Sat, 03 Jun 2000

BPS reports continued upward trend in exports

JAKARTA (JP): The upward trend in exports continued in April, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), indicating that the economy is still recovering.

Newly appointed BPS chief Soedarti Surbakti said April's exports increased by 0.65 percent to US$4.97 billion compared to $4.94 billion in March.

"The increase in April's exports was caused by a 3.98 percent increase in non-oil and gas exports to $4 billion," she said, adding that oil and gas exports declined by 10.92 percent.

She said the most exported products included machinery and electronics, wood products and plywood, apparels, paper and packaging.

BPS said exports in the January-April period totaled $19.10 billion, or a 35.93 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Indonesia's export earnings reached a high level of $4.94 billion in March on the back of a sharp increase in non-oil and gas exports. Exports in March rose by 3.67 percent.

Soedarti said the government's 4 percent economic growth target this year was attainable only in the best possible scenario, while the most pessimistic scenario was 1.5 percent.

Soedarti's predecessor Sugito Suwito surprised many economists last month when he said the economy would only grow by 1.5 percent this year if the rupiah continued to weaken.

The rupiah has been under heavy pressure since last month, particularly amid increasing political uncertainty in the run-up to the general session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) in August.

Trade surplus in April dropped to $2.66 billion from $2.8 billion due to higher imports.

According to BPS, imports in April rose by 2.91 percent to $2.31 billion compared to the previous month.

It said that non-oil and gas imports increased by 5.38 percent to $1.87 billion, while oil and gas imports fell by 6.33 percent to $443.7 million.

"The increase in non-oil and gas imports give a positive signal toward a recovery in imports, particularly for raw materials and capital goods," Soedarti said.

Indonesia's production system is heavily dependent on the import of raw materials.

BPS said in the January to April period imports reached $8.85 billion or a 15.24 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

It said the import of raw materials in the January-March period increased by 19.69 percent to $4.99 billion compared to the same period last year.

BPS added that the import of capital goods jumped by 21.36 percent during the period.

But BPS said the import of consumers goods in the first three months of the year declined by 4.79 percent to $501.1 million.

Meanwhile, BPS also reported that inflation in May rose by 0.84 percent from the level in April, sending the year-on-year inflation figure to 1.2 percent.

The bureau said the rise was primarily caused by the recent increases in electricity, water and transportation costs.

Soedarti said inflation for 2000 was likely to be between 5 percent and 7 percent depending on whether the planned increase in fuel prices was realized.

She also said that month-on-month inflation in June would not change much.

Many analysts fear that inflation this year will surpass the 5 percent-7 percent target due to the weakening of the rupiah against the U.S. dollar, which makes the price of imported raw materials higher.

BPS said inflation in April was driven in particular by a 2.47 percent increase in the cost of transportation and communications.

It said the cost of education, recreation, and sport had increased by 0.81 percent, health care by 0.4 percent, clothing by 0.85 percent and the housing index by 1.84 percent.

But BPS said that the price of food and beverages had declined by 0.03 percent, while processed food and beverages, cigarettes and tobacco had also dropped, by 0.09 percent.(rei)