Indonesia posts its first back-to-back trade surplus in more than a year. (Antara Photo/Ampelsa)

Indonesian Economy Records First Back-to-Back Surplus Since 2017


APRIL 15, 2019

Jakarta. Indonesia posted a surprise trade surplus in two consecutive months until March, igniting hope for a much-needed recovery of growth in Southeast Asia's largest economy. 

The last time the country saw a back-to-back trade surplus was in November 2017. No wonder the currency market reacted swiftly and positively to the news. 

Indonesian currency the rupiah strengthened by 0.4 percent on Monday (15/04) to trade at Rp 14,067 against the US dollar, its strongest level in more than five weeks.

The country posted $540 million in trade surplus last month, exporting $14 billion and importing $13.5 billion worth of goods in the period, data from the Central Statistics Agency showed on Monday. 

Indonesia also recorded a $329 million surplus in February. January saw a deficit of $1 billion. 

The country saw a record deficit of $8.5 billion last year, its highest in history, fueling criticism against President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who will run for re-election on Wednesday. 

Rival candidate Prabowo Subianto said in their last debate on Saturday that Jokowi's much-vaunted infrastructure initiatives may have caused the country to import more than it exports.

Monday's data from the statistics agency may lend some support to Prabowo's statement. 

Export fell 10 percent last month compared to the same month a year ago. Import was only down by 6 percent.

Cumulatively, exports dropped 8.5 percent to $40.5 billion in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year. Imports fell 7.4 percent to $40.7 billion in the first quarter. 

That means in that first quarter, Indonesia still posted a $193 million deficit.

China, the US and Japan are Indonesia's main export markets. Meanwhile, China, Japan and Thailand sold most of the goods that Indonesia imported in the first quarter.