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Nation 10 Nov 2020 | 1:44 PM

Barisan too declares conditional support for Budget 2021

KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional has declared only conditional support towards Budget 2021, which will be voted on by MPs in Parliament on Nov 23. Datuk Seri Najib Razak (BN-Pekan) said Barisan’s 42 MPs would only support Budget 2021 if two of its demands were met — a blanket moratorium on loan repayments till June 30, 2021 and allowing Malaysians a one-off withdrawal of RM10,000 from their Employee Provident Fund (EPF) account 1. “The support of my friends and I are subject to the approval of these two matters. “Our support on this budget is conditional,” he said during an hour-long speech as Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BNBBC) chairman while debating Budget 2021 in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 10). Najib was responding to Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian), who asked whether Najib agreed that Budget 2021 should be amended before being voted on by MPs. "He has (Ahmad Maslan) read my mind. I want to point out that this Budget is drafted during an extraordinary time and if we want to amend it, it should be done because these are unprecedented situations,” he said. Najib’s remarks echoed Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's stand over the matter. Anwar told Parliament on Monday (Nov 9) that Pakatan Harapan might not support Budget 2021 if the concerns of its lawmakers were not addressed. Najib described the extension of loan moratoriums till June next year and the one-off EPF payments as bold and conventional steps, saying that these two measures could increase the circulation of cash in the economy when government spending was limited. “Not a single person has said that the money withdrawn from EPF cannot be recovered in the future. “The government’s responsibility is not to deny contributors access to their money when they are desperate.” Instead, said Najib, the government’s priority should be finding ways to ensure that EPF contributors who were forced to withdraw from their account 1, would not be left with a low balance after the pandemic is over. “Find ways to increase their savings at the fastest rate,” he said, adding that the government should also assist EPF in raking in more profits once the Covid-19 pandemic was over by offering them lucrative contracts. At the same time, Najib said EPF withdrawals should be a one-off payment and not monthly scheduled payments. “This RM10,000 can be used to settle outstanding loan repayments, rent, insurance, children school fees and so much more. “Besides that, that money can be used as capital to start a small business. This would help those who lost their jobs recently,” he added. Describing Budget 2021 as a “war-time budget”, Najib said the loan moratorium should be extended to everyone in the B40 and M40 income group. He pointed out that criticism on social media came not only from those in the B40 group, but also the M40 group who were badly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Many in the M40 aren’t satisfied because Budget 2021 does not benefit them much. “Is the government going to wait until the M40 group turns into the B40 income group before granting (the M40) loan moratoriums?” he asked. Under Budget 2021, B40 borrowers who received Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) or Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (BPR) loans will be given two options — a moratorium on their instalments for three months, or a reduction of their monthly repayment by 50% for six months. Those in the M40 group borrowers are also able to apply for the same assistance, but are required to make a self-declaration of the reduction in their income in order to secure the repayment assistance. Budget 2021, which will see more than two weeks of debates in Parliament, is set to be voted on by MPs at policy stage on Nov 23.