Singapore and Brunei issue joint banknote

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

That Singapore and Brunei are today marking 40 years of currency interchangeability with a special banknote might come as a shock to some.

And it's not the part about the special banknote, it's that the two small southeast Asian countries have had interchangeable currencies for 40 years.

Singaporean Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong admits that not a lot of Singaporeans know about it, and that currency from Brunei is routinely refused by Singaporean retailers.

File:Brunei 2006 circulating coins.jpg
Coins circulating in Brunei as of 2006. The currency is interchangeable with Singapore's.
Location of Brunei.

"They are not used to seeing Bruneian currency," Goh said at a press conference yesterday in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei. He added that he sees the need to educate Singaporean retailers "again and again" on the matter.

Maybe, said Goh, if more money from the tiny, oil-rich sultanate on Borneo was spent in the island republic of Singapore, there would be change.

"If Bruneians spend a lot of money in Singapore, and you have millions of Brunei dollars floating around, there'll be no problem. So the retailers see the currency, they are not familiar with it," Goh said.

"So from time to time, we have to tell the retailers that there is an interchangeable agreement with Brunei and the currency must be accepted," Goh continued.

The 40th anniversary banknote will be an important tool in educating Singaporeans about current interchangeability, Goh said.

"It is a way to tell Singaporeans and also Bruneians that we have these interchangeable currencies... If the currency is not accepted just tell the retailer and explain to them that there is no problem, that they are acceptable to banks," Goh said.

However, while the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Brunei Currency and Monetary Board will issue the notes into general circulation, it will be a limited issue.

"I think it will become a collectors' item," Goh said. "Because it's the first time we are doing this in 40 years, I think collectors would not circulate them. But it is meant for circulation and can be used like any currency note," he said.

The front of commemorative note has scenes from both Brunei and Singapore, while the reverse bears Singapore's coat of arms and the face of Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei. Goh said he thought the design is "very attractive."

The two countries have maintained currency interchangeability since 1967, when the Singapore dollar and the Brunei dollar replaced the Malaya and British Borneo dollar as legal tender in those countries.

Goh was in Brunei to attend yesterday's royal banquet, put on by the Sultan of Brunei, on the occasion of the sultan's daughter's wedding.

Princess Majeedah Nuurul Bulqiah, 31, 11th daughter of the sultan, and Khairul Khalil, 32, exchanged their vows last Thursday, and were presented to the public on Sunday in a lavish, two-week ceremony steeped in Brunei royal and Muslim tradition.

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