Malaysia’s opposition says budget may not pass if demands unmet

Malaysia’s opposition says budget may not pass if demands unmet

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin (left) and Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz pose for pictures with the national 2021 budget after its unveiling at the Parliament in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. (AFP Photo / Malaysia Department of Information)
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin (left) and Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz pose for pictures with the national 2021 budget after its unveiling at the Parliament in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. (AFP Photo / Malaysia Department of Information)

Malaysia’s 2021 budget may not have an easy passage through parliament unless the government makes changes to its spending plan opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim told lawmakers on Monday.

Anwar said the opposition is leaning toward supporting the federal budget once it is put to vote in the coming weeks. Still, they have reservations as it doesn’t contain measures demanded by the opposition parties, he said.

“There is no guarantee that if this budget in its current form is not amended to help the people, per our demands, that it will be passed easily,” said Anwar as he kicked off the debate in parliament. “I urge the finance minister to review all efforts to manage the Covid problem in terms of budget, health, and economic growth.”

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin controls a razor-thin majority in parliament that hangs in the balance amid discontent among his allies. That majority is set to be tested when his budget faces a parliamentary vote in the next few weeks. Failing to pass the plan would count as losing a no-confidence vote.

The budget seeks to spend 322.5 billion ringgit ($78 billion), or 20% of GDP, on social sectors and infrastructure to cushion the blow from the epidemic and get the $365 billion economy back on track. A cut in personal income taxes and allowing those in the low-income group to defer loan repayment for three months are some of the measures contained in the plan.

Anwar suggested more funds should be allocated for the state’s Covid-19 fund, which was set up this year to track government spending aimed at easing the economic effects of the virus. He also said initiatives such as the moratorium on loan repayment should be further improved.

If the budget fails to garner enough support from the 222 lawmakers, there must be alternative options to ensure that the move would not burden the public, he said.

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