Survey of recent developments
In the recent legislative elections the Democrat Party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) was by far the most successful. Support for other major secular-nationalist parties fell significantly, as did that for the Islamic parties as a group. Two new parties led by former generals also performed relatively poorly. At the time of writing SBY seemed the likely winner of the forthcoming presidential election, supported by running mate Boediono, the former governor of Bank Indonesia. Indonesia's performance during the global financial crisis has been vastly better than during the Asian financial crisis, and superior to that of most other countries in the region. Output growth remained positive through Q1 2009, although there were signs of heightened caution within the business community. Deft monetary policy saw inflation decline significantly, with little negative impact on output growth or the banking sector. Much of the earlier declines in the financial markets had been reversed by mid-June. Successful management of exchange rate policy in late 2008 and early 2009 raises the question whether Indonesia would fare better with a more genuinely floating exchange rate and a much lower level of international reserves. Economic outcomes during the SBY administration fell well short of the president's 2004 election campaign promises, but were comparable with those under former president Megawati, reflecting the great policy similarities of the two regimes. A key feature of the presidential election campaign has been the use of the term 'neo-liberal' to attack one's opponents. It has been implied that those following 'neo-liberal' policies favour the business sector and foreigners over the people, whereas the real issue is what types of policies are more likely to benefit the Indonesian people as a whole. The debate provides the opportunity potentially to resolve long-standing disagreements as to the relative efficacy of free market- and interventionist-type policies. Public sector accounting reform is an important aspect of efforts to improve governance. Newly introduced accounting standards require a shift to double-entry accounting, and away from the single-entry system inherited long ago from the Dutch. This requires the listing of government entities' assets and liabilities in a balance sheet, and should lead to far greater accuracy in government financial reporting. In turn, this has the potential to be a powerful anti-corruption instrument. But progress is significantly limited by a severe shortage of accountants in the public sector, and by dysfunctional personnel management practices.
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- "These are, therefore, the president's targets. As was the case with his first term (Kuncoro, Widodo, and McLeod 2009), Yudhoyono cannot report that his targets have been fully achieved, but he can certainly point to considerable progress in important areas. Indonesia looks especially good in an international perspective: its economic growth over the last five years was the fourth highest in the G20, though it was helped more than most countries by China's demand for energy and mineral resources. "
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ABSTRACT: Outgoing Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's second-term record is creditable, measured against the targets he set himself in 2010, but deficient in key areas: economic reform, infrastructure investment, and anti-corruption. Indonesia's 2009–14 parliament has been active in economic policymaking, and will leave as its legacy a raft of protectionist legislation. Both presidential candidates, Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, have appealed to nationalism in their campaigns, calling for Indonesia to assert its sovereignty and increase its self-sufficiency, but Jokowi's economic platform is more moderate and economically literate than Prabowo's. The incoming president will inherit an economy that continues to slow. Growth is now not expected to approach 6% until 2015 at the earliest. Having engineered a reduction in the current account deficit, Indonesian policymakers now face the more difficult problem of structural fiscal adjustment. Energy subsidies are the most immediate problem, but fiscal reform more generally will emerge as an overriding and unpleasant imperative for whoever wins the presidential election on 9 July. Unless difficult fiscal policy measures are taken, Indonesia will face major trade-offs between deficit control and investment in social programs and economic infrastructure. The new president will struggle to restrict the deficit to the cap of 3% of GDP: a balanced budget will likely not be feasible for several years. He will need to increase the ratio of revenue to GDP and eliminate fuel subsidies—through a more systematic approach than the infrequent price increases of the past. He will need to choose carefully between competing expenditure priorities, such as infrastructure and defence. The new president would also be well advised to tread cautiously in implementing the legal mandates he will inherit, and to work with parliament to avoid further and unwind current earmarking of public expenditure.
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ABSTRACT: In Indonesia's third national elections since democratization in 1999, incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono easily won reelection, while his Democratic Party tripled its vote from the previous 2004 election. Voters in the parliamentary and presidential contests, held in April and July 2009, were motivated, according to two author-conducted nationwide opinion surveys, by support for individual leaders and candidates, the influence of media campaigns, perceptions of the state of the economy, evaluations of governmental performance, and (though declining) identification with political parties. Effects include a strengthened and more responsive presidency at the cost of a more fragmented and volatile party system.
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ABSTRACT: Sri Mulyani's resignation as finance minister in May disturbed markets and aroused concern about the government's commitment to reform. This concern was partly alleviated by the appointment of two well-respected individuals as finance minister and deputy finance minister. Further progress with reform will depend heavily on this new team and other key officials. Strong presidential support will also be needed to resist attempts by parliament to interfere excessively with the finance ministry's work. The economy continued its steady recovery from the impact of the global financial crisis (GFC), but the recovery could still be jeopardised if sovereign debt concerns in Europe persist and block the rebound in global trade and commodity prices. Inflation continues to accelerate, suggesting little room for complacency on monetary policy. Fiscal policy, on the other hand, remains conservative. The higher deficit in the revised 2010 budget is not excessive, and is unlikely to be realised in any case. The real budget challenge is to spend budgeted amounts fully and well. The new five-year plan is also conservative and does little to clarify spending priorities, including for the president's 'connectivity' agenda. Despite the GFC, poverty continued to decline, thanks largely to the uninterrupted expansion of GDP and to cash transfers to the poor. Unemployment also continued to fall, although particular groups suffered slight increases in unemployment (young workers 15-25 years old) and somewhat larger reductions in working hours (urban, non-poor, and male-headed households). Nevertheless the large and sustained deceleration of manufacturing growth and the closely related dramatic shift of employment from the formal to the informal sector provide cause for concern. Distortionary labour market policies may help to explain both. A new mining law significantly alters the legal environment for firms in this industry, and also introduces long discredited policies intended to 'increase value added' by requiring the domestic processing of minerals. A new law on local government taxes attempts to reduce uncertainty for citizens and investors, but the nature of overall spending by local governments is of much greater importance for the investment climate. The central government has recently been seeking to restore the role of the 'missing intermediate' level of government and to boost the centre's indirect control over local governments through provincial governments and governors. This strategy is unlikely to succeed, but it highlights the conflicting requirements for provincial governors to act as agents of the central government while also being accountable to their provincial electorates.
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