Malaysian opposition will only support budget 2021 if it really helps people: Anwar Ibrahim

KUALA LUMPUR (CNA) – The opposition will only support the budget for 2021 tabled by the government if it really helps the people, said Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s leader Anwar Ibrahim yesterday as he kicked off the budget debate in Parliament.

In his speech, he stated that it is not clear how the current budget will help Malaysians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been asked to support this budget, which we were told would be a COVID-19 budget meant to help the people. Let me make it clear that we will only support this budget if it is indeed that and only that. I therefore move a motion for the Minister for Finance to please relook and re-evaluate this,” he said.

This budget, which was tabled last Friday, is the first budget of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration.

There have been fears earlier that Members of Parliament (MP) would block the passage of the budget and turn it into a no-confidence vote against Muhyiddin. The King had earlier urged MPs from both sides of the political divide to support the Bill.

Anwar commented yesterday the budget was “misleading” and claimed that it was benefitting cronies instead of the people.

“Yes, I am aware that the King has asked us to support the budget, but his decree does not say support without debating.

“So I am urging for all the following to be considered, because unless this budget 2021 truly serves to help the people, we are not going to support it,” he said.

In his debate speech yesterday, Anwar pointed out that only 5.3 per cent of the MYR322.5 billion budget was directed to the COVID-19 Fund.

He was referring to the MYR17 billion which Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz allocated to manage the current pandemic.

Anwar urged the Finance Ministry to consider increasing the amount to RM36 billion, by shifting MYR19 billion from the development expenditure to the COVID-19 Fund.

“Only 5.3 per cent, it does not make sense, given that budget 2021 has been referred to as COVID-19 budget. It was supposed to be benefitting the people, so this portion of allocation is clearly unreasonable.

“I urge the minister to reconsider and for MYR19 billion from the development budget to be directly shifted into this fund. Of course, by this I do not mean stop all developments. All I am saying is that the scale of the development could be reduced to allocate more funds for COVID-19 measures,” he said.

Anwar explained that the scale of projects such as the Pan-Borneo Highway could be reduced. “I am not saying stop these projects, but if you bring down the scale for Pan-Borneo Highway for example, that money could be directed to helping the people in Sabah and Sarawak to manage the effects of the pandemic,” he stressed.

On the monthly withdrawal of MYR500 from the Employees Retirement Fund (EPF), Anwar urged the government to reconsider the limit. “I am aware that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin himself is not too pleased by this (permission to withdraw from EPF) because he feels that the funds should be kept for future, for post-retirement, but what we need to address is that the fact people have turned to withdrawing their retirement funds means the government has failed to effectively help them.

“What it means is that they are so desperate, that they are pushed so far into making ends meet, that they need these withdrawals to help them get by these challenging times,” he said.

Anwar then added that MYR500 was an insufficient amount to help any family, especially those from the lower income groups. “So, I urge for the government to reconsider this limit that has been imposed. More flexibility should be given so that people will be given better access to their own money,” he said.