Malaysia’s RM322b budget for next year gets thumbs up from all but Mahathir and friends

Zafrul Aziz speaks to people in his office, surrounded by graphics of RM100 and RM50. Photo: Coconuts
Zafrul Aziz speaks to people in his office, surrounded by graphics of RM100 and RM50. Photo: Coconuts

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s maiden budget for next year got its first round of approval in Parliament today, with only 13 out of the more than 200 parliamentarians opposing it. 

Worth RM322.5 billion (US$80 billion), next year’s budget is expected to be channeled into the tourism industry (RM1.5 billion), women’s shelters (RM21 million), and new job opportunities (RM3.7 billion). 

Another RM830 million will be channeled to the Health Ministry for the purpose of containing and treating infectious diseases not limited to COVID-19. It is not clear how much would be set aside for coronavirus vaccines but Finance Minister Zafrul Aziz had said that it might cost the country RM3 billion. 

The budget will undergo three more weeks of scrutiny from Dec. 15 by the seven-member Budget Committee chaired by Jeli MP Mustapa Mohamed before it is sent for final approval. 

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, his son Mukhriz, as well as Batu Kawan rep Kasthuriraani Patto were among those who objected to the budget. Mahathir had claimed that the budget did not prioritize the people and added on to opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s earlier complaints about the restrictions imposed on parliamentarians to debate the budget, with each given only 20 minutes to speak and only 80 people allowed in the house. 

The budget drew intense debates in Parliament in recent weeks, with some questioning why RM80 million was set aside for the government’s propaganda arm known as the Special Affairs Committee. That committee was previously disbanded by Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan government in 2018 before it was revived this year when Muhyiddin took over. 

Other stories to check out:

What you need to know before Malaysia announces Budget 2021

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