Country will see government shutdown if budget not approved – Constitutional Expert


THERE will be a government shutdown if Budget 2021 which is currently being debated in the Dewan Rakyat is not approved, said UTM constitutional expert Dr Muhammad Fathi Yusof.

This is because without approval from Parliament, the RM322.5 billion allocated in the budget cannot be used for expenditure of ministries and government agencies.

It includes paying the salaries of 1.6 million civil servants and frontliners (healthcare workers, police as well as army personnel) and this will definitely bring about a huge impact on the people amid COVID-19 challenges.

Muhammad Fathi Yusof who is also the Law and Constitution Research Fellow at the UTM Perdana Policy Centre said the United States (US) experienced its longest shutdown in 2018/2019 during President Donald Trump’s administration.

However, he said should a similar situation occurs in Malaysia, the impact will likely be worse given its high civil servant-to-population ratio.

“Malaysia cannot be equated to the US due to the small civil servants-to-population ratio of the Uncle Sam’s country. In the US, there are many private schools and hospitals. When the government shutdown, it does not have a big impact.

“In terms of security, in the US, the police are under state’s jurisdiction. It does not affect the federal government,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

Concerns arise as certain quarters have placed conditional support for Budget 2021 tabled by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government on Nov 6.

The issue comes about as Barisan Nasional (BN) and the Opposition bloc made two recommendations, namely allowing a ‘one-off’ withdrawal of savings from Account 1 of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and the extension of loan moratoriums, besides questioning the revival of the Department of Special Affairs (JASA) with a large allocation under the Budget.

Muhammad Fathi said in 1969, the budget was passed without going through a vote in Parliament.

“In 1969, the budget was passed through Emergency Ordinance No 3 Essential Powers for spending purposes for 1970 due to a state of emergency,” he said.

President Trump declared a government shutdown in the US as he sought to obtain USD 5 billion in funding for border wall along the US-Mexico border without going through Congress approval.

International media reported that the 35-day government shutdown from Dec 22, 2018, saw more than 800,000 federal employees in nine departments, including federal agencies, affected and placed on temporary leave without getting their salaries. For the record, the US has 328 million population (2019 statistics).

Political analyst from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani said a compromise needs to be reached by all parties either from the government or the opposition to ensure Budget 2021 is approved.

“I don’t think the budget will not be approved as the government does not necessarily have to accept all recommendations. If the budget is not approved, it will pose great risks to the people and the country,” he said adding that failure to pass the proposed budget would also give the PN government a negative image.

Admitting that political crisis is likely take place if the budget is not approved, Mohd Azizuddin however, was of the view that Parliament would not be dissolved to make way for the general election given the current COVID-19 situation.