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Budget 2021: The Government Must Be Open To Bipartisan Input And Parliamentary Reform

Anwar Ibrahim recently called for both the government and opposition to “…take a bipartisan approach in crafting a robust strategy to face the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressing issue of unemployment and poverty.”

This approach deserves the support of all Malaysians. It is definitely important that the 2021 Budget be passed to ensure that our country’s fight against the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic as well as for an economic recovery is not disrupted.

Nevertheless, as the Malay Rulers recently and so judiciously stated, the various political actors in our country must work together to face the current crises while avoiding any abuse of power.

Malaysia’s politicians must be willing to work with the government to ensure the Budget is passed, with the proviso that all parties, including those in the Opposition, are consulted on its points in a holistic and substantiative fashion.

No party should be expected or asked to simply rubber stamp the process—that will defeat the very purpose of seeking a bipartisan consensus. Major and realistic reforms must be pursued to restore confidence after what the country has gone through through this year.

The process must not be rushed simply because of the Covid-19 crisis. Indeed, any Budget will likely fail in its purpose of addressing the pandemic if it is not subject to the necessary legislative scrutiny and real bipartisan input.

It goes without saying that any spending must not be for political or patronage purposes. Every single sen this Budget proposes to expend must be for the good of the rakyat, including their health, education, housing and welfare.

We must also realise that our frontliners—especially those serving in Sabah—are in urgent need of help on all fronts.

I also strongly feel that this Budget must lay the groundwork for addressing the fundamental issues that have been facing our economy but have been left unaddressed.

This includes not only long-standing challenges like moving away from our reliance on commodities and foreign labour, upskilling our workforce as well as sustainably boosting wages and productivity, but also new ones like preparing for regional security threats.

The only way for Malaysia to get the best Budget possible is for the current government to also commit to parliamentary reform. It must not only allow all MPs to debate critical issues, but urgently move to restore the repealed Parliamentary Services Act, revive the Select Committees that had been previously introduced.

The Parliamentary Services Act is especially important as Pakatan Harapan had almost completed work on its reintroduction. A more independent, efficient and stronger Parliament can only mean good things for the rakyat and their livelihoods.

Meeting the Covid-19 threat and reviving our economy cannot happen without political and institutional reform. Indeed, the 2021 Budget will be ineffective without it.

Whatever happens, my colleagues and I are committed to ensuring that the interests and wellbeing of the Malaysian people are upheld.

We remain steadfast in providing both checks-and-balances as well as ensuring that the country can turn a corner from the difficulties that it has been under for so long.