Malaysia’s Parliament passes temporary supply Bill as PM Anwar devises new budget

The supply bill will allow the government to pay civil servants’ salaries and also continue ongoing infrastructure projects. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s Parliament on Tuesday passed a temporary supplementary supply Bill worth RM107.7 billion (S$33 billion) to maintain government expenditure for the next six months, as Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim prepares a new federal budget that is expected to be tabled in early 2023.

The supply Bill was passed by voice votes, and will allow Datuk Seri Anwar to tap the government’s reserves to prevent a shutdown of the administration as the country remains without a federal budget for 2023.

Mr Anwar’s predecessor Ismail Sabri Yaakob tabled a record RM372 billion budget in October meant for 2023, but it was not passed as Parliament was dissolved the same month to pave the way for a general election.

This is Malaysia’s first such supplementary supply Bill in 23 years. The 1999 general election was also called before a federal budget could be passed, necessitating a supply Bill to be tabled to continue government operations while a new budget was prepared.

Mr Anwar, who is also the Finance Minister, said the supply Bill will allow the government to pay civil servants’ salaries and continue ongoing infrastructure projects, pending passage of a new federal budget.

Parliament on Tuesday also approved another RM56 billion from the country’s development fund for urgent spending, pending the approval of development expenditure under the new budget. This takes the total temporary mini budget amount to nearly half of the budget tabled by Datuk Seri Ismail in October.

“What was good will be continued, while whole others will be reviewed before Budget 2023 is tabled again,” Mr Anwar told lawmakers on Tuesday. Calling it a “temporary budget”, he said the new budget is expected to be tabled when Parliament sits again in February 2023.

The Bill will now be sent to the Upper House, the Senate, for ratification. The Senate will sit on Wednesday and Thursday for a special session.

The passage of the Bill concluded a special two-day Parliament sitting – the first in Mr Anwar’s administration – which saw his government sail through a series of key motions and legislation without breaking a sweat.

His government elected its candidates for Speaker and Deputy Speakers with the backing of nearly two-thirds of lawmakers on Monday, before Mr Anwar won a confidence motion by voice votes on the same day.

Mr Anwar – who leads Pakatan Harapan (PH) – was appointed prime minister in November after stitching together a pact with several other parties, including former rival Barisan Nasional, after the Nov 19 general election resulted in a hung Parliament.

He has managed to draw the support of all smaller outfits and independent MPs, giving him, on paper, the backing of 148 MPs in Malaysia’s 222-member Parliament, or a two-thirds majority. Only the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition – which has 74 MPs – remains in opposition. Mr Anwar’s majority is the biggest for a Malaysian PM in more than 14 years.

Mr Anwar’s government now prepares for a new budget and a series of six state assembly elections that are due by the second half of 2023. These polls could be a barometer of public support for the new political alignment that helped him form a government.

The opposition PN remains optimistic of its chances in the upcoming state polls, as its electoral gains in the recently concluded election have shown no signs of abating.

Despite being only two years old, PN managed to win the second-biggest haul of seats in Parliament. Even after it failed to form a government, it won the Padang Serai ward, a PH stronghold, with an overwhelming majority.

The election for the ward was held separately on Dec 7 due to the death of the PH candidate just days before the November election.

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