A tailor waits for customers at an empty Atom Market in Jakarta on Sunday. (Antara Photo/M. Risyal Hidayat)

Indonesia Posts Lowest Growth in Almost Two Decades

BY :JAKARTA GLOBE

MAY 05, 2020

Jakarta. Indonesia posted its slowest growth in more than two decades as the coronavirus crisis made its effects felt in export, investment and consumption in Southeast Asia's largest economy. 

Gross domestic product expanded by only 2.97 percent in January-March from the same period last year.

This compares to a 4.99 percent expansion in the last quarter last year, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) announced on Tuesday. 

The last time Indonesia saw a lower growth was in the fourth quarter of 2001.

The first quarter reading might just be a sign of even more challenging times for the rest of the year.

Since the pandemic began, the government has revised its growth projection to 2.3 percent this year, down from its original target of 5.3 percent.

The economy could even shrink by 0.4 percent under the government's worst-case scenario

"[What we're experiencing is] similar to other countries experiencing deep downturns," BPS Head Suhariyanto said in a press conference. 

Indonesia's main trading partner China reported its economy had shrunk by 6.8 percent, its first drop in 28 years, following its all-out fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The economies of Indonesia's other large trading partners, such as the European Union, the United States and South Korea, were also in negative territory, slashing demand on Indonesian commodities. 

As a result, export from Indonesia stagnated with a puny 0.05 percent growth in the first quarter. 

Growth in household spending, which accounts for 58 percent of the country's economy, slowed to 2.8 percent in the quarter from 4.97 percent in the last quarter last year. 

Investment is also under pressure, growing by only 1.7 percent in the first quarter, less than half of the figure in the previous quarter. 

Government spending, however, bucked the trend of slow spending at the onset of every year, expanding by 3.7 percent.

This is because the government has started disbursing cash transfers and social safety net programs to the country's most vulnerable to counter the impact of the pandemic. 

Bali, whose economy relies almost entirely on tourism, was the hardest-hit province in the first quarter.

The economy in Bali and nearby Nusa Tenggara islands expanded less than 1 percent in the first quarter while other islands managed to post at least a 2.5 percent growth.

The economy in Java, which accounts for 59 percent of Indonesia's economy, still expanded by 3.4 percent. 

The latest growth reading was lower than the market expectation of 4.04 percent, according to a poll by Reuters last week.

But that was not enough to derail the stock market. The Jakarta Composite Index rose 0.3 percent in the first trading session to 4,617.

Unemployment

On the same occasion, BPS also announced the unemployment rate in February fell to its lowest in at least three years.

Only 4.99 percent of Indonesia's workforce were unemployed in February, down from 5.01 percent in the same month last year. 

Indonesia holds unemployment surveys twice a year, in February and September. 

In absolute number, there were 6.88 million unemployed workers in February, up from 6.82 million in the same period last year. 

Suhariyanto said the reading has yet to incorporate the impact of the coronavirus crisis on job opportunities in Indonesia.

The Finance Ministry estimated 5 million Indonesians would lose their jobs during the pandemic. 

The Manpower Ministry said as of last month more than 2 million workers have been furloughed or fired.

The government has launched an unemployment benefits program to provide income for the laid-off workers. Nearly nine million workers have signed up for the program. 

 

  

 

 

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