Indonesia’s virus-hit economy contracts for first time in 2 decades

A traditional herbal drinks vendor cycles past a mural in Jakarta on Aug 4. (AP pic)

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s economy contracted in the second quarter for the first time in more than two decades as it was slammed by coronavirus restrictions, with warnings that the recovery could be among the weakest in Southeast Asia.

Output in the region’s biggest economy slumped 5.3% on-year in April-June, the statistics agency said.

That marked Indonesia’s first contraction since the first quarter of 1999 during the Asian financial crisis and puts it on course for its first recession since then.

“Economic activity in Indonesia collapsed in the second quarter,” research house Capital Economics said in note after the figures were published.

“A failure to contain the virus effectively and inadequate policy support mean the recovery is likely to be one of the slowest in the region,” it added.

Governments around the world have been struggling to contain the deadly disease, which essentially forced governments to shut down the global economy in the second quarter.

Last month, Indonesia’s central bank cut interest rates for the fourth time this year in a bid to boost the struggling economy.

Indonesia has announced a stimulus package worth more than US$48 billion to help offset the impact of the virus, which forced a large-scale shutdown that hammered growth, including in the key tourism sector.

The archipelago, home to nearly 270 million people, has been easing movement restrictions in a bid to head off economic collapse but Covid-19 infections are mounting, with cases topping 115,000 with and more than 5,300 deaths.

The true scale of the public health crisis is widely believed to be much bigger in a country with one of the world’s lowest testing rates.