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GDP growth has held up well thanks to robust domestic demand, and is projected to remain above 5% in 2019 and 2020. Rising household incomes and low inflation will support household spending. Investment has slowed but will remain solid. The completion of large infrastructure projects in 2018 and 2019 should improve logistics considerably. Nonetheless, weaker trade growth, especially in Asia, will weigh on exports in 2019.

Low inflation and a more accommodative monetary stance in the advanced economies should allow Bank Indonesia to keep interest rates at their current levels. The easing in financial market tensions is an opportunity to build buffers in the financial system and reduce foreign currency exposures. Fiscal policy is expected to be broadly neutral, with the budget deficit well below the 3%-of-GDP limit. With low inflation, energy subsidies could be reduced to fund better-targeted social assistance to reduce poverty.

Growth has been resilient

Domestic demand has retained strong momentum. Ongoing job creation, the expansion of social assistance programmes and subdued inflation are all supporting household spending. Spending associated with the parliamentary and presidential elections held in April added to economic activity in the first half of 2019. However, investment has slowed from its rapid pace a year ago. Financial conditions have improved since October 2018, with portfolio capital returning and the rupiah appreciating, which has eased liquidity for firms and banks. Credit growth remains in double digits.

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Retail sales and investment: Indonesia
Retail sales and investment: Indonesia

1. Year-on-year percentage change in the 3-month moving average.

2. Based on seasonally adjusted data.

Source: Refinitiv; CEIC; and OECD calculations.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933934527

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Indonesia: Demand, output and prices
Indonesia: Demand, output and prices

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933935477

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Inflation and official reserves: Indonesia
Inflation and official reserves: Indonesia

1. Excludes administered and volatile goods prices.

Source: Refinitiv; CEIC; and OECD calculations.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888933934546

Exports and imports have fallen over the past year. In value terms, goods exports to China and Japan have been hit hardest, while exports to the United States have held up better. Imports have declined by more, particularly oil and gas imports. Overall, the trade balance has improved, thereby narrowing the current account deficit, which had widened to 3% of GDP in 2018. Consumer price inflation has eased to low levels reflecting muted administered and volatile goods prices.

Reviving the structural reform agenda is key to higher growth

Fiscal and monetary policies are focussed on stability. The smaller-than-expected fiscal deficit in 2018 contained the widening of the current account deficit and provided an important signal to investors. During 2019-20, fiscal policy is expected to be broadly neutral. There is ample scope to make the composition of spending more effective and inclusive. Shifting from fuel subsidies, which have increased, to targeted social assistance would benefit poor households. Raising more tax revenue remains a priority to enable higher spending on education, health and social assistance, which would reduce inequality and raise medium-term growth. Higher revenues would also allow a renewed infrastructure drive. Improvements in tax administration are ongoing and are part of the necessary efforts to raise compliance.

Bank Indonesia raised interest rates during 2018 to maintain macroeconomic stability amid escalating risks in global financial markets. It sought to offset the drag on growth through accommodative macroprudential policies, such as relaxing macroprudential liquidity buffers and lifting loan-to-valuation ratios. Non-performing loans are low but credit quality should be monitored carefully for signs that standards have deteriorated. Monetary policy is likely to remain on hold, which is prudent given current exposures to renewed financial market turmoil. Interest rates could be lowered if vulnerabilities ease significantly.

The authorities have been taking measures to bolster financial system resilience and continue to co-ordinate policy amongst the responsible authorities. Bank Indonesia is working towards local currency settlement systems with regional trading partners, which will reduce the need for US dollars. It also issued regulations to help enforce hedging requirements for foreign currency exposures. The authorities could encourage borrowers to reduce foreign currency exposures, for instance by borrowing in rupiah. Bank supervisors should remain vigilant against risks in the banking sector. Foreign exchange reserves have risen anew but should be used sparingly to ensure that they are available when needed.

A bold structural reform agenda would raise medium-term growth prospects, improving incomes, and provide a strong signal to financial markets. The government’s recently published “Low Carbon Development Path” highlights the risk to economic and social prospects without action to reduce environmental degradation and pollution. This agenda needs private investment, which in turn requires greater regulatory certainty and lower costs of doing business. Ongoing improvements to the online single submission system are needed, including by incorporating sub-national governments. Administrative price controls are used extensively to contain inflation but have knock-on effects. Low inflation rates offer an opportunity to relax these. The launch of the “One Map Policy”, which created a unified map of land use, was an important step towards improving legal certainty, including for rural households. It should be further developed to improve its accuracy. Easing the process for hiring foreign skilled workers and relaxing the negative investment list would boost foreign investment.

Growth is projected to remain robust

Growth will remain just above 5% during 2019-20. Rising incomes and falling poverty rates will support brisk consumption growth. However, investment growth is likely to remain more subdued than in earlier years as the boost from the government’s infrastructure drive fades. Trade will be soft in 2019 but will benefit from a pick-up in regional trade in 2020. Throughout the projection period, better logistics, including toll roads and ports, will pay economic dividends. Inflation is projected to increase but remain within Bank Indonesia’s target range, which will be lowered to 3 +/-1% next year.

A key downside risk is another bout of capital outflows, which could cause instability and higher interest rates. Continued weakness in trade, especially with China, would slow Indonesia’s exports further. However, if external vulnerabilities were to decline, monetary policy could be eased, strengthening private demand. Likewise, higher confidence could reinvigorate private investment growth. Faster completion of large infrastructure projects would boost near-term growth as well as medium-term prospects.

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