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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

No reason for emergency budget rule, says opposition leader

 


Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said there is no reason for the new emergency ordinance that allows federal and state governments to pass supplementary budgets without legislative scrutiny.

He said the Budget 2021 passed four months ago already allocated sufficient funds for the country’s Covid-19 response.

“There is absolutely no reason for the government to seek such extraordinary fiduciary powers at this time. The Budget 2021 has been passed less than four months ago which allocated adequate spending for the Covid-19 response.

“Any valid additional spending would be approved in Parliament by a majority and would likely gain bipartisan support if it was deemed appropriate,” he said in a statement today.

He said he strongly opposes the new law as “unethical and irresponsible” and belies the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s motives regarding the current state of emergency.

“While PN states the emergency is necessary to battle Covid-19, in fact, the laws which are being enacted under the emergency have little to do with Covid-19 and mostly are about punishing civil society, suppressing free speech and pilfering the public coffers,” Anwar said.

He also expressed concern that the new ordinance could have an impact on Malaysia’s reputation and confidence in its economy and urged for parliamentary sittings to be resumed immediately.

Also joining the call for the resumption of parliament is Pekan MP Najib Abdul Razak, who said it is important for lawmakers to scrutinise government spending.

“Government debt is not borne by the government of the day, but by future governments and will finally land on the rakyat through various new taxes,” he said in a Facebook post today.

He questioned whether this and other financial measures could nudge Malaysia above its debt ceiling of 60 percent of annual GDP, which has already been raised from 55 percent last year.

He noted that the government increased the limit of the value of projects awarded through direct tender from RM20,000 to RM50,000 in February, and has already borrowed RM54.5 billion since the beginning of the year.

“It is rumoured that many more projects that are even bigger have been awarded in the past few months - whether through direct negotiation or limited tender - on grounds that the awarding of the project needs to be expedited to fight Covid-19.

“That’s why I have previously asked whether the government’s debt ratio has already exceeded 62.2 percent, which is above the 60 percent limit that was increased from 55 percent last August,” he said.

Earlier today, the government gazetted the Emergency (Essential Powers) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 that allows the prime minister, chief minister or menteri besar to pass a supplementary budget or use consolidated funds without going through the legislature as long as the emergency is in force.

The new law also suspended Paragraph 4(b) of the Government Funding Act 1983 and Paragraph 2(2)(b) of the Treasury Bills (Local) Act 1946, which are in relation to the Dewan Rakyat's authority over money matters.

Parliament and all legislative assemblies have been suspended since Jan 11 through a proclamation of emergency. - Mkini

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