Kuala Lumpur – The COVID-19 pandemic that is still plaguing the country has changed the theme and focus of MPs in expressing their views while continuing the 2021 Budget debate session through the third week.
Sympathy and empathy for the welfare and interests of the people in overcoming the pandemic is touched on in almost every topic, regardless of whether the debate was on national security, employment opportunities, education, cost of living, mega project development or internet upgrading issues.
While some supported the budget being approved with others expressing conditional support, the average MP, both from the government bloc and the opposition alike, expressed their appreciation to the frontliners who have worked tirelessly in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Most of them agreed that special allowances should be given to non-healthcare personnel who are also on the frontline, including security forces.
An MP even suggested that the salaries of the Prime Minister, Cabinet members, deputy ministers and MPs be cut and channelled to the COVID-19 Fund.
Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (PH-Pandan) when presenting the motion, also recommended that the allowances and fees of MPs who are chairmen of government-linked companies (GLCs) and government-linked investment companies (GLICs) be reduced by 50 per cent and channelled to the same fund, as a corporate social responsibility initiative.
Also the focus of the third week of debate was the issue of education, which revolved around online teaching and learning as schools had to be closed until next year following the third wave of COVID-19, which saw a spike in the number of cases.
Wan Hassan Mohd Ramli (PAS-Dungun) and Datuk Salim Sharif (BN-Jempol) said that as most learning is now taking place at home, the use of technology and maximum internet access is crucial and government attention is needed in this matter.
Teo Nie Ching (PH-Kulai) voiced the question of the government’s approach in overcoming the digital divide as almost 1.7 million students under the Ministry of Education (MOE) do not have their own devices.
In the same issue, Dr Maszlee Malik (Independent-Simpang Renggam) suggested that the government continue the Supplementary Food Plan (RMT) programme during the school closure period to ensure that students from poor families and people with disabilities continue to receive nutritious food.
The third week session was also informed of the latest developments in the government’s efforts to get a vaccine for COVID-19.
According to the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin, the date for signing the Optional Purchase Arrangement agreement to participate in the COVID-19 vaccine global access (COVAX) vaccine allocation plan, which will guarantee vaccine supply for 10 percent of the country’s population, is currently being finalised.
This session also saw the presentation of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report that 97 sale transactions on Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) land was carried out without referring to any standard operating procedure (SOP) since 2011.
The beginning of the first day of this week session was also shocked by the passing of Gerik MP Datuk Hasbullah Osman who died in Raub, Pahang due to heart disease.
A total of 82 MPs took part in the policy-level debate session of the Supply Bill 2021, concerning Budget 2021, which ended yesterday before the winding-up session is scheduled to begin on Monday, with a divisional voting session on Thursday.
The 2021 Budget was tabled by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz on Nov 6 and MPs began debating it on Nov 9. – Bernama