Guan Eng wants six amendments to Budget 2021, warns no support otherwise

KUALA LUMPUR : The government’s Budget 2021 may be opposed in Parliament unless it includes six recommendations from Pakatan Harapan (PH), the DAP secretary-general said yesterday.

Lim Guan Eng said the Budget tabled yesterday had unrealistic projections and contained financial half measures and political handouts, claiming that the 8.6 per cent increase compared to PH’s Budget 2020 is not shared equitably by all segments of society.

DAP’s Lim Guan Eng said Budget 2021 had unrealistic projections and contained financial half measures and political handouts, claiming that the 8.6 per cent increase compared to PH’s Budget 2020 is not shared equitably by all segments of society. — Picture by Hari Anggara
DAP’s Lim Guan Eng said Budget 2021 had unrealistic projections and contained financial half measures and political handouts, claiming that the 8.6 per cent increase compared to PH’s Budget 2020 is not shared equitably by all segments of society. — Picture by Hari Anggara

The Bagan MP highlighted that one of the biggest gripes in the Budget was the RM85.5 million allocation to the revived Special Affairs Department (Jasa) and demanded the fund be withdrawn, arguing that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

“Should not the RM85.5 million be spent on dilapidated schools which was only given RM58 million or child care facilities for frontliners (RM30 million)?” he asked in a statement.

He pointed out that the agency had been dismantled when PH took power after Election 2018. He added that even prior to that, the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration had set aside only RM20 million a year for the unit, which critics have panned as a government propaganda machine.null

“In a normal democracy, there is no place for such a propaganda agency that uses public funds to spread lies and fake news,” Lim said.

He demanded the ruling Perikatan Nasional coalition withdraw the allocation for Jasa to prove it “is sincere in seeking a Unity Budget”.

Lim, who was formerly finance minister, also said the DAP is against the government’s move to shave parts of public healthcare that were not directly addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

He pointed out that the Ministry of Health (MoH) Budget has been reduced by 20.5 per cent from RM14.2 billion in 2020 to RM11.3 billion in 2021, including a 74 per cent cut for pharmacy and supplies.

“In a time of economic crisis when most Malaysians would look to government health services for help as many would not be able to afford private healthcare, the cuts are shocking and cruel.

“Amidst the Covid-19 health crisis, the need to ensure Malaysians’ health are well taken care off is especially crucial,” he said.

However, Lim said some of the measures tabled in Budget 2021 were consistent with the six demands that PH presented to the finance minister on November 1.

One of these were the additional resources in the fight against the pandemic, additional investments in broadband and internet services to schools and additional financial assistance to small and medium enterprises in Sabah ― the epicentre of Malaysia’s current Covid-19 infection outbreak.

But Lim said the allocation for public welfare could be increased.

“DAP calls on the government to commit to an additional 4 per cent deficit spending for 2021, calculated on a more realistic GDP figures.

“Direct cash payments to families and individuals in the B40 and M40 categories as well as the continuation of the Workers’ Subsidy Programme (WSP) should be widened to include genuine unemployed workers. As such, we ask for greater expenditure to help families and SMEs to get back on their feet in 2021,” he said.

Lim had previously warned on November 2 that PH will not support the PN’s Budget 2021 if his recommendations to save jobs and the economy were not included.

Below are PH’s six proposals for Budget 2021:

1. Increase Health Ministry resources for Covid-19 and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) with special allocation to tackle the Covid crisis in Sabah;

2. Expand social protection, safety net and welfare payments for the vulnerable and unemployed by increasing monthly welfare aid to RM1,000 as promised by the prime minister in Sandakan on August 30 costing RM12 billion until the end of the Covid crisis;

3. Bank loan moratorium extension till March 31, 2021 costing RM6.4 billion;

4. Wage subsidy to be continued till March 31, 2021 and create 600,000 jobs as per Malaysia@Work scheme offering incentives over two years for employers and employees costing RM13 billion;

5. Increase in education spending to ensure education continuity; and

6. Development expenditure on two key projects, namely, the National Fiberisation Connectivity Plan (NFCP) and upgrading water infrastructure for Selangor, Kelantan and Pahang.

Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz yesterday tabled the budget 2021 today with the theme “Teguh Kita, Menang Bersama” (Stand United, We Shall Prevail), in the Dewan Rakyat.

Budget 2021 is the largest Budget in Malaysia’s history, with a total of RM322.5 billion compared to RM297 billion for Budget 2020.

BY : RADZI RAZAK – MALAY MAIL

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