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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Zafrul assures spending under emergency ordinance will be published publicly

 


Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz has defended a controversial law introduced last week which allowed Putrajaya and state governments to tap public coffers without legislative scrutiny.

Zafrul said transparency will be upheld and that all spending done under the ordinance would be published on the federal or state gazettes.

"With the requirement to publish the spending through gazettes, this means the government is transparent and strives to ensure accountability and responsibility in spending, especially during the emergency period," he said in a statement today.

The rule requiring spending to be published is detailed in Section 5.5 of a circular on spending procedures under the emergency ordinance.

The ordinance, enacted last week, allowed the finance minister, chief ministers, or menteris besar to pass a supplementary budget or use consolidated funds without going through the legislature as long as the emergency is in force.

The law was widely panned by critics who accused the government of wanting to spend without discretion.

Zafrul said one purpose for the ordinance was to approve the supplementary budget for 2020 immediately.

Previously, the government would spend any excess funds outside what was budgeted first, and approve it later in Parliament. However, Parliament has been suspended under the emergency.

The finance minister also said that the government needed fiscal flexibility to make additional expenses to overcome the Covid-19 crisis, and fulfil the pressing needs of those affected economically by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Zafrul assured that spending was still limited by the debt ceiling - currently at 60 percent of the GDP.

As of end-2020, he said the current debt to GDP was at 58 percent, and would hit 58.5 percent by this year's end.

He also assured that Budget 2022 will be tabled in Parliament and the current ordinance is only for supplementary spending. - Mkini

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