Anwar: Support for Budget 2021 not unconditional

pic by ARIF KARTONO

OPPOSITION leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (picture) said the support for Budget 2021 is not unconditional as there are various issues surrounding the government’s financial plan.

“I stress again that we were told to support (the budget) under the assumption that it is a Covid-19 budget, therefore in my opinion we will only support it if it is a Covid-19 budget.

“We were urged and advised to support this bill as a Covid-19 budget and we will only support that one, and not anything other than it,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

Anwar said the allocation for Covid-19 only make up 5.3% of the total national budget for next year.

“I propose for the Finance Ministry (MoF) to review the budget and listen to the debates raised by other MPs, so that matters on Covid-19 will be prioritised,” he added.

Last Friday, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz had presented the biggest budget in Malaysia’s history at RM322.5 billion.

Of the total, RM236.5 billion is for operating expenditure and RM69 billion is for development expenditure. RM17 billion is allocated to the Covid-19 fund and RM2 billion is for contingency savings.

During the debate session on the Supply Bill 2021, Anwar also described Budget 2021 as “misleading” as several projections made by the government did not reflect the actual economic situation in the country amid the limited circumstances due to the pandemic.

According to him, the budget does not thoroughly elaborate the allocations and the projections mainly on economic growth for next year should be realistic.

“The country had recorded positive figures in terms of exports, but any projections made have to be realistic, for example the corporate tax estimated by the MoF.”

The Port Dickson MP said Malaysia recorded corporate taxes totalling RM63.8 billion in 2019 and the figure is expected to be RM59.4 billion this year, as stated by Tengku Zafrul.

Anwar said it would be impossible for the tax to only be reduced by about RM4 billion amid the pandemic, which has led to closure of some businesses and massive retrenchment.

He also said the projection of corporate taxes for 2021 at RM64.6 billion is also “unreasonable”. “The projection made for tax revenue from individuals’ income, which is estimated to be RM42.4 billion in 2021, is also not only unreasonable but it is irresponsible of the ministry if it (the budget) is  not amended and passed.

“The MoF needs to explain the projection for revenue in Budget 2021, from the corporate tax, income tax or sales of assets.

“I hope everyone can review the figures again. To me, it is a misleading budget,” he added.

Anwar questioned the allocation for the procurement of the Covid-19 vaccine, which was said to be RM3 billion but is not stated clearly in the budget.

“We know it (the vaccine) is a need and we will support it if there is a way for us to get the vaccine. There is no reason to oppose it.

“I am worried because it seems like a figure manipulation budget.”

Anwar also questioned the government’s move to reduce allocation for paddy subsidies by RM50 million despite increasing the farmers’ allowances by RM50.

The reduction in subsidies will affect thousands of families who are in the bottom 40% income group, he said.

Anwar further questioned the government’s decision to allocate RM85.5 million for it’s propaganda unit, Special Affairs Department, as well as RM8.6 million for Penggerak Komuniti Negara under the Housing and Local Government Ministry.

He said Penggerak Komuniti Negara is only a political arm set up for political purposes.

Anwar also said the additional RM13 billion under the development budget should be transferred to the Covid-19 fund as the government needs to focus on solving health and employment issues during the pandemic.

“I do not understand why the development expenditure has increased. The additional amount should be transferred to Covid-19 fund to reduce the issues surrounding unemployment, retrenchment among the people during this trying time.

“In this situation, our focus should be on Covid-19 and not merely development.”


Read our earlier report here