By Gayatri Suroyo and Stefanno Sulaiman
JAKARTA (Reuters) -Indonesian central bank governor Perry Warjiyo emphasised on Wednesday the need to adjust interest rates early to control inflation, which is near its highest rate in seven years.
But availability of energy subsidies next year would let Bank Indonesia (BI) moderate rises in interest rates, Warjiyo said.
“Interest rate policy will be front-loaded, pre-emptive and forward looking while being done in a measured way to reduce inflation expectations, which currently remain high,” he said at an annual gathering of bankers, government officials and the central bank.
To tame inflation, BI has lifted interest rates by a total of 175 basis points (bp) this year, while raising banks’ required reserve levels and selling some bonds. Consumer prices in October were 5.71% higher than a year earlier – down a little from September’s annual inflation of 5.95%, the highest since 2015.
Policy synergy between the central bank and the government would be important to maintain next year in order to control prices, the governor said. “An energy subsidy will be distributed (in 2023) so inflation can be controlled and the BI policy rate increase can be more measured,” Warjiyo said.
Energy subsidies amid high global oil prices have been especially important in holding down consumer price rises this year, when the budget for them rose to 208.9 trillion rupiah ($13.28 billion) from 140.4 trillion rupiah in 2021.
They will be maintained at a slightly higher level of 211.98 trillion rupiah in 2023 budget.
With inflation expectations still high, Warjiyo repeated earlier BI statements that the central bank would steer core inflation toward its target range of 2% to 4% in the first half of 2023.
He expected inflation in 2024 to be in a range of 1.5% to 3.5%.
Warjiyo said other policy tools would be geared towards maintaining economic growth, which is seen between 4.5% and 5.3% next year and between 4.7% and 5.5% in 2024.
At the same meeting, President Joko Widodo warned of a risk of declining exports in 2023 due to the global economic slowdown. Food and energy supply could be disrupted and attracting investment may be harder, he added.
“We need to be careful regarding supply of food and energy,” Widodo said. “We have to carefully maintain household consumption so economic growth can meet our target.”
It was important to stick to the country’s policy of creating more value from its metal resources, such as nickel, tin, copper and bauxite, the president added.
Relatively resilient economic growth next year would mean BI has room for rate hikes of up to 50 bp more, said Trimegah Securities’ economist Fakhrul Fulvian.
Expecting global volatility to ease in 2023, Warjiyo said the rupiah – which has lost over 9% against the U.S. dollar so far in 2022 – is expected to strengthen.
He also vowed to continue BI’s so-called ‘operation twist’ in the bond market next year. Under the scheme, BI would sell off short-term notes, make the yield more attractive for foreign investors, while buying long-term bonds to limit the rise in the government’s borrowing costs.
BI still holds around 1,325 trillion rupiah ($84.19 billion) of bonds on its books, much of which was accumulated under the pandemic-era quantitative easing.
“I don’t think they will be able to reduce (their bond holdings) much because they will have to consider liquidity levels,” said Mandiri Securities’ head of fixed income, Handy Yunianto, noting the BI governor comments in the speech that he would like to maintain ample liquidity in the market next year.
($1 = 15,738.0000 rupiah)
(Reporting by Stefanno Sulaiman, Gayatri Suroyo, Fransiska Nangoy and Ananda Teresia; Writing by Ed Davies and Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Bradley Perrett)