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And the Winner is...

Cover Story
Making Cities Work
What Makes Good Governance?

Asia's Best Cities
The Top Ten
The Complete Rankings

The Rankings Explained

Hong Kong vs. Singapore
The Competition Heats Up
A Comparison
Different Lifestyles

A devil of a job in the City of Angels

Bandar Seri Begawan
Sultan's Pride

overall rank: 8

country: Brunei

population: 50,000

snapshot: The City at a Glance

What do you get with a small population and a big budget? A very pleasant little city. Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei, has a population of just 50,000 and a municipal board budget of $12 million this year, with more cash available from the Treasury when needed. Petroleum prices may have plummeted and the oil-rich sultanate on the northern coast of Borneo may be facing an unprecedented liquidity crunch, but so far any financial squeeze is not showing up in the landscaping or street cleaning.

The municipal board's mandate to make Bandar Seri Begawan the most pleasing capital in the region comes straight from Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who wants his subjects and visitors to feel proud of the city. Landscaping takes up almost 10% of the budget. With Brunei boasting one of the world's highest per capita income levels and the attendant high percentage of car ownership, streets are another priority for the city, so 10% goes to maintaining and cleaning roads and drains. "There's no doubt they have far better city roads than their neighboring states," says journalist Seman Endawie. Traffic congestion is limited to peak hours, and with an almost-complete phase-out of leaded fuel, there is good air quality.

Municipal services, including garbage collection, are practically free. This is, after all, a nation that levies no income tax. There is a small charge on households and businesses outside the municipal board's area of jurisdiction. An ongoing campaign gets householders to sweep their neighborhoods and keep them clean. Littering carries a fine. Problems do crop up - the newspapers carry letters complaining of choked drains and overgrown grass verges, but the government says it is on top on things. "We respond to them quickly by investigating and taking action," says municipal board secretary Awang Mohammad Ramli. "Our instruction is for the board to be proactive and service-oriented." Businessman Michael Kong mostly agrees: "The services are generally very well run, although they could be better in some areas."

- By S.C. Chan

Snapshot: The City at a glance

City AverageRank
Overall Score63528
Average Income US$14,4008,7639
State Educational Spending Per Cap/$649.41200.224
a Ratio of House Price to Income9.62413
Hospital Beds per 1,0003.2621
Dust/Suspended Particles(ug/m3)<20(f)240.73(-)
Vehicles per KM City Roads71224.628
Criminal Cases per 10,000798130
TV Sets per 1,000623241.691

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a = Average house price divided by average annual income.
b = Household income.
c = Based on household income.
d = Officially, land cannot be bought or sold.
e = National figure.
f = U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Pollutants Standards Index.
g = Air Pollutant Index.
h = Per 100 families
i = Per 1,000 families
j = Per 75,000 people.
k = National figure, TV sets per 1,000 people.
m = % of households with TV sets.
n = Measured in Parts per Million (ppm).
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