Indonesian leader welcomes raised credit rating

December 16, 2011 - 7:50 AM

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Friday a decision to award Indonesia "investment grade" status for the first time since the 1997 Asian financial crisis will help fuel his country's booming economy.

Fitch Ratings became the first of three credit agencies to lift Indonesia's sovereign credit rating from junk status to triple-B-minus, citing steady economic growth, low government debt and strong macroeconomics policy.

Standard & Poor's and Moody's are expected to follow sometime next year.

"We are delighted," Yudhoyono said, smiling broadly at a news conference at the presidential palace in the capital, Jakarta. "Especially amid economic uncertainties that have resulted in credit downgrades for many other countries — including the U.S. and Europe."

"With this investment grade, international capital will flow in with a long-term, low interest rate," he said, adding that could open up many new business opportunities. "This momentum should not be wasted."

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelagic nation of 240 million people, has one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia. Its gross domestic product was growing at 6.5 percent in the latest quarter, thanks in large to domestic consumption and a fast-growing middle class.

That lags only behind China and Argentina, each with 9.5 percent.

Still, the country has struggled to attract much-needed international investment since the 1997-1998 monetary crisis, due to poor infrastructure, legal uncertainties, corruption and bureaucratic red tape.

Yudhoyono said Indonesia will try to keep its budget deficit below 2.5 percent until 2014 to avoid problems experienced by other countries with high debt-to-GDP ratios.

"We need to continue to have a prudent macro policy," he said.