FINANCE Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said Indonesia’s government had increased its budget to control the coronavirus pandemic and help the economy recover to IDR699.43 trillion (US$49.60 billion).

“This is the most important engine in our economy right now. The budget has been increased several times from an initial IDR372.3 trillion figure and the new figure marks a 21% increase from realised pandemic spending last year,” Sri Mulyani Indrawati said during the virtual presentation.

She explained that the budget, especially social assistance for the poor and help for businesses, is expected to lift growth in the first quarter of this year. First quarter gross domestic product is expected to improve from the fourth, and “hopefully” post positive growth, deputy minister Suahasil Nazara told the same briefing.

“Southeast Asia’s largest economy suffered its first contraction in over two decade last year as the pandemic hit consumption and investment. For this year, I have forecast GDP growth of 5%. Meanwhile, the fiscal deficit target for 2021 remains at 5.7% of GDP despite the latest spending expansion plan and the ministry is also planning to lower its debt issuance this year,” she concluded. [ special]