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Business, Economics

Indonesia wins S&P upgrade as Jokowi victory fuels growth bets

Jokowi’s reelection spells continued growth and continuity leading to the upgrade.


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Updated: June 5, 2019

Indonesia won a sovereign rating upgrade from S&P Global Ratings for its “strong economic growth prospects” and prudent fiscal policy, brightened by the re-election of President Joko Widodo. The nation’s currency, stocks and bonds rallied.

The rating was increased to BBB from BBB- and put on a stable outlook, S&P said in a statement on Friday. The long-term rating may be raised again if Indonesia’s external settings improve materially from their current levels, or if its fiscal settings improve over the next two years, it said.

“We raised the ratings to reflect Indonesia’s strong economic growth prospects and supportive policy dynamics, which we expect to remain following the re-election of President Joko Widodo recently,” S&P said. “The sovereign ratings on Indonesia continue to be supported by the government’s relatively low debt and its moderate fiscal performance.”

The rating upgrade will be a shot in the arm for Widodo, known as Jokowi, who’s pledged to bolster growth and expand an ambitious infrastructure drive that’s estimated to cost more than US$400 billion in his second term. It puts Indonesia at the same level as Hungary and Uruguay, but a notch below the Philippines, which won an upgrade from S&P last month.

“The upgrade validates our view that Indonesia’s fundamentals are sound and reform prospects remain good after the elections,” said Euben Paracuelles, an economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Singapore. “The only element of surprise here was that S&P had a ‘stable’ outlook and hence they skipped changing to ‘positive’ outlook first before upgrading, so arguably this is an earlier-than-expected upgrade.”

Investors cheered the surprise rating upgrade with the rupiah jumping as much as 1.1 percent against the dollar, and set its biggest gain since Jan. 31. While the yield on benchmark 10-year government bonds fell 9 basis points to 7.96 percent, the benchmark stock index surged as much as 1.5 percent to the highest level since May 13.

Indonesia won investment grade rating from all the top rating companies for the first time in two decades in Jokowi’s first term as his government reined in the country’s fiscal deficit and accelerated efforts to increase its tax-to-GDP ratio even as it raised government spending to a record to support growth.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy has been growing at about 5 percent despite significant headwinds, including last year’s emerging market rout. The government is estimating growth next year of 5.3 to 5.6 percent even amid a deepening trade war between the U.S. and China and as global demand wanes. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati trimmed the budget deficit to 1.79 percent of GDP last year, the smallest shortfall since 2012.

“The Indonesian economy is growing faster than global peers at a similar level of income. This reflects the government’s policy-making has been effective in promoting sustainable public finances and balanced economic growth,” S&P said.

The ratings company said Jokowi’s election win and increased majority will ensure policy continuity over the next five years. A court challenge of the presidential vote was unlikely to affect the long-term policy environment in Indonesia, S&P said.



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The Jakarta Post
About the Author: The Jakarta Post is one of Indonesia's leading English-language daily newspapers.

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