pic by BERNAMA
MALAYSIAN lawmakers have approved the allocation for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Finance Ministry (MoF) at the committee stage tabled under the Supply Bill (Budget) 2021.
In Dewan Rakyat yesterday, the bill was passed with 105 in favour and 85 against, with 20 absentees.
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz announced an increase in the department’s allocation to RM11.7 billion from RM9.7 billion during the tabling of the allocation for 2021.
Both the Opposition and government took part in the debating sessions of the allocation for the PMO, such as the remuneration for the ministers and excessive manpower served under the ministerial role, and raised issues such as the government’s turnaround plan for Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) during Tengku Zafrul’s turn.
Port Dickson MP and Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim questioned the excessive number of officers under the department and asked for justification for the additional allocation of RM482 million, an increase of 10.7% compared to last year.
He also pointed out the political appointments such as the Special Envoy to the Middle East, China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Taiwan, which require a high allocation for emolument.
He added that the appointments are excessive and overlap with the roles of Malaysia’s ambassadors currently appointed under Wisma Putra.
Minister in the PMO (Special Functions) Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof responded that the appointments are a standard practice implemented to serve the country’s strategic goals.
“One of the responsibilities of the Special Envoys is strengthening the relationship between Malaysia and other countries, which includes investment, economy and strategic projects.
“Emolument for contract staff stood at RM200 million for 2021 which is reserved for agencies such as the Malaysia Civil Defence Force, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit and National Disaster Management Agency.
“The RM200 million allocation will not be used for the political appointees,” Mohd Redzuan said.
Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil suggested the Covid-19 bonuses for frontliners should be given equally at RM500 to all, including those who are not directly involved in handling infected individuals and persons under investigation.
Mohd Redzuan replied that the reward is being prioritised to frontliners who have higher risk of being infected, taking into consideration the government’s financial position for next year.
Responding to questions on legislature, Minister in the PMO (Parliament and Law) Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said the RM130 million allocated for the Election Commission next year is for Sarawak’s 12th state election which will be held in 2021.
Citing the deferred Batu Sapi by-election due to the risk of increased Covid-19 cases, Takiyuddin said the government will consider declaring an emergency to postpone Sarawak’s election.
Takiyuddin also said the government is still looking into enacting the Parliamentary Service Act after an engagement session with Parliament staff who favour their services to be under an open-service system instead of under a specific law.
The MPs also passed the allocation for the MoF with a 107 majority to 95 in a bloc voting.
During the tabling of Budget 2021, Tengku Zafrul announced RM35.15 billion will be reserved for the ministry, which is a RM1.24 billion reduction compared to the approved allocation in 2020.
Responding to the future plan for MAB, Tengku Zafrul said the government has yet to come to a decision on the plan to cease Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), an entity under Khazanah Nasional Bhd that owns MAB.
“The decision to close MAG has not been decided yet and will be based on the discussion between MAG, the creditors and lessors to restructure the company.
“At the same time, Khazanah also will ensure that the welfare of the staff will be protected, including giving compensation, if needed, according to the labour law,” he said.
“There have been funds allocated to assist MAB for the A380 planes’ acquisition, but since Covid-19 hit, the government has started to assist in paying the loan of RM180 million this year and RM219 next year,” he explained.
As at Aug 31, MAG’s liquidity stood at RM366 million, Tengku Zafrul said.
“MAB is not spared of Covid-19 as 75% of its planes are currently not operating due to the border control which affected its revenue,” he added.
Read our earlier report