The business climate has improved in Indonesia, but this is no time for complacency
by Patrice Ollivaud and Petar Vujanovic, OECD Economics Department
The government has put a heavy emphasis on improving the business climate, thereby promoting a competitive, innovative and dynamic private business sector. Traditionally Indonesia has relied heavily on commodities, but the recent focus of policy has been on facilitating economic development and structural change by diversifying the economy, supporting the development of the manufacturing sector and promoting downstream local value added.
Global competitiveness rankings illustrate the challenges faced by Indonesia. In terms of competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum, Indonesia’s overall ranking in 2016 slipped to 41st and would be even lower (52nd) if market size is excluded from the calculation (Figure 1). As pointed out in the 2016 OECD Economic Survey of Indonesia, poor infrastructure is one factor holding back structural transformation. The government has recently committed a large amount of funding to fill some of the gaps. However a lot remains to be done, for instance regarding labour market regulation and health and education outcomes.
The authorities have released 13 reform packages since September 2015, focusing notably on deregulating and improving the business environment. And the President has set a target of boosting Indonesia to at least 40th place among 189 economies in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings. Indonesia has recently made good progress in that exercise, moving from 120th to 91st between 2015 and 2017 (World Bank, 2016). The bulk of this improvement came from changes to corporate tax rules. For example, the average number of annual tax payments a firm is required to make fell from 65 in 2015 to 43 in 2017, but it remains well above Singapore (6), Malaysia (9) and Thailand (21) and Indonesia still ranks 160th in this subcategory. In its 12th reform package the government stated its intention to reduce the number of tax payments per year to just 10.
As noted in the Survey, a significant part of the problem resides at the sub-national level, and indeed, in July 2016 3 000 sub-national government regulations that were inconsistent with national legislation were scrapped. If Indonesia is to make more progress in improving its business climate, sub-national governments need to streamline and harmonise their bureaucracy. There is enormous regional variation in these regulations, with some matching international best practice. The lagging regions should be encouraged to emulate the leaders.
The Survey makes recommendations to make further gains:
- Reduce transaction taxes (including stamp duties, licensing fees and business registration) and the tax on the acquisition of land and buildings by imposing ceilings or replacing them with fixed fees;
- Improve coordination and information sharing among government agencies, so that businesses are not obliged to notify each agency of having completed administrative tasks in another;
- Step up monitoring of the implementation of national regulations across the country;
- Speed up procedures at the land registry office; and
- Make the business registry electronic.
World Bank (2016), Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All, Washington DC: World Bank, DOI: 10.1596/978-1-4648-0948-4.