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What about the small man?

KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 (Reuters) - Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday criticised a proposed $2.2 billion debt restructuring plan for Renong Bhd as a bailout that he said was unfair to hundreds of smaller companies.

"I regret this particular bailout decision because it lacks transparency and does not display equal concern to hundreds of other companies that encounter problems,'' Anwar said in a written statement.

Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, distributed the statement to reporters outside the capital's High Court, where he is standing trial on corruption charges he denies.

Anwar  was commenting on a proposal by Renong and the government's Corporate Debt Restructuring Committee (CDRC) to have the toll road unit of Renong's affiliate United Engineers (Malaysia) Bhd (UEM) issue 8.41 billion ringgit of bonds.

The proceeds would be used by Renong and UEM to repay debts.

Anwar had harsh criticism for the proposal and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's government.

"The country is facing an economic crisis. With limited resources available, policies and decisions must be guided by national interest and people's welfare in mind,'' he said.

"Unfortunately, the limited financial resources have been used to salvage family companies owned by cronies.''

The proposal by Renong and the CDRC which was unveiled on Monday replaced an earlier plan which would have required government-guaranteed bonds and toll increases by UEM toll road operator Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan Bhd (PLUS).

"When I was the minister of finance, the ministry had rejected the bond issue proposed by Renong. Similarly, their proposal for a drastic toll increase was also rejected,'' Anwar said.

"And with my dismissal, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir and Tun Daim are free to act without obstruction,'' he said, referring to Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin.

Anwar said "massive financial injections'' by the government pension fund and trust agencies raised questions about the absorption of liquidity which he said could be shared with hundreds of other companies. He did not elaborate.

Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang questioned whether the government's decision last week to extend PLUS's concession for the North-South Expressway by 12 years was critical to the 8.41 billion ringgit bond issue.

"If this is the case, then we are mortgaging the present and next generation of Malaysians to bail out Renong and UEM -- and the Renong bailout is being carried out involving public funds, though not directly from the Treasury chests but indirectly from the increased 12-year toll collection from the motorists,'' Lim said.

The CDRC on Monday defended the proposed debt restructuring plan for Renong, saying it would not involve any taxpayer's funds, allow Renong and UEM creditors to be repaid and enable the group to continue operating.

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