Widodo seeks help from execs

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    JAKARTA – Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday urged bank executives to help stimulate the economy with cuts in lending rates and loans to small and medium firms, as authorities vowed to support growth after feeble third quarter data.

    Southeast Asia’s largest economy grew at its weakest pace in over two years with annual growth at 5.02 percent in July-September, hurt by slackening private consumption and sluggish investment.

    Widodo echoed cabinet members in his administration, saying the country should be grateful for above 5 percent growth rate when other economies are seeing much slower growth or even contraction.

    However, the president wants bankers to help the government lift growth further to ward off risks stemming from the US-China trade war, Brexit and a global economic slowdown.

    He told banking executives in a conference they should be lending more to small and medium enterprises at a time of slowing growth.

    “Don’t just finance the big players,” Widodo said to applause from his audience. “I repeat, don’t just finance the big players and don’t just finance the same players.”

    He added, “I will keep notes of those of you who clapped.”

    Widodo also urged bankers to lower borrowing costs to match the central bank’s benchmark rate reduction.

    In a statement late on Tuesday, Bank Indonesia (BI) said it would work with the government to maintain economic stability, while continuing efforts to stimulate domestic demand and encourage investment.

    The central bank has cut its benchmark interest rates four times since July by a total of 100 basis points (bps), but Widodo said commercial banks had not brought down lending rates as fast and as much as they should have. – Reuters