More Indonesian SMEs are back to normal operations following Covid-19 declines: Survey

Total daily Covid-19 caseloads have trended down in the past few months, and 5.06 per cent of the population has been vaccinated.
Total daily Covid-19 caseloads have trended down in the past few months, and 5.06 per cent of the population has been vaccinated.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Over four-fifths of Indonesian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have started to operate normal full hours, according to a March-April survey by Jakarta-based Mandiri Institute.

This survey highlights the increasing confidence among consumers and businesses in the grassroots that South-east Asia's largest economy has managed to curb Covid-19 infections and has stepped up its vaccination programme.

The survey on 505 respondents across Indonesia was conducted by the affiliate of Indonesia's second-largest lender Bank Mandiri.

It revealed that 84.8 per cent of the businesses have started operating normally. This compares with 35.2 per cent which operated on normal hours in the middle of last year - where another 34.5 per cent of them then operated on limited hours and 30.4 per cent were forced to close temporarily.

As many as 49 per cent of the respondents run their business in Java, the most populous island, while 22 per cent were in Sumatera, 16 per cent in Kalimantan, and the remaining in other places across the world's largest archipelagic nation.

Indonesia on Wednesday (May 19) reported 4,871 new Covid-19 cases to bring the tally to 1,753,101. Total daily caseloads have trended down in the past few months, and 5.06 per cent of the population has been vaccinated.

The government aims to inoculate 70 million people by September and 181.5 million people, or 67 per cent of its 270 million population, by 2022, to achieve herd immunity. The Health Ministry has roped in police and military personnel across the country's 34 provinces to help ensure that people comply to health protocols.

According to the Mandiri Institute survey, small businesses in Indonesia have retrenched between two to four people since the pandemic started, while medium-sized businesses cut headcount by an average of 18.

Small businesses are those with annual revenues of up to 2.5 billion rupiah (S$238,000), while medium enterprises' revenues exceed 2.5 billion rupiah to 50 billion rupiah a year.

"Consumer confidence index in April, for the first time in the past year, showed consumers' expectation on the economic condition turned optimistic," Mr Panji Irawan, a Bank Mandiri director, said in an online media briefing on Wednesday.

Total loans extended by Mandiri for the year ended March 31 rose at an annual pace of 9.1 per cent, while funds placed by depositors, clients at the bank rose 25 per cent. Bank Mandiri attributed the improved performance to a low interest rate environment, temporary value-added tax exemptions on vehicle purchases, and relaxed rules on taking out loans.

Indonesia's benchmark interest rate is currently at a record low of 3.5 per cent.

Indonesia has 87,514 active Covid-19 cases, a significant decline from around 177,000 at the peak in early February. The country is the hardest-hit by the pandemic in South-east Asia, with 1.75 million infections and 48,669 deaths as at Wednesday.

The proportion of Indonesia's total population that has received at least one dose of a vaccine as at May 17 was 5.06 per cent, according to ourworldindata.org and SDG-Tracker, a joint effort between the University of Oxford and non-profit organisation Global Change Data Lab.

The figure for Indonesia is the highest among countries in South-east Asia with a population of more than 20 million.

Malaysia recorded 3.77 per cent, Thailand 2.18 per cent, the Philippines 2.05 per cent and Vietnam 0.98 per cent. Myanmar had 3.11 per cent as at May 4, the latest data available. Meanwhile, the figure for Singapore is 32.48 per cent.