Budget 2021 may be massive, but as far's the opposition's concerned, it's not the Covid-19 budget as advertised – which is the only kinda money plan the folks across the aisle from Perikatan Nasional are willing to support.

Elsewhere, the gomen doubles down with yet more conditional movement control order (CMCO) rules, Covid recoveries outpace infections (huzza!), and the Malaysia Cup's postponed. Oh, and TV3 makes a major boo-boo!

Push and pull

The opposition ultimatum

Despite Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz’s earlier overtures to the opposition or his pleas to them when tabling Budget 2021, it sure doesn’t look like the government’s fiscal plan is in for an easy passage through Parliament.

 

Parliamentary opposition leader and Pakatan Harapan big kahuna Anwar Ibrahim has warned unless tweaks are made pronto, the Perikatan Nasional gomen can kiss opposition’s support for the budget goodbye.

 

Reason? Harapan will only support a better Covid-19-centric budget and nothing else!

 

You might recall from our mammoth breakdown yesterday, there’re loads of good things about the budget and it’s certainly focused on battling Covid. You might also remember there’s loads of stuff wrong about it. Like, ya know, that ridiculous RM85.5 million allocation to the Comms Ministry’s c̶y̶b̶e̶r̶t̶r̶o̶o̶p̶e̶r̶ Special Affairs Department a.k.a. Jasa.

 

Based on Saudara Nuar’s speech in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, however, the formerly-dead propaganda arm is only one part of the problem. The bigger issue, the Man Who Wants To Be PM has said, is the projections in Budget 2021 are unrealistic and totally whack

 

The government forecasts GDP growth of between 8.6 and 9.6% next year. But that figure, our man has pointed out, is utterly at odds with International Monetary Fund and World Bank estimates. 

 

And then, of course, there’s the lack of transparency – like where o where is that much talked about RM3 billion apparently being set aside for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines? 

 

In case you didn’t know, the special Covid vaccine committee is being headed by Science, Technology, and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. The RM3 bil doesn’t appear to ‘ave been parked under his ministry, and neither does it appear to ‘ave been included in the Health Ministry’s allotment.

 

There’s an RM4.29 billion allocation for Special Programmes under the MOH, true. But according to the ministry, the sum’s supposed to go towards drug procurement, medical supplies, dental stuff, and the lot. 

 

Will the RM3 billion be taken out from that figure? Honestly, we dunno. But if it is, that’s pretty messed up,’ cos it would mean there would be only RM1.9 billion left for all the other public health stuff!

Incidentally, everyone’s favourite Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah also alluded to this RM3 billion when defending the gomen health expenditure plan in Budget 2021.

 

Anyway, Anwar ain’t alone in calling for the budget to be amended. Frenemy and former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad also thinks some major overhauling is needed,’ cos as it stands, it’s bloody “frightening”. 

 

Maddey’s said from the look of things, a massive part of the gomen’s RM322.5 billion money plan would need to be financed through borrowings. And that has him worried. Why that’s scary is that we’ll be adding to the country’s national debt, which in June this year was already RM1.2 trillion.

 

We agree with Mads. Borrowing so much is a recipe for disaster. But you know what’s also scary, Atuk? Your absurd suggestion a 10% salary cut be introduced across the board for high-earners to be distributed to folks in need!

 

We could write a book about just how hypocritical a proposal like this is, but let’s just say, 1) there’s already such a thing in Malaysia as a tiered tax system. And 2), if he really thinks this his suggestion is hot, perhaps Mads and his family can get the ball rolling by giving up 10% of their monthly earnings first. After all, Tun, you’ve said it shouldn’t hurt people “if there is a reasonable cut-off point” what.

 

This is not to say folks on the lower-income bracket do not need help. But they require a focussed and more targetted response from le gomen, which is what the budget is supposed to be for.

 

Incidentally, while the National Budget was being debated in Parliament yesterday and regular Malaysians across the country worried about their futures, with many having lost their jobs and all, the Kelantan state assembly approved a salary hike for state reps.

 

So much for all of us being in this together, huh?

Salam Sejahtera?

As French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once penned, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

The expanded CMCO kicked off yesterday, and just as all the previous incarnations, we’re left more confused about the rules in place.

 

This guide here, which we’ve shared in the past, lays out the health protocols and standard operating procedures (SOPs) pretty neatly. But you might also notice there’re many things the powers-that-be make no mention off. 

 

The latest in the on-going saga of puzzling incidents concerns the MySejahtera app and when and where it should be used. 

 

Since the contact-tracing app was introduced, the procedure appeared to be that folks were only required to register themselves upon entering any premises. Now it seems you’ve gotta get yourself scanned even if you’re pumping fuel at a petrol station, despite not entering the station’s store.

 

Failure to scan could set you back RM1,000 in fine. Oh, and by the way, cops have said folks are also required to don face masks when they step outta their vehicles at gas stations and get their temperature checked too!

 

The rationale for the above rules – that petrol stations are areas with high human traffic – is sound, of course. And we agree it’s always better to be safe than sorry. However, what’s so damned frustrating is these regulations are never, ever clear.

 

One day, you have a minister saying masks are only mandatory in crowded public places and the next, you find people not only getting fined for pulling down their masks when no one’s around, but for wearing masks improperly too. Meanwhile, some doofuses receive pats on the back for not masking in public. As the hashtag goes, #kennotbrain.

 

Anyways, loads of folks in Parliament yesterday questioned the need for the CMCO expansion when the data doesn’t appear to support it. Perak, for instance, appears more green, than yellow or red these days. Yet, the same curbs that apply in the Klang Valley apply over there too.

 

Health authorities have claimed the blanket restrictions are meant to protect the country’s green zones before cases start to rise in those areas. A strike first, regret later kinda approach.

 

Nevertheless, let’s not forget that while the rakyat need to be protected healthwise, these poorly targeted restrictions are affecting livelihoods in places like Langkawi, which hasn’t seen a rise in Covid cases a long, long while.

Good news, bad news

It was a mixed bag as far as Monday’s Covid-19 numbers went,’ cos while we did record 972 new infections, a record 1,345 people have been discharged from hospital.

 

The discharges mean we’ve now notched 29,579 recoveries to 41,181 positive cases – or 72% of total cases  since the pandemic began. As a result, we’re now left with 11,308 active cases.

 

What’s perhaps even better is the national infectivity rate, or R0, has gone down to 0.95. And that’s despite the recent spike in cases! In case you’re lost, R0 (pronounced R-naught) reflects the contagiousness of the disease. Meaning, how many people will be infected by a person with the disease.

 

Regrettably though, what may be a problem in getting the rate to a manageable 0.5-0.6 is clusters keep cropping up everywhere. So, while the numbers may have gone down in some areas, they’re swelling in others.

 

Monday, for example, saw a mere 370 cases recorded in Sabah. However, a surge of 260 infections was registered in Negeri Sembilan, with a total of six new clusters detected nationwide.

 

And here’s the shittier news – the deaths keep coming!

 

Yesterday, the fatality tally was 8. What’s really, really crappy is that one of those deaths was of one-year-old baby boy in Sandakan with congenital heart disease, Down syndrome, and hypothyroidism. This is the second death involving a baby, if you recall. The first was recorded in Semporna on Oct 6.

 

Here’re the rest of the Covid-related news items form Monday:

  • The Malaysia Cup has been postponed on account of the country’s rising Covid-19 numbers. Some fellas, like former Selangor boss Zakaria Rahim, though, feel there ain’t no way for the tourney, the country’s oldest football cup competition, to continue safely. So it should be just called off altogether.
     
  • Yet another covidiot politician has been found to have broken with Covid SOPs (allegedly! allegedly!) after previously advising folks to practise physical distancing and wear face masks.
     
  • DAP’s Pahang state rep Young Syefura Othman has apologised after being slammed by netizens when she posted a pic of her and some other peeps picnicking by the sea. Picnics are a no-no under CMCO rules.
     
  • Kelantan is introducing green wristbands for persons under surveillance for Covid-19. According to the state gomen, the bracelets will be worn by government officers and VIPs from red zones who enter the state for official work. The green bands only allow for their wearers to head to the locations where they’re needed, and nowhere else. Green band wearers are also required to head home as soon as they complete their official tasks.

    Great, but who’s keeping track? Are any from this green brigade required to first inform the state authorities of their travel plans and itineraries so we’d know if they stray?
     
  • Selangor is allocating RM400 million in the battle against Covid. The funds are being set aside for, among others, expanding screening programmes, improving enforcement, and assisting frontliners.

Odds and ends

Yesterday was a rather bitty day news-wise. Here are some of the more interesting stories to elbow their way into the headlines:

  • As far as blunders go, TV3 describing United States vice-president-elect Kamala Harris as an “anak pendatang tanpa izin dari India” takes the booboo cake!
     
  • We’re not sure how anyone could make such a mistake when a cursory glance at Kamala’s Wiki page would’ve revealed her late mum arrived in the States from India after winning a spot in a prestigious PhD programme at the University of California, Berkeley. But anyways, the mistake was made AND broadcast on Buletin TV3 to millions!

    The station eventually apologised for the gaffe, of course. Still, honestly, you gotta wonder if the folks who prepped the segment on Harris didn’t realise that people of Indian descent could be anything but illegal immigrants.
     
  • Four company directors have pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with a river pollution incident. The four, who are also on trial for harbouring illegal immigrants, are accused of releasing waste from the company’s factory near Rawang into Sungai Kundang.
     
  • Former premier Najib Razak’s 1MDB corruption trial’s been postponed yet again on account of the CMCO extension. Dec 14 to 17 have now been set as the new dates for resumption of the trial, but really lah, who can tell if the case, which sees Jibby face a total of 21 charges of power abuse and corruption, won’t need to be shelved again.
     
  • Seven more University of Malaya students have been hauled up by the cops over an article concerning the King’s role in rejecting PM Moo’s recent emergency bid. The seven, comprising members of UM’s Association of New Youth (Umany) and UM student union president Haziq Azfar, were quizzed at the Kajang district police headquarters on Monday. 

    Police had previously questioned Umany’s president and veep over the article. Interestingly, while all these young people are being grilled, Bersatu’s Rais Yatim, who said pretty much similar thing on Twitter as these students following the King’s rebuff of Moo, has been left well alone.
     
  • The Christian Federation of Malaysia is refusing to accept PAS MP Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh’s lame-ass “distorted Bible” non-apology, and really, who can blame them? Zawawi’s apology, as we noted last week, was packed with “ifs” and “buts”, so CFM is absolutely right in saying that the MP never seemed sincere and even made the affront worse.

“The difference between them and us is that we want to check government spending, and they want to spend government checks.”

- Ronald Reagan -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • US pharma giant Pfizer has claimed its experimental drug is more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 infections. The vaccine, which is being jointly developed with German company BioNTech, is in the third phase of trials. 

    Meanwhile, Russia also claims that its Sputnik V vaccine is more than 90% effective! Two vaccines in one day?! Who’d thunk?!
     
  • Donald Trump, who still refuses to concede the US presidency, has fired another person from office – Secretary of Defence Mark Esper. Esper has been at odds with El Presidente for months after the former refused to back the use of soldiers to deal with protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd.
     
  • Meanwhile, the man who took Trump down, president-elect Joe Biden has already announced his Covid task force to deal with the pandemic. We’re happy to note it’s looking to be a diverse team of experts indeed.
     
  • Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russian have signed a deal to end the armed conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region after more than a month of bloodshed. Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan has said while the deal was “painful” it was the best decision under the circumstances.
     
  • A British company is looking to turn dust from the moon into oxygen. The firm, Metalysis, which has already proven in tests that O2 can be extracted from moon debris, has received a contract from the European Space Agency to further develop its methods. 

ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER

This weekday newsletter is brought to you by Trident Media, a group of Malaysian journalists with 60 years of combined media experience in four countries across TV, print and digital media.

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Trident Media · Seksyen 35 · Shah Alam, Selangor 40470 · Malaysia

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