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Shoppers lead the charge as rupiah bounces back JAKARTA - Architect Andi Perdana dug out his wallet without hesitation and snapped up new cell phones for himself and his wife in a shopping mall in Surabaya, East Java. In what seemed like an extravagant move, he bought a Nokia 6510 for 2.4 million rupiah (S$500) and a Siemens S45 for 1.6 million rupiah. But he had a justification for it: 'We wanted to upgrade our handphones last year but waited because prices were high. 'Now even top-of-the-line models are more affordable. We don't have to wait anymore,' he said.
The two phones would have cost him 3.5 million rupiah and 2.4 million rupiah, respectively, just two months ago. Cell phone dealers around Jakarta verified Mr Andi's estimates, and explained that prices fluctuate depending on the rupiah's performance. Most models, they said, had become considerably cheaper in recent months.
The rupiah's recent vigour - the currency has gained nearly 20 per cent in value against the American dollar since Jan 1 - has made many high-end items cheaper for Indonesian shoppers. And consumers, who avoided spending too much on high-priced, dollar-pegged items during the crisis years, have embarked on a buying binge that analysts say could boost Indonesia's recovery process. The trend is not limited to cell phones but extends to electronics, cars and other consumer items.
This week, Indonesian car association Gaikindo reported that a stronger rupiah, and therefore cheaper prices, had contributed to a significant 15-per-cent rise in vehicle sales in the first five months of this year, compared to the same period last year. Based on a healthy performance during the first half of the year, dealerships in major cities predict yearly sales of as many as 320,000 vehicle units, 10 per cent more than last year. In addition to its positive effects on the economy, increased consumer spending, according to analysts, could also be seen as a strong vote of confidence in the government's performance.
Among the middle-class, an influential minority in Indonesia's socio-economic scheme and the engine of the country's consumer activity, President Megawati Sukarnoputri seems to be scoring major points. Danareksa Research Institute, which conducts monthly confidence surveys, said in its last report that stronger consumer spending was in sight, with the percentage of respondents ready to buy durable items within the next six months up from 22.6 per cent to 23.1 per cent.
'Consumers placed greater confidence in the government's ability to improve their welfare.
'Consumers are now less worried about being laid off. 'Optimism has also returned to the future job market as the recovery has gathered pace,' the research institute's report said. But the analysts warn that the government still has to provide the right environment for continued stability and increased consumer activity. 'Sentiment can change in no time in response to a salient change in the environment,' their report added.



Posted in Economy @ 21 June 2002 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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