JAKARTA: Indonesia’s trade surplus hit a record high of US$54.46 billion last year amid a global increase in commodity prices and a disruption to the global supply chains as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.
The surplus was a 53.75 per cent increase from the US$35.42 billion in 2021. It was caused by increases in prices and export shipments of commodities like coal, crude palm oil and iron.
Data from Statistics Indonesia (BPS) on Monday (Jan 16) showed that 2022 exports were worth US$291.98 billion, an increase of 26.07 per cent compared to the year before. Imports in 2022 were valued at US$237.52 billion, an increase of 21.07 per cent compared to 2021.
Among its trading partners, Indonesia benefitted the most from its trade with the US, and saw the biggest bilateral deficit with Australia.
The US accounted for the largest portion of Indonesia’s overall trade surplus last year. Excluding oil and gas products, the US imported US$18.89 billion more from Indonesia than it exported to the Southeast Asian country
Knitted clothing and accessories worth US$2.86 billion made up the largest commodity imported to the US from Indonesia, followed by machinery and electrical equipment worth US$2.83 billion.
Other countries which contributed the highest to Indonesia’s trade surplus were India and the Philippines.
Excluding oil and gas products, Indonesia experienced its largest trade deficit of US$6 billion with Australia. This is due to its import of coal and cereal amounting to US$1.93 billion and US$1.72 billion respectively.
It also incurred high trade deficits with Thailand and China.
According to BPS data, the country’s exports have exceeded its imports for 32 consecutive months.
TRADE SURPLUS “NOT SUSTAINABLE”: ECONOMIST
Speaking to CNA, Jakarta-based economist Bhima Yudhistira from the Center of Economic and Law Studies (CELIOS) said that the trade surplus Indonesia is seeing is “only temporary”.
“This is not sustainable. Just look at the data as of December, exports are starting to trend down,” said Mr Bhima.
He forecasted that 2023 will see a smaller trade surplus or “even a deficit” as imports into the country have increased due to the relaxation of COVID-19 movement restrictions in Indonesia.
“As domestic activity begins to grow, imports (will) rise. But exports to the three central regions - America, Europe and China - are still experiencing uncertainty…” said the economist.
Mr Bhima also called on the government to allow for a greater diversification of exports and for the strengthening of the domestic base to cushion the impact of a potential economic slowdown.
"There needs to be diversification of export products which are finished goods or manufactured products. Secondly, (Indonesia) must strengthen the domestic base because it can be a temporary diversion of some commodities that are falling/weakening,” he said.
Additional reporting by Kiki Siregar