Survey of recent developments
Sri Mulyani's resignation as finance minister in May disturbed markets and aroused concern about the government's commitment to reform. This concern was partly alleviated by the appointment of two well-respected individuals as finance minister and deputy finance minister. Further progress with reform will depend heavily on this new team and other key officials. Strong presidential support will also be needed to resist attempts by parliament to interfere excessively with the finance ministry's work. The economy continued its steady recovery from the impact of the global financial crisis (GFC), but the recovery could still be jeopardised if sovereign debt concerns in Europe persist and block the rebound in global trade and commodity prices. Inflation continues to accelerate, suggesting little room for complacency on monetary policy. Fiscal policy, on the other hand, remains conservative. The higher deficit in the revised 2010 budget is not excessive, and is unlikely to be realised in any case. The real budget challenge is to spend budgeted amounts fully and well. The new five-year plan is also conservative and does little to clarify spending priorities, including for the president's 'connectivity' agenda. Despite the GFC, poverty continued to decline, thanks largely to the uninterrupted expansion of GDP and to cash transfers to the poor. Unemployment also continued to fall, although particular groups suffered slight increases in unemployment (young workers 15-25 years old) and somewhat larger reductions in working hours (urban, non-poor, and male-headed households). Nevertheless the large and sustained deceleration of manufacturing growth and the closely related dramatic shift of employment from the formal to the informal sector provide cause for concern. Distortionary labour market policies may help to explain both. A new mining law significantly alters the legal environment for firms in this industry, and also introduces long discredited policies intended to 'increase value added' by requiring the domestic processing of minerals. A new law on local government taxes attempts to reduce uncertainty for citizens and investors, but the nature of overall spending by local governments is of much greater importance for the investment climate. The central government has recently been seeking to restore the role of the 'missing intermediate' level of government and to boost the centre's indirect control over local governments through provincial governments and governors. This strategy is unlikely to succeed, but it highlights the conflicting requirements for provincial governors to act as agents of the central government while also being accountable to their provincial electorates.
Volume (Year): 46 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
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