PN wins again as 3 more ministries’ budget passed

MITI’s expenditure took centre stage yesterday as it was passed with a slim majority of 110 to 104 in a bloc vote with 6 absentees

pic by BERNAMA

ANOTHER battle is lost it seems for the Opposition MPs at Dewan Rakyat after three more ministerial expenses under Budget 2021 were approved at the committee stage yesterday, favouring all the votes so far this week.

With more than one-third of Perikatan Nasional (PN) Cabinet getting the green light on their funding for next year, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin continues to seize the political lifeline to his premiership and the nine-month-old coalition that he leads.

The International Trade and Industry Ministry’s (MITI) expenditure took centre stage yesterday as it was passed with a slim majority of 110 to 104 in a bloc vote with six absentees.

MITI will receive RM1.21 billion, representing 0.37% of the total budget. Its operating expenditure stood at RM582.34 million.

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun called for a vote when almost all Opposition MPs present stood up requesting for a division vote, the fourth time since the bill was debated since Monday.

Attendance on both sides of the lower house appeared to be more than the usual, while Warisan MPs were seen joining in, the first time since the lower house began debating at the committee level.

Warisan whip Datuk Rozman Isli was recently quoted as saying that the MPs’ absence was intentional, signalling the party’s dismay over the lack of resistance during the budget voting at the policy level last Friday.

The main point of contention debated yesterday was the RM25 million allocated for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) for next year, which had been the common theme among MPs who took part in the debate session.

MITI Senior Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali (picture) explained that the amount is part of the RM350 million approved in 2019 and will be utilised to pay off the remaining contracts of organising the economic forum in Malaysia.

Out of the total amount, he said only RM66.6 million was used to host the economic forum, resulting in a saving of RM233.4 million from organising the event virtually amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When the funding was first approved by the Pakatan Harapan-government in 2018, it was RM635 million, which was then reviewed and reduced to RM350 million in 2019 and distributed it in phases.

“From the RM66.6 million, RM13.1 million was distributed to three ministries, the Finance Ministry, Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry and Home Affairs Ministry, while RM53.5 million was spent for hosting APEC meetings since December 2019,” Azmin said.

He told the Dewan Rakyat that the allocation in 2021 is important to bear the final payments to contracts awarded for hosting the summit.

Earlier, Langkawi MP Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad posed a question on Malaysia’s investment policy and the lack of focus on the domestic flow to enable the Malaysian-owned businesses to thrive.

“The ministry and government are still prioritising the foreign direct investment (FDI) in strengthening the Malaysian economy. It is time for us to change our approach and build domestic investments that are looking towards the global market.

“(Malaysia) has some very good examples such as the glove industry that is supplying to the world, an example that we don’t need FDI to succeed,” he said.

In his response, Azmin said Malaysia only allows foreign investment in the high-technology sectors to facilitate the technology transfer to the local skilled-workers and no longer accommodating labour-intensive industries.

In the first nine months of 2020, Malaysia has approved investment worth RM109.8 billion for 2,935 projects in the manufacturing and services industries, as well as other main sectors.

Of the total, the FDI accounts for 38.8% or RM42.6 billion.

Opposition MPs also approved the allocations for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP) and Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry (MEDAC) in simple voice votes.

Both KPDNHEP and MEDAC will receive RM1.15 billion and RM548.75 million respectively.

Read our earlier report

Allocation for MITI passed in Dewan Rakyat