KUALA LUMPUR, For many years, foreign workers have been flocking to Malaysia in search of jobs and a better quality of life.
In their eyes, Malaysia is like a "gold mine" with ample job opportunities in the plantation, construction and services sectors and the potential to earn a decent income.
According to press reports, as of July 2017, there were 1.78 million legal workers in the country, most of whom were from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.
Indeed, many of them do find Malaysia a conducive place to earn a living. Why, some of them go one step further by setting up thriving petty businesses of their own to enhance their income.
Nevertheless, foreign manual workers are not the only ones who are being drawn to this country as expatriates are also known to find their proverbial "pot of gold" here.
In conjunction with Workers Day on May 1, Bernama interviewed two of them who had come to Malaysia as students and stayed on to become business owners as they had grown to love the country and found its environment suitable for the pursuit of their vocation.
One of them, Nordin Abdullah, 42, is the managing director of consulting company Glenreagh Sdn Bhd.
Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, he followed his family to Kuala Lumpur some 25 years ago after his father opened a regional office here for his Australian mining company.
Nordin, who embraced Islam when he was much younger, speaks Bahasa Melayu fluently and is married to a Malaysian.
When he first set foot in Kuala Lumpur in the early 1990s, one of the tallest buildings in the city was Menara Maybank at Jalan Tun Perak.
"That building has since been dwarfed by several other skyscrapers. Not just Kuala Lumpur but the whole country has developed rapidly over the last 25 years," Nordin noted, adding that it was its progress that eventually gravitated him towards making Malaysia the base for his business venture.
Malaysia's outstanding achievements in various fields and the peace and harmony its people enjoyed was enough proof for this father-of-five that he had chosen the right place to run and grow his business.
"As a businessman, (political and economic) stability is among the important elements I would have to take into consideration before embarking on any venture.
"I'm also very impressed with Malaysians for being able to coexist harmoniously even though they are of different races. Their friendly nature makes me feel at home here," added Nordin, who is also an executive council member of the Malaysia-Australia Business Council.
Malaysia's excellent road network and public transportation system, as well as its high-speed Internet access, have also enabled Nordin to manage his company's business affairs smoothly.
"Many years back, travelling by air to Sabah and Sarawak cost a lot because there were so few flights there. Now there are numerous flights daily and air fares have become so affordable.
"Travelling from one state to another in the peninsula is also convenient as Malaysia has such good roads and highways," he said, adding that he preferred to take the Light Rail Transit or Mass Rapid Transit system when he has to attend business meetings in the city as he found it fast and efficient.
Another expatriate who regards Malaysia as a "gold mine" is chef Ammar Al Ali, 49, who was born in Palestine but had lived in Jordan.
Ammar, who first came to Malaysia in 1986 as a student to pursue a course in hospitality, said it surprised him that some Malaysians chose to work overseas when, in fact, there were abundant job opportunities in their homeland.
After he graduated from college, Ammar worked as a chef specialising in Arab cuisine at a five-star hotel for 22 years before opening his own restaurant and a company dealing in Arab spices.
He had returned to Jordan in 1997 when Malaysia faced an economic crisis but in 2001 he came back to Malaysia as he felt his future would be brighter in this country.
"That was the time when Arab tourists started visiting Malaysia in droves and I was able to get a job as a chef easily as there were a lot of requests for Arab food," he said.
Whilst hosting a cooking programme on Astro's TV Al-Hijrah channel, he used to receive many enquiries from Malaysians as to where they could obtain the spices he used for traditional Arab dishes such as "shawarma", "nasi Arab mandy", "bukhari" and "kabsah" and desserts like "baklava".
"That was when I decided to start a business to prepare and sell Arab spices," he said.
The enterprising man recently opened his own restaurant in Subang Jaya, Selangor.
"I have travelled to many countries but I find Malaysia special as it offers plentiful opportunities to earn a living.
"Most importantly, one has to be diligent and smart in looking for the right opportunity," added Ammar, who speaks fluent Bahasa Melayu.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK