Survey of recent developments

Chris Manning, Kurnya Roesad

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    By June 2006, the government had largely completed the difficult tasks of stabilising macroeconomic conditions following the October 2005 fuel price increases, and of drawing up a blueprint to improve infrastructure and the investment climate. On the macroeconomic front, the main issues related to how, and how quickly, the economy could return to the growth rates of late 2004 and early 2005, given still low levels of private and public investment. Sound macroeconomic policies had delivered a stronger rupiah and reduced inflationary pressures, albeit with continued decelerating rates of growth. Private consumption and investment having slowed, government spending had become the key driver of growth, but major delays in public spending continued in the first four months of the year. The reform agenda includes an impressive raft of new laws, or revisions to old ones, in investment, taxation, customs and labour, all of which were covered under a special Presidential Instruction. However, actual reform was slowed by substantial political obstacles. There was growing concern about divisions within the cabinet on the reform package, and about the capacity of the ministerial team to guide reforms quickly through the bureaucracy and the parliament. This included doubts about the resoluteness of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) on reform initiatives in the face of vocal opposition (as in the case of labour reform), and about Vice President Jusuf Kalla's commitment when political or business interests close to him were opposed to change (as in the case of divestment of shares in Indonesia by the giant cement multinational, Cemex). Given likely delays in the reform package's impact on output and employment, uncertainty persists about the level of support the 'duumvirate' is prepared to offer reformist ministers, and about the political clout of the reformers themselves, as the government moves into the middle period of the electoral cycle. Examples of weak policy making include watered-down investment reforms, the seemingly 'quick-fix' approach underlying a proposal to set up special economic zones, and unsatisfactory handling of continuing disputes in the mining sector. A backdown on labour market reforms, at least for the present, has probably been the biggest setback to date in the SBY-Kalla team's attempt to promote investment: A poorly managed reform effort in terms of both substance and political strategy. Two other events shook Indonesia during the Survey period. A massive earthquake hit the Yogyakarta region on 27 May, killing nearly 6,000 people and leaving thousands homeless. And on the political front, the attorney general controversially dropped corruption charges against the ailing former president, Soeharto.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)143-170
    JournalBulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies
    Volume42
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2006

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