Malaysia's RM322.5b budget: 5 key changes passed in Parliament

An extra RM50 million allocation has been approved to help Sabah combat the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian budget for next year was passed in Parliament on Tuesday (Dec 15).

These are among the changes made to Budget 2021.

1. Automatic loan relief approval for B40 communities and small businesses

The opposition and several government MPs had threatened not to back the budget, which was unveiled on Nov 6, if a loan moratorium scheme - first implemented from April until September - was not extended.

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz later said banks have been told to grant automatic moratorium approvals for targeted communities, especially for the B40 (bottom 40 per cent of Malaysian income earners) and small businesses.

2. Broader retirement fund withdrawal

Following demands by several Umno lawmakers, the budget will provide a broader withdrawal scope for those wanting to tap their retirement funds in the Employees Provident Fund, to ease current financial difficulties.

The government previously made withdrawals available for up to two million account holders, allowing them to withdraw RM 6,000 (S$1,980) a year.

The government has raised the eligibility to eight million account holders, for a withdrawal amount up to RM 10,000.

3. Budget cut for propaganda unit

Much attention was given to a plan to restart the defunct Special Affairs Department (Jasa), a government propaganda unit, with an annual allocation of RM85 million.

The move to relaunch Jasa, which was abolished by the previous Pakatan Harapan government in 2018, was widely panned by both government and opposition MPs. The department has been renamed Community Communications Department of J-Kom.

The department will still be relaunched with its allocation cut to RM40 million.

4. Broader aid to front liners

The government initially announced a one-off RM500 aid to all health front liners, but later expanded the special aid to all front liners, including military and police personnel.

5. Extra allocation for Sabah

An extra RM50 million allocation has been approved for easternmost state Sabah, to help it combat the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout.

Sabah has become the worst-hit state by the pandemic, registering a quarter of all cases and deaths from the coronavirus in Malaysia.

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