Malaysia's crucial Budget 2021 vote likely to be delayed

Malaysian Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz presenting the 2021 Budget in Parliament in Kuala Lumpur, on Nov 6, 2020.
Malaysian Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz presenting the 2021 Budget in Parliament in Kuala Lumpur, on Nov 6, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - The vote on Malaysia's budget in Parliament, scheduled for Thursday (Nov 26), that could decide the fate of the Muhyiddin Yassin administration is set to be delayed to next week on Dec 1.

Official sources told The Straits Times that Parliament is unable to take a decision on the supply Bill, Malaysia's largest ever, as about half the ministries had yet to respond to issues raised during debate in the Lower House.

The process is running behind schedule largely due to the fact that proceedings are cut short, ending by 2pm every day instead of in the evening to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading.

"There are 16 ministries that have not wrapped up. We have to give the necessary time," said a government official who declined to be named, as the matter had yet to be formally made known to MPs.

There has been heated debate since Budget 2021 was tabled on Nov 6 by the government which enjoys only a slim majority of two in the 220-strong Lower House.

Lawmakers from both sides of the floor have threatened not to support the supply Bill unless a number of amendments are made, such as an extended loan moratorium, increased withdrawals from statutory retirement savings and larger cash handouts.

This is despite the fact that the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, has repeatedly called on politicians to ensure its passage so that the battle against Covid-19 and the economic fallout from the pandemic will be dealt with.

Significantly, several MPs from Umno, the largest member of the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN), have indicated their unwillingness to support Prime Minister Muhyiddin's budget.

These include former premier Najib Razak and the country's longest-serving parliamentarian Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who is the party's advisory council chief.

The delay in the vote could give the government more time to adjust allocations and negotiate with dissenters.

Furthermore, one Umno MP, Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, is in quarantine after travelling to Kuala Lumpur from Covid-19 ravaged Sabah, and will be able to attend Parliament only next week.

On Tuesday, the opposition complained that another government MP from Sabah was allowed to attend Parliament despite not completing the 14-day quarantine period mandated by health authorities.

Mr Jeffrey Kitingan insists that he was given special dispensation by the Health Ministry.