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Economy

Indonesia posts narrowest budget deficit in 6 years in 2018

JAKARTA (Reuters) -- Indonesia posted the smallest fiscal deficit in six years in 2018 and less than initially projected, despite turbulence in its financial markets due to capital outflows, its finance minister said in a Facebook post.

The estimated budget deficit last year was equal to 1.72 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), narrower than both the government's original plan of 2.19 percent and the latest estimate of 1.83 percent, Sri Mulyani Indrawati said in a message posted late on New Year's eve.

As a percentage of GDP, that was the smallest since 2012, the former World Bank managing director said.

The 2018 budget also has a 4.1 trillion rupiah ($283.25 million) surplus in its primary balance, or budget balance before interest payments, which Indrawati said was the first surplus since 2011.

"We have done our duty to manage government finances well. The year 2018 was not an easy year with fluctuations in the global economy, commodity prices, capital flows and exchange rate," she said, while also noting higher interest rates at home and globally.

Southeast Asia's largest economy saw its rupiah currency plunge to the weakest in 20 years in 2018 due to capital outflows linked to worries about its twin deficits, U.S. interest rate increases and concerns about the fallout for Asia from the U.S.-China trade war.

However, inflows towards the end of the year bounced it back and the currency closed the year 6 percent weaker compared to end-2017.

Indrawati said 2018 income from taxes and other revenue sources grew "high and healthy". She previously said higher oil prices and weaker rupiah had resulted in higher government revenues.

The minister is expected to hold a news conference on budget realization later on Wednesday.

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