Weekly Highlights

Can Tengku Zafrul’s 2021 Budget survive in ten days’ time?

Can Tengku Zafrul’s 2021 Budget survive in ten days’ time?

Can the Finance Minister, Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz’s 2021 budget survive in ten days’ time?

Parliament is now at the level of policy debate on the second reading of the 2020 budget, which is to conclude with the backbenchers’ speeches  on  Thursday followed by replies by the Ministers, with the Finance Minister expected on November 25 to be the last speaker winding up the Budget 2021 debate.

There will then be a vote on the second reading of the 2021 Budget.

If the 2021 Budget  is defeated in the second reading policy debate, then there is no need for Parliament to continue with  the committee stage of the 2021 budget to examine each Ministry’s budget.

Will Tengku Zafrul’s 2021 Budget survive the expected November 25 vote on the second reading  in ten days’ time?

Opposition Members of Parliament have been bending backwards so as to support the 2021 Budget, but the Finance Minister has taken advantage of the Yang di Pertuan Agong’s repeated advice to MPs to  give full support to the 2021 Budget and to heal the economy  in the midst of the “once-in-a-century” Covid-19 epidemic.

This is the height of irresponsibility on Tengku Zafrul’s part in expecting a blank cheque from Members of Parliament  because the Yang di Pertuan Agong and Malay Rulers have rejected the Cabinet’s sudden and completely unjustified decision on October 23 for a declaration of an emergency to suspend Parliament in Malaysia.

Yesterday, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz even went to the extent of warning that salaries for civil servants, health workers, and cash handouts would be stalled unless Budget 2021 was approved.

I agree with the Opposition leader Datuk Seri  Anwar Ibrahim that  Zafrul’s statement is an unacceptable threat and an attempt to ignore or sidestep  valid and legitimate criticisms regarding Budget 2021,  which had not been considered and approved by the Cabinet.

This is why we have an astounding situation where the Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Saifuddin Abdullah, is not aware that the Special Affairs Department (JASA) is being revived with such a huge allocation of RM85.5 million – re-enacting the shocking abuse of Prime Ministerial power as the JASA head will not be answerable to the Minister as he only  reports only  to the Prime Minister.

It is not good enough for Tengku Zafrul to have a meeting with Opposition leaders before the 2021 Budget was presented to Parliament on November 6, without accepting or incorporating any of  their views and suggestions.

As there had been a week of debate on the 2021 Budget,  he should now meet with the Opposition Leaders on how he is going to incorporate their  views and suggestions so that the 2021 Budget is truly an “unity” budget, reflecting the viewpoints of all political leaders and parties  in Parliament and be the basis for an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approach to galvanise the unity of Malaysians in the war against the Covid-19 epidemic

Lim Kit Siang

MP for Iskandar Puteri

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