Malaysian Parliament passes Budget 2022, measure now goes to committee stage

Next year's spending plan is crucial as it is meant to chart a post-pandemic path for the country. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob scored a victory on Thursday (Nov 18) after Parliament approved the budget for next year.

Passage of the measure was seen as the first test of a deal between Datuk Seri Ismail and the main opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition in September.

Under the memorandum of understanding (MOU), PH will either abstain or vote for key government Bills in Parliament - including the Budget- as long as its demands on a number of policy reforms are met by the government. Mr Ismail has pledged to introduce various reforms, which include a law to deter defections in Parliament and to implement a measure that will lower the voting age to 18.

Malaysia's third prime minister in three years, Mr Ismail leads a government with a razor-thin majority of four in Parliament. The MOU has led to less political instability compared with when his predecessor was in office.

"This is not the best budget, but it is a budget that has incorporated recommendations from the opposition. I hope it will be implemented fully, and benefit the people and the nation," lawmaker Chang Lih Kang, from Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat, a major component of PH, told The Straits Times.

The largest federal budget in history at RM332 billion (S$107.8 billion), next year's spending plan is crucial, as it is meant to chart a post-pandemic path for the country, to spur its recovery as it transitions into the endemic phase.

Thursday's vote on the budget's second reading means it has been approved as a policy.

But PH still objects to some parts of the measure, with the coalition's presidential council saying that it had several engagement sessions with the federal government over policy matters but these yielded unsatisfactory results.

"For the approval process of Budget 2022 during the committee stage starting Monday, Nov 22, PH will continue to play its role in scrutinising, as a check and balance, and fighting for the rights of all Malaysians regardless of their race, religion, gender and region," it said in a statement.

The budget was approved through a voice vote.

Earlier, there was an uproar when former premier Mahathir Mohamad asked Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz to clarify an allegation that RM100 million had been allocated for former PM Najib Razak over his request to build a house in return for his past service.

Tun Dr Mahathir pointed out that Najib was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined RM210 million over graft charges related to the now-defunct state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

"But he has not been sent to jail and he has not paid the fine," he said.

"Is this the service that the government now wishes to reward? So the prime ministers to come will all steal, because after they steal the money, they will get more money, and even the money that is stolen will be given back," said Dr Mahathir.

There will be a third and final reading of the budget after committee stage debates, during which parliamentarians will be permitted to scrutinise it in detail.

Meanwhile, the number of daily Covid-19 cases in Malaysia remained above the 6,000-mark, with the Health Ministry recording 6,380 new transmissions on Thursday. Hospital admissions have also been rising around the country amid fears that a fresh Covid-19 wave will hit next month.

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