Indonesia, a vast polyglot nation, has struggled to overcome the Asian financial crisis, and still grapples with persistent poverty and unemployment, inadequate infrastructure, endemic corruption, a fragile banking sector, a poor investment climate, and unequal resource distribution among regions. The country continues the slow work of rebuilding from the devastating December 2004 tsunami and from an earthquake in central Java in May 2006 that caused over $3 billion in damage and losses.
Java Earthquake 2006 Photostory
Declining oil production and lack of new exploration investment turned Indonesia into a net oil importer in 2004. The cost of subsidizing domestic fuel placed increasing strain on the budget in 2005, and combined with indecisive monetary policy, contributed to a run on the currency in August, prompting the government to enact a 126% average fuel price hike in October. The resulting inflation and interest rate hikes dampened growth through mid-2006, while large increases in rice prices pushed millions more people under the national poverty line.
Economic reformers introduced three policy packages in 2006 to improve the investment climate, infrastructure, and the financial sector, but translating them into reality has not been easy. Keys to future growth remain internal reform, building up the confidence of international and domestic investors, and strong global economic growth.
Significant progress has been made in rebuilding Aceh after the devastating December 2004 tsunami, and the province now shows more economic activity than before the disaster. Unfortunately, Indonesia suffered new disasters in 2006 and early 2007 including: a major earthquake near Yogyakarta, an industrial accident in Sidoarjo, East Java that created a "mud volcano," a tsunami in South Java, and major flooding in Jakarta, all of which caused additional damages in the billions of dollars. Donors are assisting Indonesia with its disaster mitigation and early warning efforts.