[lg policy] Bank Indonesia speaks in language most people don’t get

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Jul 16 10:46:46 EDT 2016

BI speaks in language most people don’t get

“What do these mean?” says Bachelor of Economics hopeful, Evian, 20,
pointing to the words “volatile foods” and “Fed fund rate” when browsing
through Bank Indonesia’s (BI) website.

Even when she understands some of the terms more widely used in her classes
such as “capital adequacy ratio” and “non-performing loans”, she would
still need the help of Google to make sure her understanding is right,
which is discouraging for her when trying to comprehend these concepts more

“If an economics student struggles to understand [these concepts], how can
the broader public get it?” claims Evian, an accounting student at a
private university in Jakarta, who raises an important issue that the
central bank strives to address.

Man-on-the-street Bayu Supratminto, 41, who works as a chicken noodle
vendor at a traditional market in West Jakarta, proves this.

“I’m confused about the words,” he responded, when analyzing a BI policy
statement shown to him, also adding that it is news to him that inflation
is part of the central bank’s duties.

BI, the nation’s main custodian of stabilizing the rupiah through price and
exchange rate controls, is not oblivious to this communication failure. The
central bank is trying to popularize its incomprehensible communiques and
make them more amenable to the people they serve.

However, BI spokesman Tirta Segara said it was not an easy task as it was
difficult trying to explain the central bank’s policies in simple
Indonesian language.

“I’m still trying to translate them [BI’s statements] into casual
language,” Tirta stated, admitting that monetary terms are difficult to
comprehend, especially for those without an economics background.
Internally, “we emphasize the need to use simple language when talking to
the public.”

Ase one way to address the communication gap, BI is considering launching a
mobile application that could deliver information about its monetary
policies in effort to reach more youngsters, said Tirta, who once worked
for the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

On social media, BI’s Twitter account *@bank_indonesia* is followed by
323,000 Twitter users. Another state institution Jakarta Metropolitan
Police’s traffic management center’s account *@TMCPoldaMetro* has
5.82 million followers. The central bank’s latest video on YouTube about
“why the rupiah weakens or strengthens” has been watched by 12,000 viewers.

Still, BI is also concerned that the use of more popular language could
mistranslate their policies and make them not as precise as it wants them
to be, especially for economists and the market.

Tirta said the central bank had no choice but to make several versions of
its statements to cater to different target audiences.

It has for the past few years begun a habit of publishing colorful and
pictorial infographics on its website and on newspapers so as to simplify
various data and make them more understandable, such as for inflation,
policy rates, loan-to-value (LTV) ratio policy, among others.

BI is not alone in facing these kinds of communication issues.

Bank of England (BOE) chief economist Andy Haldane recently admitted that
the UK central bank’s way of communication was too complex and inaccessible
to the average person on the street. The linguistic complexity of BOE
speeches and publications even outstripped commercial banks’ annual
reports, according to the central bank’s study.

“Plainly, there is further still for us all to go, myself very much
included, in simplifying our communication to enable us to speak clearly to
those we serve,” Haldane said as reported by Bloomberg.

*Esther Samboh contributed to this story*


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