KUALA LUMPUR: The allocation for Malaysia’s Prime Minister’s Department (PMD) in the 2021 budget was passed in parliament on Monday (Nov 30), after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim questioned the need for additional funding.
In a bloc vote, 105 MPs supported the budget allocation while 95 MPs voted against it. Twenty lawmakers were absent during the voting.
Parliament currently has 220 MPs as two MPs recently died and their seats remain vacant.
Bloc voting was conducted after Mr Anwar, in a hard hitting speech, questioned why RM11.7 billion (US$2.87 billion) was allocated for PMD under budget 2021. This is 10.2 per cent more than the amount set aside in 2020.
He also asked why the PMD had many ministers under its payroll – five full ministers, and five deputy ministers. He questioned why the department had opened offices for various special envoys, including for Middle East, China and Japan.
“I would like to ask what’s the role of the the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Because we have appointed (these special envoys) and burden the people and the country with high managing expenditure.”
WAGES FOR SPECIAL ENVOYS ARE WASTED, SAYS ANWAR
He added that the wages for these envoys would be wasted because they would be unable to play their roles given border restrictions due to COVID-19.
“Where are these special envoys going to go? They are all now (forced to remain) in Kuala Lumpur,’’ said Mr Anwar.
He further argued that the work of the special envoys would overlap with the duties of Malaysian ambassadors under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mr Anwar also questioned why there was an increase of RM181 million in the PMD budget set aside for political contract appointees as compared to 2020, arguing that the funds should instead be channeled to frontline workers battling COVID-19 or Malaysians who are unemployed.
“We have publicised that this is a government keen on helping the people overcoming COVID-19. I would like to ask, what’s the link between this RM181 million (for political appointees) and people who are unemployed and suffering to earn a living with COVID-19?” said the opposition leader.
Mr Anwar and the Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition coalition MPs voted against the PMD allocation on Monday, but it was not enough as MPs in the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) bloc attained more votes.
Mr Anwar and PH have been criticised for failing to stand up to force a bloc vote against budget 2021 at the policy stage last Friday.
The budget passed by a voice vote as only 13 opposition MPs stood up to protest the budget – two short of the required quorum to enforce bloc voting.
After Friday’s vote, Mr Anwar acknowledged that he knew MPs in PH, including those in the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) wanted to vote down the budget but he was the one who gave the order for them to stand down.
“Even though my colleagues, especially (DAP’s chief) Lim Guan Eng and (Amanah’s president) Mohamad Sabu, felt a need for a division at the time, I decided as the opposition leader and Pakatan Harapan chairman to request that the party whips not do so.”
Last Friday, he also vowed that opposition MPs will continue to speak when the budget is debated at the committee stage, and would enforce bloc voting if deemed necessary.
Debate at the committee stage will take place from Nov 30 until Dec 15. During the committee stage, the budget for each ministry would be scrutinised in detail.