Adrian Wail Akhlas, Jakarta – Bank Indonesia (BI) has bought about Rp 163 trillion (US$10.1 billion) worth of government bonds to stabilize the country's financial market amid foreign investors' selling spree over COVID-19 fears.
In addition to the bonds purchase, the central bank also intervened in the foreign exchange spot market and domestic non-deliverables forward to ease pressures on the rupiah.
"We are focused on maintaining confidence, ensuring the market mechanism to work properly and maintain liquidity in US dollars and the rupiah," BI Governor Perry Warjiyo said after attending a limited Cabinet meeting on Friday.
BI data recorded Rp 105.1 trillion in capital outflow as of Thursday, of which foreign investors dumped Rp 92.8 trillion worth of government bonds and Rp 8.3 trillion in stocks.
The rupiah has weakened more than 15 percent against the this year to Rp 16,172 per dollar as of 3:14 p.m. in Jakarta, a level unseen since the 1998 crisis. The Jakarta Composite Index (JCI), meanwhile, recorded more than Rp 10 trillion in foreign net sell so far this year as it lost around 33 percent of its value.
"The majority of capital flight occurred in March in line with escalating COVID-19 infections in developing countries. This has resulted in investors dumping their assets and converting them into dollars," Perry went on to say.
The central bank pledged to work together with the government and the Financial Services Authority (OJK) to develop further measures to stabilize the country's financial market. Perry said the current situation was different compared to the 1998 and 2008 financial crises as the it was faced by financial markets and investors around the globe.
"Investors and market players dumped all their assets in stocks, bonds and gold and cashed them into dollars. All countries experienced the same thing, including Indonesia," he added.
Indonesia has recorded 308 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 25 deaths as of Thursday. Globally, the pneumonia-like illness has infected more than 244,000 people and claimed at least 10,000 lives.
The central bank slashed its benchmark interest rate, the BI seven-day reverse repo rate, by 25 basis points to 4.50 percent following another cut last month to help spur the weakening economy.
BI revised down on Thursday Indonesia's economic growth projection to between 4.2 percent and 4.6 percent this year, which would be the lowest levels since 2005. That compares with last month's projection of between 5 and 5.4 percent.
It also announced measures to calm the market rout and stabilize the rupiah, including by intensifying bond-buying in the secondary market and cutting banks' reserve ratio.