Govt to face crucial budget vote today


THE 2021 budget is scheduled to be put to the vote at the end of the debate in Parliament today with the uncertainty that it will garner a majority to be passed.

The government’s slim majority in the house, coupled with dissent from within its own MPs, has prompted analysts to speculate that it will fail the vote.

The budget is seen as a test of confidence for the current Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition that includes Barisan Nasional, PAS and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

“Looking at the current situation where (Umno MP) Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is sitting out and Umno MPs are said to vote on their conscience, most probably the budget will not go through.

“But again, this is not the end of the bill since manoeuvring or changes can still be made along the road,” Universiti Teknologi Malaysia geostrategist Associate Prof Dr Azmi Hassan told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

If there is an extension of the debate or a stalemate, Azmi said the PN government will be forced to make certain concessions that are demanded by parties that oppose the original budget, and that is bound to continue until all parties are satisfied.

He said a failure to pass the budget does not automatically grant the Opposition mandate to force the government to step down due to the still-present danger posed by Covid-19.

Azmi said even if the budget is not passed today, Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will remain at least until the end of the year.

He said Muhyiddin would remain as PM, either as the head of a minority government or one as the head of an interim government.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs senior fellow and Centre for Market Education CEO Dr Carmelo Ferlito said the PM’s position will be strengthened if the budget is passed and would eventually subdue the call for early elections.

On the other hand, if it fails the vote, the call for elections will strengthen.

“Personally, I hope in a mix of both — the budget is approved, but then we find the way for safe snap elections in order to give Malaysia a fully legitimate government that is able to implement the reforms that are very much needed now,” Ferlito said.

There are many unresolved disagreements over parts of the budget, but a rejection would create further instability and block the good things that are in it, he said.

In the era of Covid-19, Ferlito said Malaysia needs a different pace, more reforms, rather than more spending, and an Asean strategy on international borders.

But a government with a higher majority would be a prerequisite to achieving such goals.

There has been some speculation that the voting will not take place today as scheduled because the budget debate is behind schedule, mostly because the parliamentary hours have been shortened due to Covid-19 precautions.

A Singapore Straits Times report quoted sources as saying that the vote will likely be postponed to next week.

The report said about half of ministries have yet to respond to issues raised during the debate.

Meanwhile, former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in a statement yesterday said his party will vote against the PN government’s Budget 2021, dismissing claims that such a rejection would delay payment in salaries of civil servants or assistance to Malaysians.

“I have explained before that even if the budget is not approved, it will not stop the payment of civil servants’ salaries, pensions and allowances for frontliners. It’s the same when it comes to the financial assistance promised for the rakyat,” he said.