March 12, 2016 / 4:05 AM / 3 years ago

Malaysian finance official set to be central bank governor: WSJ

Malaysia's Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz arrives at an event announcing revisions to the fiscal budget in Putrajaya, Malaysia, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A top Malaysian finance ministry official is set to be appointed central bank governor to replace Zeti Akhtar Aziz next week, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified sources.

Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah will replace Zeti, who steps down as Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor on April 30 after 16 years at the helm, the newspaper said.

When contacted by Reuters, Mohd Irwan said in a text message he did not know if he had been shortlisted for the role.

A spokesman at the Prime Minister’s Office told Reuters he would not comment on speculation. A central bank spokeswoman said the bank could not comment on the matter.

Zeti is widely respected, and credited for pushing reforms and sound policies, as well as protecting the independence of the central bank. There has been no official word on her replacement.

Market participants feared political interference in the appointment by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government especially after BNM insisted that state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) be charged for fiscal mismanagement..

Mohd Irwan was one of the candidates short-listed for the job along with deputy central bank governor Muhammad Ibrahim, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Economic Planning Abdul Wahid Omar and the ambassador to the United States Awang Adek Hussin, Reuters reported in February.

A career civil servant, Mohd Irwan is Treasury secretary-general at the Finance Ministry, which is headed by Prime Minister Najib. He is also a member of the board of advisers for 1MDB.

Reporting by Praveen Menon and Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Sam Holmes

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