Anwar dares Najib to debate on budget

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid, FMT

KUALA LUMPUR: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has dared Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to an open debate on their respective budgets in response to the latter’s accusation that Pakatan Rakyat’s alternative financial plan was “right-wing”.

Anwar, the former deputy prime minister and finance minister, said that Najib, as finance minister, is more than capable of debating on the matter.

He said that an open debate was the best way for voters to decide whose budget is better rather than taking potshots via government-owned media.

Najib, in his speech to Gerakan members attending their party’s annual general assembly yesterday, labelled Pakatan’s 2012 alternative budget as a “right-wing Republican budget that failed to address the needs of the people”.

“He shouldn’t be criticising our budget only through their (government) media… he should be able to defend our criticism of his budget as he is the finance minister.

“He is more than capable of presenting his case (in the open debate),” Anwar told a press conference at the Parliament lobby.

The budget row between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan has taken a front seat as both are trying to use their respective budgets as an election push as national polls is expected to be held within the next six months.

BN has used the same argument on the federal opposition’s “Orange Book” financial policies against Pakatan’s budget, accusing it as populist and unworkable while the latter claimed Najib’s 2012 spending plans are aimed at buying votes.

Among key plans in Najib’s budget are cash handouts to the poor and increasing money for civil servants – working and retired staff – which are seen as ways to retain support from BN’s traditional votebank.

Breaching the debt ceiling

Anwar said the “irresponsible” spending in the 2012 Budget is set to put Malaysia on course to breach the national debt limit.

In Bank Negara Malaysia’s latest report issued on Oct 14, Anwar said the country’s national debt currently stood at RM437 billion (as of June 30, 2011), with domestic debt amounting to RM421 billion and foreign debt at RM16 billion.

“This translates to a 51% local debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio as governed by Acts 637 and 275, which allows for approximately RM33 billion additional debt to be raised by the government (before the limit is reached),” he said.

Anwar said this meant Putrajaya has insufficient funds to finance the remainder of the 2011 expenditure while the RM46 billion deficit will be funded through additional debts.