Survey of recent developments
There is a growing confidence in policy, business and finance circles about Indonesia's ability to withstand global economic and financial shocks, and a renewed belief in domestic sources of growth. Despite uncertainty in Europe and slower than expected recovery in the US, Indonesia is well placed for moderately high growth in the medium term, and economic stability in the shorter term. At the end of June 2011, foreign reserves were at a record high, inflation was down, annual growth was steady at 6.5%, and investment -- especially foreign direct investment (FDI) -- was up significantly. Consumer price inflation had fallen to just below 5% by August, from double-digit levels earlier in the year. This was due partly to low food prices and success in sterilising the effects of capital inflows. However, turmoil in international markets led to a sharp fall in the Indonesia stock exchange index and a mild currency depreciation in August-- September, prompting central bank intervention in the foreign exchange market. Fiscal policy has remained conservative, aiming for a balanced budget by 2014. However, the government has still not moved to reduce growing fuel and energy subsidies. While the service sectors have continued to record high rates of growth, there has been a revival of manufacturing in 2011. This is partly underpinned by strong inflows of FDI, and is especially evident in the labour-intensive textiles, clothing and footwear industries after a decade of stagnation. Multinationals have announced plans to expand operations in Indonesia in the past six months to take advantage of new tax incentives. Overseas investors have also been attracted by Indonesia's growing middle class -- a result partly of higher rural incomes driven by the commodity boom outside Java. Some recent ministerial announcements about initiatives to promote domestic industry have a protectionist flavour. A cabinet reshuffle in October may signal a more dirigiste approach to industrial policy -- especially the shifting of internationally respected economist Mari Pangestu from the trade portfolio to that of tourism and creative economy. One important outcome of recent growth has been falling unemployment rates. However, youth unemployment remains a major problem, and efforts to overcome it have been fragmentary. A recent ban on overseas migration of domestic helpers (maids) seems certain to add to labour supply pressures among young people. The government is now considering how to mobilise its large population base, abundant natural resources and strategic location to play a greater role in the world economy. These assets are central to the ambitious ‘Master Plan’ for longer-term development (2011--25), announced in May. It focuses on developing the resource-rich Outer Island regions, with massive investments in energy and ‘connectivity’ to link the major centres and islands with each other, and centres with their hinterlands. Funding (to come mainly from the private sector), implementation and coordination are all major challenges.
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Volume (Year): 47 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (December)
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