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Malaysia economy “buckling” in global slump: Anwar

Posted on: March 10, 2009


AFP – Monday, March 9

KUALA LUMPUR, March 9, 2009 (AFP) – Malaysia’s economy is “buckling under the pressure of a global recession” and could contract by two percent this year, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has warned.

Anwar, who was finance minister before being ejected from the ruling Barisan Nasional-controlled government in 1998, said at least 400,000 people risk losing their jobs in 2009.

“The days and months ahead will not be easy,” he said in comments published on his blog late Sunday.

“Our economy is buckling under the pressure of a global recession. Every month that passes more factories are closed and more jobs are lost. Some groups have predicted nearly 400,000 more are at risk in 2009,” he said.

Anwar made the remarks ahead of an expected announcement by finance minister Najib Razak of a new plan aimed at preventing the third largest economy in Southeast Asia from slipping into recession.

A government official told AFP that Najib will Tuesday unveil a plan worth up to 9.4 billion dollars.

Official data released last month showed economic growth slowed to just 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, hit by falling exports and slowing manufacturing as demand evaporated.

Malaysia unveiled its first 2.0 billion dollar stimulus package last year.

“The economy stopped growing at the end of 2008 and is now expected to contract at least 2 percent (in 2009),” Anwar said on his blog.

He also lashed out at the government for implementing the stimulus package late when “our primary export markets in Singapore, the US and the European Union warned of recession months ago.”

“The question arises then why did we not act sooner?,” he said.

“The government is encumbered by divisive politics and the underhanded tactics of the ruling party; a party that has placed its own self-preservation ahead of the interests of the people,” he said.

Wan Suhaimi Saidi, an economist with Kenanga Investment Bank, warned that a contraction was a distinct possibility.

“We may go though a technical recession in the first half of 2009,” he told AFP over the weekend. “We are facing a slowdown. Unemployment is rising. Consumer demand and commodity prices are also falling.

“It could take as long as 18 months to see signs of recovery in the global economy,” he added.

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