Indonesia’s newly appointed Industry Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita is to focus on the development of industrial zones and to increase exports of manufacturing goods during his five-year working term.

In addition to increasing exports, he said he also plans to reduce imports of consumer goods and to promote import-substitution industrialisation to reduce the country’s current account deficit, which has continued to increase in recent months because of the country’s sluggish exports.

“The most important thing is that we should reduce the current account deficit so we will need to substitute for imported products,” Agus told reporters in his address during the transfer of duties ceremony at his new office in Jakarta.

Indonesia’s exports dropped 5.74 per cent year-on-year last month to $14.1 billion, marking an 11th consecutive month of year-on-year declines, Statistics Indonesia (Badan Pusat Statistik, BPS) reported. Imports, meanwhile, were down 2.41 per cent year-on-year in September at $14.2 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $160 million.

Agus said he is planning to develop more economic and industrial areas and also looking to strengthen inter-ministerial coordination in a bid to remove bureaucratic hurdles in executing the government’s programmes.

“President [Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo] has given me the task of immediately completing the B100 [100-per cent palm oil-based biofuel project],” said Agus upon being asked about his short-term plans. The former social affairs minister said he was also tasked by the president to reduce imports of consumer goods.

Agus replaced Airlangga Hartarto, who was appointed coordinating economic minister.

Economists said they believe the government’s lack of focus on industrial development was the reason for the decline of the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which was almost 30 per cent in 2002.

BPS data shows that the manufacturing sector’s GDP contribution fell to 19.52 per cent in the second quarter of this year, as the sector only grew 3.5 per cent annually, below GDP growth of five per cent.