Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Indonesia: Economic crisis and the developmental state

Degol Hailu argues that policy responses to the economic crisis is turning Indonesia into a developmental state. I think the same can be said about pretty much every country that initiated some trade restrictions and implemented fiscal stimulus in the past two years. We are becoming more Keynesian than ever!

In the first quarter of 2009, rubber exports fell by 32 per cent. Farmers have suffered most. In some provinces tapping has completely ceased. The policy response was to cut shipments of rubber exports by 700,000 tons, a cartelist measure that was taken in concert with Thailand and Malaysia. The hope is to keep prices high and maintain constant income levels, just as the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) does.

The price of tin, another major Indonesian export, fell from US$23,595 per ton in July 2008 to US$12,355 in April 2009. The government suspended the quota system that set minimum limits on tin exports. When prices were high, provinces such as Bangka Belitung and the Riau Islands were required to export at least 90,000 and 15,000 tons of tin, respectively. By suspending the minimum quota, the government is encouraging producer to cut their output and keep prices stable in the face of slow global demand. As a result, tin production fell from an average of 120,000 tons between 2005 and 2007 to 80,000 tons in 2008.

The target for the footwear and textile industry is to switch the above percentages: 60 per cent for domestic consumption and 40 percent for exports. As part of its stimulus package, the government is providing direct subsidies for the purchase of machinery under the Machinery Revitalisation Programme.

Rcently, the footwear industry received a cash subsidy of US$5.17 illion, and US$22.1 billion was provided to the textile industry. The government stepped in and launched a scheme to increase cotton output to 48,000 tons in the next few years, and to double the area under cultivation to 40,000 hectares. The provision of subsidised seeds and farm inputs has already started in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta, Pati, Kudus, Blora, East Java, and South Sulawesi provinces.

The government’s response to the crisis has also included macroeconomic policy changes. The interest rate was cut to 7.8 per cent in 2009 from 9.5 per cent in 2008. A fiscal stimulus of US$7 billion, or 1.4 per cent of GDP, has also been announced. The stimulus comes in the form of tax cuts (76.5 per cent of it), infrastructure expenditure (16.8 per cent) and direct subsidies (6.7 per cent). Fortunately, 2009 started with a fiscal deficit of 1.2 per cent of GDP, which gave the government room for deficit financing.