JAKARTA: Indonesia’s economy returned to growth last year as surging commodity prices helped drive a recovery from a coronavirus-triggered recession, data showed, though officials warned the outlook depended on how well the fast-spreading Omicron variant is managed.
Southeast Asia’s biggest economy expanded 3.69 per cent on-year, the country’s statistics agency said, having contracted in 2020 for the first time since 1998 during the region’s financial crisis.
The healthy rebound came largely on the back of declining coronavirus cases and robust exports, as prices for key commodities such as palm oil, coal and nickel rose significantly, Central Statistics Bureau head Margo Yuwono told a news conference.
And in an optimistic sign, the economy grew a forecast-beating 5.02 per cent on-year in the final three months.
“We hope the momentum of the economic recovery will be maintained in 2022 as long as we all agree that health protocols are critical so daily cases will decline and mobility will get better,” Yuwono said.
The country’s trade surplus for 2021 reached $35.34 billion, its highest in 15 years, the statistics agency reported earlier.
Indonesia was hit hard in July as the Delta variant swept the country, forcing the government to impose tighter social-distancing restrictions that hobbled businesses.
A subsequent easing of those restrictions as cases declined in the fourth quarter allowed for a bounce back in some sectors, including transportation.
But daily caseloads are once again surging owing to Omicron, with the country reporting 30,000 cases a day compared with fewer than 1,000 in December, forcing officials to re-impose containment measures in Jakarta, Bandung and Bali.
The government expects daily cases to peak by late February or early March.
Despite worries over Omicron, the Central Bank of Indonesia has projected the economy to grow 4.7-5.5 per cent this year, while the International Monetary Fund has projected a 5.6 per cent expansion in 2022 and 6.0 per cent in 2023.