Malaysia's Anwar seeks budget review after crisis

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he will call for a review of the country's 2009 budget when parliament reconvenes on Monday, saying it had become "obsolete" in the face of the global financial crisis.

The former finance minister told reporters on Sunday the Barisan Nasional government, which announced the budget in August with a higher budget deficit, was in denial about the effects of a near breakdown of the world's financial system on Malaysia.

Anwar's move to question the government's financial management may bring him face-to-face with Najib Razak -- the current finance minister and successor to the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi -- who now stands in his way to take power.

"One of the first things would be a review of the budget figures, most countries have done that, including Singapore. We need to do that as an urgent matter," said Anwar.

"Of course, this does not seem to be the direction and policy of the present government, including the finance minister. We cannot work on obsolete figures."

In August, Abdullah used the budget to cut personal income tax, pay more to pensioners and spend billions of dollars to improve food security and rural infrastructure in a bid to soothe angry voters stung by the rising living costs.

Spending was expected to push the budget deficit to 3.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2009 and 4.8 percent this year, way above the government's earlier targets.

Anwar, who vowed to overthrow the government, promised to revive the South East Asian economy, which lost some of its attractiveness as an investment destination to faster-growing regional rivals.

He insisted that he has won over enough defectors from the government to form a new administration. But an earlier self-imposed deadline of Sept. 16 passed and his calls to recall parliament for a confidence vote were denied.

The 61-year old former deputy premier denied news reports that he planned to seize power just before an important Muslim festival in early December.

"I have not set any dates as yet. All the foundations are in place," Anwar said.

($1=3.510 Ringgit)

(Reporting by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani) Keywords: MALAYSIA POLITICS/ECONOMY



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