Whole-of-Nation Approach in COVID-19 Management: The Case of Brunei Darussalam

Whole-of-Nation Approach in COVID-19 Management: The Case of Brunei Darussalam

Abdul Malik Omar (University Brunei Darussalam, Brunei) and Amanina Halim (Independent Researcher, Brunei)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6948-1.ch003
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Abstract

The emergence of COVID-19 has swept the globe by storm, taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and infecting millions worldwide. As the virus continues to spread, governments have pursued strategies and action plans, with some achieving notable successes, while others fail miserably. This research focuses on how the Brunei government has become an outlier in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, this chapter provides substantive content useful for policymakers and experts to learn from the Brunei experience in pandemic management through a whole-of-nation framework, effectively contributing to both theory and practice in public policy and governance. The research on Brunei further gives credence on the need for governments to administer participation among the private sector and society to tackle grand challenges of the 21st century, particularly in preparation for the ‘Great Reset' amid post-COVID-19. Policy recommendations have been presented.
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Introduction

COVID-19 is a highly transmittable and pathogenic viral infection caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sheeren et al., 2020) with an estimated fatality rate of 2%, as reported on the 29th January 2020 (WHO, 2020). The virus emerged from Wuhan and spread to Chinese cities and abroad around 6th October and 11th December 2019 (van Dorp et al., 2020). On 30th January 2020, the WHO (World Health Organization) declared the virus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. As of 4 January 2021, there have been 83,322,449 confirmed cases of COVID-19 including 1,831,412 deaths, reported to WHO (Covid19.who.int), affecting over 200 countries and territories. The global economy contracted in the second quarter of 2020 as COVID-19 containment measures disrupted production and labor movement (CSPS, 2020b). In May 2020, the Asian Development Bank estimated that COVID-19 could cost the global economy up to USD$8.8 trillion (ADB, 2020). As the virus wreak havoc, other countries have attained notable successes in containing COVID-19. One example is New Zealand, which took rapid, science-based risk assessment and early action at various levels (border-control measures, community-transmission control measures and case-based control measures); plus a strong leadership to confront the Pandemic as a “united team of 5 million” (Baker et al., 2020). However, one country that has been overlooked by the global media and academia is Brunei Darussalam. Since the first case was detected on 5th March 2020, the Government of Brunei (henceforth GoB) has taken drastic and immediate action to manage the virus spread, resulting in the successful containment of the disease. In this book chapter, a case study is be done on how the country’s strict approach in nipping the issue in the bud has enabled the country to ride the COVID-19 storm, utilizing the Whole-of-Nation approach (Omar, 2020) as a governance framework to analyze the Government’s response.

The research contributes to the growing scholarship relating to how Brunei Darussalam has dealt with the COVID-19 crisis from a pandemic management and public policy perspective. Various studies have emerged relating to the GoB’s policy responses (Chaw et. al, 2020; Wong et al. 2020a, Wong et al. 2020b; Wong et al. 2020c; Koh et al, 2020); its effect in leadership and crisis communication (Pang, 2020); creative expressions in Social Media (Mohamad, 2020); and the virus’ impact on Islamic and Social Finance (Hidayat, 2020; Basir, 2020) and the economy (CSPS, 2020a, 2020b). This chapter adds to the growing contribution in scholarship, in hopes that it can be useful for policy-makers, experts and students of public policy and governance on how Brunei controlled COVID-19. The Whole-of-Nation approach is also an increasingly prominent field in governance that needs further substantiation, which this chapter aims to do. The analysis of policies by the Government relating to having strong top-down governance, continual engagement of the private sector and society, and the continued urgency placed upon every member of society in tackling COVID-19 would further contribute to the conceptual and practical insights needed for readers of this chapter to further understand how Whole-of-Nation can be understood and operationalized, especially in adjusting towards the Great Reset in a post-COVID-19 global society (Schwab and Malleret, 2020). For the concept of Whole-of-Nation governance centers in taking care for and working with the people, and doing so would help to strengthen trust and dynamic capabilities in tackling the grand challenges of the 21st century (Mazzucato and Kattel, 2020).

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