Tuesday was a disappointing day for PH leaders and supporters, who had hoped that Budget 2021 will be defeated at the 3rd reading in Parliament and allow Pakatan Harapan(PH) to reclaim the people’s mandate won in the 2018 general election. There is a need for a reset in the current course set by PH following the passage of the 2021 Budget by Malaysia’s first unelected and minority government in a close vote of 111-108.
There were many reasons for objecting to the 2021 Budget. The PN’s first Budget was not inclusive with many sectors left out especially in sectors such education, welfare assistance particularly the unemployed, COVID-19 vaccine and prevention, aid for SMEs and marginalizing the non-Malay communities. The government’s mishandling of the current third wave of COVID-19 infections which have seen record number of infections is not helped by the reduction in the COVID-19 Fund from RM38 billion in 2020 to RM17 billion for 2021.
Further, the misuse of government funding for political purposes such as JASA, the appointment of politicians to replace professionals in Government-Linked Corporations(GLCs), the failure to increase welfare payments to RM1,000 monthly including the unemployed, failure to address the education crisis where students attend only 4 months of schooling this year and drastic funding cuts to religious schools, Chinese and Tamil schools.
The Budget was not realistic with overly optimistic projections of growth and revenue collection. In many respects it was an ordinary Budget in extraordinary times. Budget 2021 deficiencies was magnified by Fitch’s downgrading of Malaysia’s sovereign credit ratings downgrade, the first downgrade of a major ASEAN nation.
Despite the obvious failures, the passage of the 2021 Budget is seen as a proxy of a vote of confidence of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional(PN) government. PH had declared our support for Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as our candidate for Prime Minister and that he can court support from government backbenchers provided they are not kleptocrat MPs, particularly Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Yesterday’s vote has clearly shown that the 108 MPs opposed to Perikatan Nasional is the same number that stayed firmly with PH in March 2020. Not a single government back bencher voted with PH, including those who allegedly support Datuk Seri Anwar. Clearly these government backbenchers are adept at playing political games to gain maximum leverage from the PN government.
This is the reality that PH must face, the need for a political reset to focus on uniting our friends amongst the opposition MPs who stood by us on Tuesday. PH should not be wasting time on opportunistic government backbenchers exploiting PH for their own private benefit to get more and more lucrative deals from the PN government.
Instead, that time and resources should be spent on our friends and allies that can seek common cause for the rakyat based on principles of sound democratic values, good governance, anti-corruption and economic progress and social justice. In other words, instead of 92 PH allied MPs, PH should widen our horizon to concentrate on the 108 opposition MPs, which is PH Plus. The Budget vote on Tuesday has taught us not to lose our energy on seeking the mirage of more than 111 MPs based only on PH’s core of 92 MPs. Should the 108 MPs be the base instead, how much stronger then will be PH Plus.
There must now be a political reset to focus on building a more united opposition grouping that can fight as one in the next general elections. PH leaders must put aside past baggage so that PH can expand to PH Plus with a formidable force of 108 MPs. With 108 PH Plus MPs as a solid grouping, anything is still possible.
Joint statement from
LIM GUAN ENG
DAP Secretary General
MOHAMAD BIN SABU
President of Amanah