Zaini, Z. (2007, February 10). Rise and rise of ‘Ali Baba’ Enterprise. Borneo Bulletin.

Anya, A. (2018, May 3). Indonesia, Brunei to make MOU on migrant workers. Retrieved December 9, 2018 from

Azney, A. (2018, December 6). PPK’s New Shop Assistant Programme to Train 242 Bruneians for Employment. Retrieved December, 20, 2018 from

Bakar, A. A. (2013, March 19). Globalisation, “Ali Baba’ Businesses seen as Threats” Strengthen Cooperatives, Gov’t Urged. The Brunei Times.

Bandial, A. (2018a, April 17). Bruneians Spent B$1.25B in Malaysia Last Year. Retrieved on December 18 from

Bandial, A. (2018b, March 24). High court order defendants to pay close to $1 million in Damages. Retrieved January 14, 2019 from

Bandial, A., Hamit, R., & Wasil, W. (2019, March 10). Gov’t Proposes $5.86 Bilion Budget, Focus on Stimulating Biz, Improving Public Infrastructure. Retrieved April 13, 2019 from

Beblawi H., & Luciani, G. (1987). The Rentier State. London: Croom Helm.

Bhuyan, M. O. U. (2018, August 8). Brunei Recession Begins to Hurt Workers From Bangladesh. Retrieved January 25, 2019

Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (2018). Researcher moots foresight approach to tackle unemployment. Retrieved on December 7, 2018 from

Chin, W. W., & Teh, C. G. (2015). Malaysia’s protracted affirmative action policy and the evolving Bumiputera commericial and industrial community. ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute Economics Working Paper, December 2015.

Chong, D. (2018, October 9). Malaysia praised, Singapore near bottom of pile in inequality index. Retrieved December 19, 2018 from

Cleary, M.C. (1996). Indigenous trade and European economic intervention in North-West Borneo c. 1860-1930. Modern Asian Studies, 30(2), 301-324.

Crouch, H. (2001). Managing ethnic tensions though affirmative action: The Malaysian Experience. In Colletta, Lim and Kelles-Viitanen (Eds.) Social Cohesion and Conflict Prevention in Asia: Managing Diversity though Development. Washington, USA: The World Bank.

Dzulkifly, D. (2018, August 17). Dr. M: NEP didn’t fail, Malays just didn’t use it fully. Retrieved December 18, 2018 from

Gita, R. A. (2016, October 17). OFWs hope for greater opportunities as Duterte Set to Visit Brunei. Retrieved December 1, 2018 from

Economic Planning Unit. (1971). Report on the census of population, 1971. The Government of Brunei Darussalam.

Economic Planning Unit (EPU, 1986). 5th National Development Plan. The Government of Brunei Darussalam.

Glassburner, B. (1962). Economic policy-making in Indonesia, 1950-57. Economic development and cultural change, X(2), 113-133.

Hansard (2016). Majilis mesyurat negara 9 Mac 2016 (Pagi). Retrieved December 8, 2018, from

Hansard. (2017). Majilis mesyurat negara 7th Mac 2017 (Pagi). Retrieved December 8, 2018, from

Hayat, H. (2017, May 20). Capital crunch plagues MSMEs. Retrieved December 9, 2018, from

Hayat, H. (2018, March 7). Overhaul LBD policy, urges LegCo Member. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from

Hazair, H. (2018, January 16). UBD survey: Bruneians spend between $100 - $500 per day in Miri. Retrieved December 8, 2018, from

Heeks, R. (1998). Small enterprise development and the ‘dutch disease’ in a small economy: The case of Brunei. Institute for Development Policy and Management Discussion Paper Series No. 54, April 1988. Manchester, United Kingdom. Retrieved

Heng, P. K. (1997). The New economic policy and the Chinese Community in Peninsular Malaysia. The Developing Economies, 53(5), 262-292.

High Commission of India in Brunei Darussalam. (2018). Indian community in Brunei. Retrieved December 18, 2018, from

Hj. Karim, H. A. R. (2011, November 30). Killing SMEs is Like Killing Entrepreneurs and Nation. Borneo Bulletin.

Hj Abu Bakar, R. (2019, June 9). Bi-monthly salary payout starts June 13. Retrieved April 13, 2019, from

Horton, A. V. M. (1986). Rajah Charles Brooke and Mining Concessions in Brunei 1888-1924. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 59(1), 49-72.

Jabatan Perancang dan Kemajuan Ekonomi ( JPKE, 2007). 9th National Development Plan (2007-2012). The
Government of Brunei Darussalam.

Jabatan Perancang dan Kemajuan Ekonomi (JPKE,2012). 10th National Development Plan( 2017-2012). The Government of Brunei Darussalam.

Jabatan Perancang dan Kemajuan Ekonomi (JPKE,2016). Economic Census of Enterprise. Retrieved December 1, 2018, from

Jabatan Perancang Kemajuan Ekonomi (JPKE, 2018a). Brunei Darussalam Key Indicators 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from cent20Documentsper cent20Library/DOS/BDKI/BDKI_2017.pdf

Jabatan Perancang Kemajuan Ekonomi (JPKE, 2018b). Labour Force Survey 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2018, from

Jabatan Perancang Kemajuan Ekonomi (JPKE, 2018c). Personal Correspondence with Department of Statistics, JPKE.

Jabatan Perancang Kemajuan Ekonomi (JPKE, 2019). Personal Correspondence with Department of Statistics, JPKE.

Jones, D. J. (2016). Combatting corruption in Brunei Darussalam. Asian Education and Development Studies, 5(2), 141-158.

Kon, J. (2018, April 18). Researcher moots foresight approach to tackle unemployment. Borneo Bulletin. Retrieved January 8, 2019, from

Kon, J. (2019, March 20). Drop in Foreign Workers. Borneo Bulletin. Retrieved March 14, 2019, from

Lim, J. S. (1986). The inter-relationship of technology, economy and social organisation in a fishing village in Brunei. Monograph of the Brunei Museum Journal, 6.

Lim, I. (2018, October 15). Feel that only the rich get richer in Malaysia? You may be right. Retrieved December 19, 2018, from

Lindblad, J. T. (2002). The importance of Indonesianisasi during the transition from the 1930s to the 1960s. Itinerario, European Journal of Overseas History, 26(3/4), 51-71.

Lindblad, J. T. (2008). Bridges to new business: The economic decolonization of Indonesia. Leiden, The Netherlands: KITVL Press (Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies).

Mani, A. (2008). A century of contributions by Indians in negara Brunei Darussalam. In Kesavapany, Mani and Ramasamy’s (Eds.), Rising India and Indian Communities in East Asia. Pasir Panjang, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS).

Malai Yusof, M. Y. (2018). Sejarah kedatangan masyarakat India dan penglibatan awal dalam sosio ekonomi Negara Brunei Darussalam. Journal Darussalam, 18, 68-87.

Masli, U. (2012, March 18). Gov’t to review business licence. The Brunei Times.

May, L. L., & Roslan, H. (2012, March 13). Concern over increase in number of Expat Workers raised in LegCo. The Brunei Times.

No, G. D. (2012, February 11). Contractors urged to stop bad practices. The Brunei Times.

Noor, N., & Leong, C. H. (2013). Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore: Contesting Models. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 37(6), 714-726.

Norjidi, D., & Eng, E. (2009, July 29). Locals Misues Rampaian Licences for ‘Easy Money’. Borneo Bulletin.

Othman, A. (2018a, October 27). New DPPMB head lists ways to boost business. Borneo Bulletin Weekend, Retrieved December 11, 2018, from

Othman, A. (2018b, January 13). Twice-a-month salary payment from today. Broneo Bulletin. Retrieved April 13, 2019 from

Othman, A. (2019, March 15). Call to Revitalise Kg, Ayer, Monitor illegal activities at Vacant Houses. Borneo Bulletin, 8.

Pang, L. L. (2015, November 21). Minority participation in an Islamic Negara. Paper Presented at The 1st Islamic
Governance Symposium in Brunei, Brunei Darussalam.

Pang, L. L. (2018). The Tuai Rumah in Brunei Darussalam: Continuity and Challenges. Journal of Borneo-Kalimantan, 4(2), 1-14.

Png (1969). The straits chinese in Singapore: A case of local identity and socio-cultural accommodation. Journal of Southeast Asia History, 10(1), 95-114.

Sarawak Government (2019). Visitor arrivals into Sarawak 2018. Retrieved February 19, 2019, from

Shome, A., & Hamidon, S. (2009). The contradiction of entrepreneurship though affirmative action: The case of Malaysia. The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies, 27(1), 38-66.

Siddique, S., & Suryadinata, L. (1982). Bumiputra and pribumi: Economic nationalism (Indiginism) in Malaysia and Indonesia. Pacific Affairs, 54(4), 662-687

Suryadinata, L. (1976). Indonesian policies towards the Chinese minority under the new order. Asian Survey, 16(8), 770-787.

Tan, C. B, (2004). Chinese overseas: Comparative cultural issues. Aberdeen, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

The Economist. (2014). What dutch disease is, and why it’s bad. Retrieved December 18, 2018 from

The Malay Mail (2018, September 1). Dr M on Two-Day Official Visit to Brunei. Retrieved on December 19, 2018, from

Thien, R. (2011). Energy minister to BSJV vendor forum: Where are the locals?. The Brunei Times.

Thien, R. (2012, October 29). Waring against misuse of licences: Don’t be passive partners, Bruneians told. The Brunei Times.

Thuy, P. (2015). The constraints of economic nationalism in early independent Indonesia, 1945-60. In Schrikken and Touwen’s (Eds.), Promises and Predicaments: Trade and Entrepreneurship in Colonial and Independent Indonesia in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press (NUS Press).

Utrecht, E. (1984). The muslim merchant class in the Indonesian social and political struggles. social Compass, #1(1), 27-55.

Van De Kerkhof. (2005). Indonesianisasi of Dutch economic interests, 1930-1960: The case of internatio. Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia, 161(2), 181-208.

Wasil, W. (2018, October 19). Anxiety looms over lack of employment opportunities for graduates. Retrieved December 19, 2018, from

Wie, T. K. (2009). Indonesianization: Economic aspects of decolonization in Indonesia in the 1950s. In Lindblad and Post’s (Eds.), Indonesian economic decolonization in regional and international perspective. Leiden, The Netherlands: KITLV Press.

Wong, A. (2018, July 31). Brunei Records 2.5per cent GDP Growth in Q1 2018. Retrieved on Janaury 19, 2019, from

Yin, R. K. (2017). Case study research and applications (6th Edition): Design and Methods. California, USA: Sage