Sabah's record RM5.138bil budget passed unanimously, tacit endorsement of CM

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Legislative Assembly unanimously passed the record RM5.138bil state budget on Thursday (Dec 1), tacitly giving Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor its endorsement amid the hazy political scenario after the 15th General Election (GE15).

Assemblymen from both sides gave the green light to the budget tabled by Hajiji whose Gabungan Rakyat Sabah-led state government remains on shaky ground as the new Federal leadership under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim takes shape.

Neither Parti Warisan nor Pakatan Harapan assemblymen objected to the passing of the budget and those from the GRS-Barisan grouping also supported the budget, which was the largest thus far in the state's history.

GRS secretary-general Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun believed the passing of the Bill was a "sign of political maturity" as assemblymen seemed to have reflected on the positiveness of the budget and not on political lines.

"I hope it's a sign of political maturity, agreeing because of merits in the state 2023 Budget as well as the need to reduce unnecessary political polemics," said Masidi, who is also Sabah Second Finance Minister.

The ruling Sabah government is a coalition between GRS and Barisan Nasional.

GRS components include the Sabah chapter of Bersatu led by Hajiji, as well PBS, Sabah STAR, SAPP and USNO.

On the other hand, Barisan comprises Sabah Umno, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah, MCA and MIC.

GRS has officially backed the unity government led by Anwar but the position of Sabah Bersatu seems to contradict the party's national leadership led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Bersatu, under Perikatan Nasional, is opposing Anwar's unity government at Federal level.

So far, local Pakatan leaders such as Upko's incoming president Datuk Ewon Benedick and Sabah DAP secretary Phoong Jin Zhe have indicated that they prefer Hajiji's government to serve its full term, which ends in 2025.

Sabah Barisan chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin, who earlier voiced unhappiness over GRS' move to support Muhyiddin as prime minister, had also indicated he would not rock the state government.

During budget debates, assemblymen focused on the issue of state rights involving the Federal Government paying back the 40% of all revenue earned in Sabah to the state as stipulated in the Federal Constitution.

Hajiji, who is also state Finance Minister, in his winding up speech told the state assembly that the a RM120mil federal special payment to the state was just an interim measure as the state continues to resolve its 40% net revenue claim.

The state government had signed a five-year agreement with the Federal Government under previous prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob for the interim payment of the special annual grant to Sabah.

Under the agreement, the state will receive RM125.6mil annually for five years from 2021.

Assuring the assembly that the state government will not stop pursuing rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), Hajiji, who is also the Sulaman assemblyman, said he had also brought up the matter with Anwar during their recent meeting.

“He has agreed to seriously consider our demands.

“Hopefully this can be realised as this issue has dragged on for too long and continued to be voiced by our leaders and people," he said.

The issue of political stability took a humorous turn when Sindumin assemblyman Datuk Dr Yusof Yaacob (BN-Umno) told fellow assemblymen to unite and not "kacau" (disturb) the Chief Minister's duty.

To this, Kemabong assemblyman Datuk Rubin Balang (GRS-Bersatu) interjected, saying he also supported the call not to disturb the CM but asked Dr Yusof "who are you referring to?".

State Speaker Datuk Seri Kadzim Yahya, however, cut them off and asked Hajiji to continue his budget winding up speech.

Under parliamentary convention, a defeat of a fiscal bill would automatically force the resignation of the government of the day.

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