November 16, 2018 / 5:15 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Indonesia to strengthen rules on repatriating revenue from resource exports

(Adds details, foreign investment relaxation)

By Gayatri Suroyo

JAKARTA, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Indonesia’s government is tightening requirements to force companies to repatriate revenue from the export of natural resources, a minister said on Friday, as authorities seek to support a fragile rupiah currency.

Special accounts will be created for exporters to deposit export revenue at local banks to allow for better monitoring by the government, Darmin Nasution, coordinating minister for economic affairs, told reporters. The new regulation due to take effect Jan. 1.

Companies would be barred from exporting if they do not repatriate earnings but would be allowed to keep earnings in dollars, though there would be tax incentives if they convert earnings to rupiah, he said.

Nasution said companies would be allowed to use the repatriated proceeds to fund imports or foreign debt payments.

“It is mandatory to repatriate the earnings and deposit them in the (banking) system. The earnings can still be used for the companies needs, but supporting documents must be provided,” he said. “We have to formulate policies to give confidence to fund owners so that they will flow into the country, whether it is short-term capital inflow or foreign direct investment,” Nasution said.

Indonesia has required exporters to receive their earnings through onshore banks since 2012. Central bank data shows while 90 percent of such earnings already flow through local banks, only 15 percent of these funds are converted to rupiah.

The rupiah has strengthened 1.5 percent over the past two days, driven higher by Bank Indonesia’s surprise interest rate rise on Thursday and climbing off from levels not seen since the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis.

On Friday, the government also said it would relax foreign investment restrictions to help boost investment.

Nasution said 54 business sectors previously partially closed to foreign ownership would be opened for full foreign ownership.

These included fabric printing, weaving, and certain dairy processing industries, Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto said.

The policy package will also include the expansion of Indonesia’s tax holiday programme. (Writing by Fransiska Nangoy Editing by Ed Davies and Kim Coghill)

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