Budget 2021 passed with slim majority

pic by BERNAMA

THE Opposition did not have the numbers to vote down the 2021 budget yesterday in a poll widely seen as a legitimacy test of the current government.

The Supply Bill (Budget) 2021 was passed with a 111-108 vote in bloc voting with one absentee in the 220-member House. Two seats are vacant with the deaths of two MPs earlier this year.

The Opposition, which has seen numerous no-confidence proposals against Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin being put on the back-burner by the parliamentary speaker, had hoped the budget vote would demonstrate that the current administration lacks a majority.

With the passing of the budget, the position of Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration remains intact.

Muhyiddin’s majority support has been in question since he took over the government through alliances with then Opposition because it had never been tested directly in Parliament.

On Monday, Langkawi MP Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Gua Musang MP Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah jointly announced to reject the budget.

The Opposition’s side of the House was full during voting yesterday in anticipation that the budget would go down to bloc voting.

Pakatan Harapan MPs argued that the budget bill failed to include enough aid to help the people, especially frontliners, to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19, including a blanket moratorium on bank loans.

The Parliament has adjourned for the current session with 25 no-confidence motions still on the agenda.

Tengku Razaleigh, who is an Umno MP, was absent yesterday as he had been for the duration of the budget debates and voting to highlight that Muhyiddin’s legitimacy was not tested in Parliament.

The final budget is RM45 million less than the one proposed after an RM85.5 million allocation to the government’s communications unit Special Affairs Department was slashed to RM40.5 million following public opposition.

The supply bill passed its policy stage by voice vote last month after opposition to it melted during voting on Nov 26. The lack of resistance came when Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim told non-government MPs not to vote against the bill.

The voting at the committee stage saw 10 bloc votes out of the 27 ministries’ allocations, with the largest expenses scrutinised and voted yesterday.

The Education Ministry’s (MoE) RM50.36 billion expenditure, which takes up 15.6% of the total supply bill, was passed through a simple voice vote.

During the debate session, Dr Mahathir raised concerns about the quality of education in the country and that its policies do not align with modern changes.

“In this era, science and mathematics are very important and these pieces of knowledge are not static and change over time, according to researches and studies.

“Almost all of these studies are available in English, and to translate into the national language requires scientists who are wellversed in science, as well as fluent in Malay and English,” he said.

He added that the learning experience should be improved for youth through technology and move on from the traditional medium.

“The purpose of education is to equip youth with knowledge, and that knowledge has to be in line with the future way of life.

“Muslims must understand the religion that we follow, however, it is also important for us to prepare ourselves for a world where we need to work and support our lives.

“And for that shortcoming, I could not support this allocation for the MoE,” Dr Mahathir said.

Later yesterday, Muhyiddin on his Facebook page expressed his gratitude towards the support given to the bill.

“This support is evidence that the PN administration always prioritises the people’s welfare and safety, as well as the recovery of the economy.

“It also proves that the supporting MPs realised the importance of the bill in carrying out development programmes which focus on fighting the pandemic, and to improve the livelihood of the people, especially the B40 (bottom 40%) and M40 (middle 40%) income groups, as well as the less fortunate,” he said in the Facebook post.

The supply bill will be brought to the Senate in the next Parliament sitting before it is presented before the King for the royal assent.

Read our earlier report

Govt faces make-or-break test on budget today