In a quest for Asian food in Washington DC, I found a considerably sizable Malay food stall close to Maryland border. It's called the "Penang Restaurant". Glad to find that because  I had been eating Vietnamese , Thai, and Indian food (in addition to my fave Indonesian fried rice sold at a Chinese restaurant across the Indonesian embassy in DC).

I stepped in,  and got a very warm welcome from the owner; a Chinese Malaysian ( I supposed) came over and greeted me, "You must be Indonesian!"  he said. "You don't look like Thai and Filipino, and Malaysians don't go to my restaurant," he added.

While ordering my meal, I asked him how long had he been in the States. Instead of responding to that, he said something shocking me, "I will not come back to Malaysia. It's no longer a comfy place to live for people like me. And it stalls". I enthusiastically confronted his statement, because I knew it's not  true. It's not the untrue statement I was concerned about. It's his persistence.

It reminds me of someone I met years ago, when I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  He was someone from the ruling party youth wing, saying that 'when Indonesia grows up, Malaysia falls down. Vice versa.' Again, it's not true. Indonesia grows, and Malaysia grows also. Over the last decade, the world has seen the transformation Indonesia underwent, building foundation to go up, that's when Malaysia was leaving Indonesia behind further and further. When Indonesia was reuniting its pieces, Malaysia built gigantic projects and booked outstanding growth. Malaysia set an example on how to run companies, and move the economy. Air Asia, Petronas, CIMB, TM, they are Malaysia-based giants. They'll be more and more of those companies, I am sure.

What about now?

Well, the fact that Indonesia is catching up is something obvious. In fact, in some ways, Indonesia does better than Malaysia. While cash outflow was rampant in Malaysia, money from all over the corner was lining up entering Indonesian economy. Jakarta Stock Index clearly outperformed its Malaysian counterpart. But still, Malaysia economy has its own uniqueness. It grows, despite  all the adversities. Indonesia, I think, is going into that direction... building its own foundation, creating its own uniqueness.

(To be continued)

By Akhyari Hananto

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