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Bank Indonesia spends Rp 110t to stabilize markets as virus stokes sell-off

Jakarta Post - March 12, 2020

Adrian Wail Akhlas, Jakarta – Bank Indonesia (BI) has vowed to maintain the country's financial market stability amid expectations that economic growth will slow due to the COVID-19 spread.

"We are committed to remaining in the market to stabilize the rupiah by selling dollars through cash or through domestic non-deliverables forwards," said BI Governor Perry Warjiyo, adding that the central bank bought government bonds amid the selling spree.

"We bought Rp 130 trillion worth of government bonds since the beginning of the year, around Rp 110 trillion we spent since the spread of the coronavirus in late January," he added.

The central bank recorded a foreign outflow of about Rp 31.76 trillion (US$2.19 billion) worth of government bonds and Rp 4.87 trillion worth of stocks so far this year as foreign investors flock to safe-haven assets such as the United States' 10-year Treasury.

The spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 119,000 people worldwide with around 4,200 death tolls as of Wednesday, has disrupted business activity in various countries and global supply chains. Indonesia reported 27 confirmed cases and one death.

BI now expected the country's economy to further slow.

"We saw a V-shaped effect last month with a baseline rate of 5.1 percent of growth and could further reach 5.2 percent with fiscal stimulus [...] but now we need to recalculate it," Perry said, adding that the central bank would reassess its projection during this month's policy meeting.

During the BI's governor meeting in February, the central bankers projected Indonesia's economy to grow between 5 percent and 5.4 percent this year amid the virus risk. Recently, Perry said he expected the gross domestic product (GDP) to expand by just 4.9 percent in the first quarter, slower than three-year-low 4.97 percent recorded in 2019's last quarter.

The government has launched a fiscal stimulus package worth Rp 10 trillion to support the tourism industry and boost consumer spending to counter adverse economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. A second stimulus package with more tax breaks already in the pipeline.

Previously, BI has also announced measures to stabilize the rupiah exchange rate, including by cutting banks' dollar reserve ratio to free up billions of dollars to support the rupiah.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/03/12/bank-indonesia-spends-rp-110t-to-stabilize-markets-as-virus-stokes-sell-off.html