​Indonesia: On the run-up to the presidential election

INDONESIA - Report 01 Apr 2019 by Cyrillus Harinowo

In the month of March, everyone in the country was stung by election fever - not only intellectuals or the middle class, but also people at the grass-roots level. In fact, one candidate used a strategy effectively implemented by President Donald Trump, which is “the firehose of the falsehood” strategy. Massive hoaxes were delivered at the grass-roots level, which significantly influenced these people, especially uneducated people.

This election is considered critical because it represents the clash between the nationalist group, which would like to protect the unity and integrity of the country, versus the “khilafah” group, inspired by ISIS ideology. The incumbent, who has been successfully developing the Indonesian economy through massive infrastructure projects as well as by significantly improving the welfare of low-income people, has been attacked by various hoaxes that have eroded the legacy of his success.

Various polling companies have conducted their surveys, which have mostly predicted President Jokowi to win by a significant margin. However, one prominent daily newspaper recently published its survey, which indicated that the margin has narrowed significantly. Since the presidential election will take place on April 17, 2019, it will be very interesting to watch which group will finally win the election.

In the midst of this wait, the Indonesian balance of trade in February 2019 reported a surplus after several consecutive months of massive deficits. Exports in February declined considerably while imports dropped even further. Exports reached $12,531.6 million, considerably below those in January, which were $13,927.9 million, marking a decline of 10.03%. Compared with the same period of the previous year, total exports declined by 11.33%. Meanwhile, imports in February also declined steeply, by 18.61% from the previous month, to reach $12,202.1 million. Compared with the same period of 2018, imports declined by 13.98%. This resulted in a trade surplus of $329.5 million in February.

The Central Board of Statistics also released the Consumer Price Index report, which showed mild deflation of 0.08% in February. With that performance, year-over-year inflation stood at 2.57%, a level at the lower end of the target corridor of the Central Bank. With that positive inflation figure, and on the external front, the rupiah also relatively stable, Bank Indonesia decided at its meeting in March 2019 to keep the benchmark interest rate constant at 6%.

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