Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Dr M: We want budget passed to avert ‘rooftop’ government, but…

The former leader says he and three other MPs from Pejuang will reserve their support for the budget bill.

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Dr Mahathir Mohamad today repeated his proposal that government leaders take a pay cut, while saying he and three other MPs in his Pejuang bloc will reserve their support for the 2021 budget.

The former prime minister, in his speech debating the budget bill at the Dewan Rakyat, also said he understood the concerns if the budget could not be approved.

“All of us want this budget to be passed, otherwise the prime minister will usually resign. This will spark another political crisis. The backdoor government will be replaced with a rooftop government that is also not stable,” the Langkawi MP said.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong previously reminded MPs of the need to support the budget, amid worries that any collapse of the government could spark pandemic-season snap polls which health experts have warned against.

“Backdoor government” is a term used by critics of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was sworn in after the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan administration. Muhyiddin and a group of leaders from Bersatu and PKR then sought new allies to form the Perikatan Nasional government.

Mahathir, whose resignation in February brought down the 22-month-old Pakatan Harapan government, today said the country already had a government elected by the people.

“But after being elected, that government was toppled by those who were rejected by the people,” he added.

Mahathir who previously said he would be willing to take a 10% salary cut to help those financially impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, also said a salary cut for ministers would not cause them hardship.

He also questioned the huge allocations for ministries in the budget tabled last week, saying many development projects should be shelved to allow more funds for the battle against Covid-19.

These include about RM4 billion more for the Prime Minister’s Department, and the cost of renovating the Angkasapuri complex which houses state broadcaster Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM).

“Is there a need to spend RM125 million to upgrade the Angkasapuri complex? We should postpone this project,” he said.

Mahathir recently formed Pejuang, a new party led by three other former Bersatu MPs including his son, Mukhriz Mahathir.

He said his party would reserve its support for the budget bill.

Earlier this week, former prime minister Najib Razak and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim urged the government to allow people to withdraw more from their EPF accounts.

They also called for a blanket extension of the bank moratorium, saying they would only support the budget if these two conditions are met.

In the budget, the government said those from the lower income group could get either a three-month freeze on their repayment of bank loans, or a reduction of their instalments by half for six months.

It also allowed a maximum of RM6,000 in withdrawals from EPF, at RM500 every month in the next one year.

Mahathir did not make similar demands in his speech today.

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