Malaysia’s 2021 budget passed at third reading in Parliament

KUALA LUMPUR (CNA) – Malaysia’s Supply Bill 2021 passed its third reading in the Lower House with a division vote yesterday.

One hundred and eleven Members of Parliament (MPs) voted in favour of the budget proposed by Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

One hundred and eight others voted against the bill, while one was absent.

The MYR322.54 billion budget, tabled on November 6, is the biggest ever in Malaysia amid a COVID-19 pandemic. Inputs have earlier been sought from the opposition lawmakers on the formulation of this budget, the first time in the country’s history.

The Bill was earlier passed at policy stage on November 26 with a voice vote, based on lawmakers verbally indicating whether they support the budget or not.

Following that, the budget was debated at the committee stage, where allocation for each ministry was scrutinised. Allocations for the 27 ministries were passed.

The Bill will now go to the Senate, before it will be submitted to the Malaysian King for royal assent.

A statue of Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman is pictured in front of the Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur. PHOTO: AFP

Seen largely as a confidence vote in Muhyiddin’s leadership, the result yesterday showed that the prime minister still commands a majority.

The absentee was Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Tengku Mohd Hamzah from United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), according to a Facebook post of Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s Subang MP Wong Chen.

Tengku Razaleigh had a day earlier met the press alongside former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and indicated that they would work together to revive the country’s economy.

The Lower House has 222 seats but there are currently 220 MPs following the deaths of two MPs in October and November this year.

The PN government has a razor-thin majority, which was shown during the removal of the previous speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof with a 111-109 vote at the start of parliament’s second meeting on July 13.

Muhyiddin came into power in March after leading Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) out of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, triggering its collapse and Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s resignation as Malaysia’s seventh prime minister.

He has since been faced with maintaining a fragile balance of power with allies such as former ruling party UMNO.

The passage of Muhyiddin’s first budget as prime minister has been a contentious one, as his administration faced fire from both sides of the political aisle.

Prior to the budget debates beginning early November, the opposition coalition PH had already declared six “non-negotiable” recommendations for a “Unity Budget”, including an increase in the number of temporary healthcare workers, as well as a special allocation to tackle the COVID-19 spread in Sabah.

Other points included expanding the social safety net and extending the loan moratorium, which was previously instituted from April to September this year until March 31 in 2021.