Dr Mahathir Mohamad today challenged the government’s stand that the 2021 budget is needed to channel funds to frontliners and civil servants, calling it an attempt to pressure MPs into approving the budget despite its many shortcomings.
He said in a statement that in 1999, during his first tenure as prime minister, the 2000 budget was tabled in October but its debate discontinued as Parliament was dissolved the following month to pave the way for the 10th general election.
“Once the election was over, the government with its new mandate received approval from the Dewan Rakyat for advance allocations for government spending for the first two or three months while awaiting the special budget conference which was held in February 2000.
“These allocations ensured that administrative spending was not disrupted and that salaries, pensions and allowances for civil servants were not jeopardised.
“They also covered the expenditure for other provisions whether for the various ministries or to help the people in their daily lives.
“In this context, the finance minister and other government leaders have been very irresponsible in issuing threatening statements with the clear intention of pressuring MPs into passing the 2021 budget despite its many shortcomings.”
There have been fears that the 2021 budget could be defeated, causing the collapse of the government and triggering pandemic-season snap polls which health authorities have warned against.
In a recent interview with Bernama, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz said the government would not be able to meet its financial commitments, including the salaries of civil servants and frontliners, if Budget 2021 is shot down in the Dewan Rakyat.
Yesterday, MalaysiaNow reported that the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government had been in talks with parties from both sides of the divide to ensure that the budget is passed, ahead of MPs’ vote on the bill in the Dewan Rakyat on Nov 26.
This followed speculation that several MPs from Umno who are facing corruption charges might turn their backs on PN by voting down the budget.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who issued several warnings to MPs not to derail the budget, had refused to invoke his constitutional powers to declare a state of emergency in order to prevent snap polls in the event that the budget is shot down.
However, he declared a state of emergency on Wednesday in the Sabah constituency of Batu Sapi to prevent the by-election to replace incumbent Liew Vui Keong who died early last month.
Mahathir said the finance minister and other government leaders had said that rejecting the budget would cause the people and civil servants to suffer.
“If that is their stand, it means that MPs need to give a blank cheque and support the budget even despite its clear faults.”