Nine out of ten Malaysians who read the title of this post would think I am crazy. Indonesia is a poor country plagued by natural disaster, terrorism and racial conflicts. Its men work in Malaysia as construction site workers, and its women as domestic helpers. How can Indonesia ever be an economic powerhouse!??
Well, if you don’t trust me, you should at least take a hint from Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, founder of AirAsia and an idol among many Malaysians. Fernandes told Bloomberg TV in an interview that the airlines’ Indonesia business may surpass its Malaysian unit “in the not-so-distant future”.
His remarks hardly surprised me. Indonesia has a population of 238 million, making it the 4th most populous country in the world. Its GDP is $670 billion. (Malaysia’s is $213 billion.) IMF estimates that Indonesia’s GDP will grow at 6% in 2010 and 2011, a very commendable figure. Indonesia is a large, untapped market, which was why Fernandes was optimistic of it.
Indonesia is also a member of Group of 20 (G20), while Malaysia is not. Some observers have added the island nation into the rank of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China). These five emerging economies are collectively known as BRIIC. A 2008-issue of Newsweek described Indonesia as ‘the new India’. More recently, a Taiwanese magazine (天下雜誌) pointed out that Indonesia, together with Vietnam, are the two bright spots in Asian economy.
So, don’t look down on your Indonesian maid. Ten years from now, we may need to kowtow to Jakarta, much like we kowtow to Beijing now.