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Promoting SME development

Micro, small and medium-sized firms (MSMEs) are a key source of employment and economic growth in Indonesia. They contributed to the country’s economic resilience during the 2008-09 financial crisis. But many suffer from low productivity, curbing their role in boosting living standards. There are several ways to spur MSME productivity growth over the medium term.The first route would be to encourage the formalisation of small firms. Lessening red tape through simplification of the licensing process and lowering tax compliance costs would help. Avoiding excessive rises in the minimum wage in provinces where it is already at a reasonable level would also be important. Looking forward, it would be useful to remove rigidities in the formal labour markets, while moving to some form of unemployment benefit system to insure workers against job-loss risks.The second route would be to boost investment. Clarifying property rights for real estate, and making the information collected by the credit bureau available to all financial institutions would ease access to finance. At the same time, the development of financing alternatives such as venture capital, leasing or micro-finance would enhance credit supply. The poor state of infrastructure, in particular in the transportation and electricity sectors, is also perceived as an important impediment to investment and could be remedied by increasing public infrastructure spending on cost-effective projects.The third route would be to enhance the quality of human resources. The country suffers from a lack of skilled workers, and policies should aim both at increasing the pool of workers and making education and training institutions more responsive to evolving labour-market demand.Indonesia has a long tradition of supporting MSMEs. But responsibilities between the different levels of government and within the central government need to be clarified to minimise overlap and inefficiencies. A rigorous assessment of existing programmes would allow schemes to be consolidated and scarce public funds to be directed to their most cost-effective uses.

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