Budget 2021: Heated Debates Ahead of Vote on Thursday

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The Dewan Rakyat continues to draw attention as heated debates between parliamentarians continue over the 2021 Budget, which is expected to be put to the vote on Thursday.

Hari Anggara

Over the past week, debates on the Supply Bill 2021 have sparked wars of words among MPs from across the political spectrum.

However, they mostly have one similar wish: for the 2021 Budget to be improved upon and amended.

For the first time, MPs are expressing their views independently, instead of being tied to their party’s stance, freely sharing ideas and proposed amendments they believe should be included in the Bill.

Last week, former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak (BN-Pekan) courted controversy when he said his support for the 2021 Budget is conditional, despite BN being a pro-government party.

He said BN MPs will vote for the Budget if their requests for automatic loan moratorium extensions and Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Account 1 withdrawals are met.

His proposal was criticised by Ahmad Fadhli Shaari (Pas-Pasir Mas) who likened Najib’s stipulations to the demands made by Puteri Gunung Ledang, a celestial princess in Malay folklore.

This week, apart from Budget policy-level winding-up speeches, all eyes will be on the Dewan Rakyat as MPs are expected to vote on the Bill.

Rather than having the usual 222 MPs, the House will see only 220 MPs taking part in the voting session following the deaths of Datuk Liew Vui Keong (Warisan-Batu Sapi) on Oct 2; and Datuk Hasbullah Osman (BN-Gerik) on Nov 16.

Given the current situation with the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government not being able to secure a big majority in the House, bloc voting is expected on Thursday.

Although only 80 MPs are allowed to enter the Lower House, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun has assured Parliament that all MPs will take part on voting day.

The 2021 Budget, tabled by Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz on Nov 6, is the first since PN took over Putrajaya. – NST