PETALING JAYA: Usually, the tabling of the Budget 2023 – also known as the Supply Bill – would have taken centrestage during this meeting of the Parliament, which reconvenes today.
However, this time around, everyone will be keenly watching out for what may come immediately after the tabling of the Budget – the dissolution of the Parliament.
With some calling it an “election-friendly budget” following talk of a possible snap election before the year ends, they will also be looking out for the “extra goodies” that will be offered as carrots to voters.
Malaysians, say political observers, are looking forward to seeing what is in store for them and what the coalition government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has got to offer in Budget 2023.
“This is perhaps the first time that there are people who are more interested in waiting for the Prime Minister’s Parliament dissolution announcement than the Budget itself.
“The fact that the Budget was brought forward earlier to Oct 7 is a strong indicator as well as the Umno supreme council meeting concluding that GE15 must be held this year,” said Universiti Teknologi MARA’s (UiTM) Faculty of Communication and Media Studies senior lecturer Shahnon Mohamed Salleh.
Speculation of an early election right after the tabling of the Budget 2023 has intensified after the Umno supreme council last Friday urged the Prime Minister to seek an audience with the King to discuss several proposed dates for the dissolution.
There were several key observations for Budget 2023, including that the economic forecast and global outlook for 2023 would generally be gloomy, said Shahnon.
“So I expect the government to address these challenges and at the same time, balance fiscal constraints and people’s expectations,” he said, adding that this would include addressing rising subsidies, the value of the ringgit and the cost of living.
Other issues and concerns, he said, would revolve around providing “election-friendly” initiatives for the lower-income group with the polls expected around the corner.
Personally, Shahnon would like to see more investment from the government in public transport, healthcare and technology infrastructure to compete with other countries, especially those in the region.
UiTM’s Security and Political Analyst Centre for Media and Information Warfare Studies Dr Noor Nirwandy Mat Noordin said another important component for Budget 2023 to look into was in restoring public confidence by providing financial assistance to help ease the rakyat’s burden, especially in the lower-income group.
“The government also needs to find ways to improve food security and reduce dependency on food imports from foreign countries and international suppliers,” he said, adding that assistance should be given to local players to improve food-producing capability locally.
Assisting small and medium businesses post-Covid-19 should also be the government’s focus, especially in helping them move towards digitalisation, Noor Nirwandy suggested.
“We do not want local entrepreneurs and those in the gig economy to be left out, especially bumiputra players,” he said.
According to the Parliament website, the Supply (Budget) Bill 2023 will be tabled by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz at 4pm this Friday.
Themed “Strengthening Recovery, Facilitating Reforms Towards Sustainable Socio-Economic Resilience of Keluarga Malaysia”, the Bill will be discussed at the policy stage from Oct 11 to 26 before a debate at the committee level from Nov 3 until 23.
If everything goes on to plan, Budget 2023 will then be approved by Dewan Rakyat.
PKR’s Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim hopes that Budget 2023 will be properly debated and approved by lawmakers in Parliament.
“I do not want a ‘miscarriage’ of the Budget that will only be tabled and then for the Parliament to be immediately dissolved.
“Then, we will have to re-table it again by the new government after the 15th General Election,” he said, predicting the Budget 2023 to be full of “election goodies”.
While the tabling of the Budget is one of the most significant events of the year for the Parliament – without which there will be no money to run the government or the country – this meeting is also chock-full of other important Bills, such as the Anti-Stalking Bill, which women activists have fought for, as well as the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022, also known as the Generation End Game Bill.
Both Bills are expected to be tabled for second and third reading, according to the Dewan Rakyat’s Order Paper on the Parliament’s website.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin is expected to table a motion to allow the Parliamentary Special Select Committee to present its report for recommendations to the Control of Tobacco Products and Smoking Bill 2022 no later than this Thursday.
This was after the contentious Bill, which was supposed to be passed in the last meeting, was referred to the committee on Aug 2.
Others slotted for a first reading are the Road Transport Bill (Amendments) 2022, Land Public Transport Bill (Amendments) 2022 and the Vehicle Trade Licensing Board (Amendments) 2022 Bill.
Also on the table is the motion for the election of a Deputy Speaker for the Dewan Rakyat to replace Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, which has been postponed for the fourth time.
Whether this may end up being an academic exercise will depend on the events to unfold over the next few days after the tabling of Budget 2023.
Former law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said he was looking forward to the tabling of the Budget as well as the Private Member’s Bill for a constitutional amendment allowing children born to Malaysian mothers to be granted citizenship, reportedly filed by Azalina.
“It will be business as usual despite talks of elections and the government needs to table and passed those Bills,” he said when contacted yesterday.