The federal and Selangor governments both deserve good knocks on their heads. While we battle the health crisis, they're arguing over the sharing of Covid-19 info.

In other news, we take a look at what's possibly on tomorrow’s tabling of Budget 2021; and we also have a segment on this little thing called the US presidential elections and how it may (or may not) impact us.

Lovers quarrel as Malaysia burns

Is Covid a national problem, or what?

The Selangor government and Putrajaya have been at loggerheads for some time now, with Selangor complaining time and again it’s not being consulted on key Covid-19-related responses. Worse still, it’s being denied specific information it claims it needs. 

We touched on it last month, but time, it seems, does not heal all wounds as the two are back at it. The latest news is that the Health Ministry is still refusing to share raw Covid-19 data with the Pakatan Harapan-led state.

According to now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, the info sharing was stopped due to “unwanted incidents” in the past. What those incidents were, though, he didn’t/wouldn’t say.
 
Instead, he has said the powers that be wanted to avoid any conflicting interpretations of the data which could possibly lead to panic and confusion. In other words, the same spiel given by Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah before.

The big brats are also still refusing to allow the integration of Selangor’s Selangkah contact tracing app with Putrajaya’s similar MySejahtera app.

Forgive us for sounding like broken records here, but wouldn’t such concerns be better addressed if all parties just got along and you know, work together??
 
We understand having just one app would be a whole lot less messy. We also appreciate that Selangor’s held by the opposition. But Covid-19 is a national problem, is it not? And Adham can’t just wave the state off by bringing in some vague story about ‘unwanted incidents’ without any kind of explanation for the people. Where’s the transparency and accountability to the us, the people?

What’s more, Selangor –  among the country’s most populous and richest states – has been badly hit by the third wave of infections. It currently logs the second-highest number of infections (1,782 in all), after Sabah. Lest we forget, the entire state’s been placed under conditional movement control order (CMCO)?
  
But it’s not just Adham and gang who need to play nice. Selangor, too, should be more accommodating, perhaps, by not insisting on coming up with its own SOPs in the face of those set by abang besar? Things like the five-per-table versus four-per-table rule only confuse people.

With people falling ill and dying, surely all these donkeys can look past party colours, at least for the time being?

Our Covid numbers

Ironically, Noor Hisham, just yesterday, has claimed the third wave can be flattened in three weeksif everyone plays their part. 
 
This is especially important during this horribly virulent third wave. Yesterday saw a second day in which the number of new cases hit the four-figure mark. With 1,032 new cases and “only” 820 recoveries, the number of active cases increased to 10,339. And there were also 8 deaths, bringing the cumulative death toll to 271
 
Meanwhile, six new clusters have also been identified, and a subdistrict of Penang has joined geng CMCO as well.
 
Anyhoo, here’re some other Covid-19 news:

  • Abah AKA PM Muhyiddin Yassin has instructed the National Security Council to review the need to tighten interstate and interdistrict travel SOPs. He’s also asked the relevant authorities to study the possibility of postponing the Batu Sapi by-election in Sabah, scheduled for next month.
     
  • The federal gomen will study a suggestion that Employees Provident Fund contributors affected financially by the pandemic be allowed to withdraw from their Account 1.

    While certain folks have called for this, others are against. Parti Sosialis Malaysia has said this would be tantamount to robbing workers of their retirement savings. The party took a dig at  “super-rich” politicians, saying they just need to donate two of their branded watches each to help those in need. In case you’re wondering what the whole thing about the watch is, click here. It’s a doozy. 
     
  • A report published by Japan’s Nikkei Asia has claimed China’s promise of priority access for Malaysia to Covid vaccines being developed comes with a condition – the release of Chinese nationals and China-registered fishing vessels currently being held here. 
     
  • Meanwhile, the government’ll have to spend RM3 billion to immunise 70 percent of the population once a vaccine becomes available next year. 
     
  • Bangladeshi workers who are stranded in their own country are still not allowed to return to Malaysia to work, says Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, in response to protests in Dhaka by Bangladeshis seeking to come back here. 

Oh Budget, what art thou?

Tomorrow is D-Day as far as next year’s budget is concerned, and the country is eagerly waiting to see what will be tabled in one of the most important – if not THE most important – budgets in our nation’s history.  

And it’s not just the rakyat, Ringgit and Sen Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, and PM Moo – whose entire premiership rest on which way the voting goes for the supply (budget) bill – who are on tenterhooks.


Even our Agong seems to be anxious to see if his advice for our beloved leaders to stop politicking and support the budget will be adhered to. So much so, His Majesty has made another similar statement. He’s further called on the gomen to study all suggestions, including from opposition leaders, before crafting the budget.

And most importantly, he’s asked our so-called leaders to show some ‘political maturity’. In other words, our dear King, like the rest of us, is asking them not to behave like the bunch of whiny, entitled brats we all know they are. You tell ’em, Mr DYMM sir!
 
But what exactly is in the offing for the Budget 2021? Well, there aren’t many details out there, but glorious leader MooMoo has teased that it’s an expansionary budget meant to support the people and revive the economy.

We can expect much of the budget to be centred on funding needed to handle the pandemic, similar to the previous stimulus packages announced by the gomen.
 
Tengku Zafrul has said much the same thing in this Q&A piece. One thing we took away is that anyone hoping for a reinstatement of a blanket loan moratorium will be disappointed as this would likely be scrapped for a targeted assistance system. 

Also, expect some serious moolah to be allocated to support our struggling tourism, arts and culture scene. Those industries have been among the worst hit due to movement restrictions and lockdowns, with many having to come up with novel ideas to keep businesses afloat.

This piece gives some handy notes on what you’d need to know as we wait for the tabling of the budget. But the topline things to note are:

  • In normal budgets, the bulk of the money is allocated to operating expenditure – meaning the money goes to pay for the running of things. What actually goes to development is a far smaller chunk – the ratio is roughly 5 to 1. 
  • The budget revealed last year allocated the largest amounts to the finance, education and health ministries. Let’s see what happens this year. But as we said earlier, expect the tourism ministry to get a far larger slice of the pie. The only question is, how big will the pie be?
  • The money to fund all of this comes from direct taxes (income tax, corporate tax, etc), indirect taxes (sales tax, service tax, excise duties, etc) and non-tax revenue (no, not a jumble sale of Rosmah Mansor’s Birkin bags).
  • And lastly, an expansionary budget basically means the government will spend more than it did the previous year. Most years, we do have expansionary budgets but it’s gonna be interesting to see how much the government allocates and how it’s gonna afford to pay for it. But we’ve already seen the government dip its paws into Petronas’s pockets, so that’s one piggybank that’s been raided already. But with tax revenue inevitably going down when returns are filed next year, we’re bound to feel the pinch eventually. 

Meanwhile, BN head honcho Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has said all 43 of the coalition’s MPs will support the budget. That’s a good thing, eh Zahid, considering you guys might as well not be in government if you can’t support the government’s budget? 
 
Over on the opposition side, Pakatan has released their list of demands for Moo’s gomen before both sides can sign any sort of confidence-and-supply agreement. Meanwhile, that neither-here-nor-there party called Pejuang has declared it’s open to supporting the budget, provided “everything is in order”.

That’s all we ask for really, as an opposition party. Just don’t bloody not support it for the sake of being the “opposition”.

Flotsam and jetsam

Some other outliers popped up in our newsfeeds yesterday that we thought we would add here:

  • PM Muhyiddin and his band of merry Perikatan Nasional men would really, really, really like to get a new mandate from the people via a general election, but only when issues relating to the pandemic and the economic recovery plan are resolved. 
     
  • Umno, it seems, is already thinking about GE15. They’ve appointed Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman their new election director. We didn’t realise they hold his mental acumen in such high regard. We certainly don’t.
     
  • Five local celebrities have been questioned by the MACC in connection with money laundering activities by a syndicate involved in online gambling and the Macau Scam. 
     
  • A Malaysian has been sentenced to life in prison and 18 lashes of the cane in Singapore for causing the death of a woman with a grasscutter. Ugh. 

Trump, Biden and Malaysia

As we said in yesterday’s BTL, the US presidential election is watched with interest the world over. It’s no different here.
 
It’s still too early to call, with the race to be the “leader of the free world” still wide open. Both sides have sorta claimed victory… well, Donald Trump has anyway, while Joe Biden has merely said he’s confident.
 
But what exactly does it mean for Malaysia should The Donald be re-elected, or if Biden should trade in his former VP tag for the POTUS post?
 
Not much has been written about it, but this survey of people from 24 countries, including Malaysia, has revealed that most Malaysians are supportive of Biden. Half of Malaysians surveyed had said Biden would win, while only one in eight were confident of a Trump re-election. 
 
To another question, 47 percent of Malaysian respondents had said, if, given a chance, they would vote for Biden compared with only eight percent for Trump. 
 
Four years ago, when Trump first ran for office, this piece talked about what it would mean if Trump won the presidency (which he did, of course), based on his campaign promises. It’s worth a look as it was a pretty accurate prediction of what actually took place. 
 
The key points here was that a Trump victory in 2016 would the end of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), while anti-immigration sentiments would make it more challenging for Malaysians to visit or work in the US. Also, a trade war with China could impact our economy.

While Malaysia and other countries have since been renegotiating the TPPA sans the US of A, Trump has over the years doubled down on his anti-immigrant stance and the trade war with China. So we can still affect its ripple effect to hit Malaysian shores.

Even so, analysts have predicted that come what may, Malaysia-US ties will remain strong. Which is good news for us considering the USA is Malaysia’s third-largest trading partner, and it serves as a balancing force to China’s attempts to dominate the South China Sea. Beijing has been in dispute with several ASEAN countries over the maritime territory.
 
If you’re wondering whether a Trump re-election could somehow impact our stock market, then you can refer to this study by a group of Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia smart peeps. 
 
Their study, published in 2019, showed that Trump’s 2016 triumph had “definitely raised uncertainties” across the globe from the perspective of politics and economics, and the Malaysian stock market was no different.
 
Meanwhile, back to 2020 and we have this nice little piece that talks about what a Biden win would mean for Asia. 
 
Here are some key takeaways:

  • Biden has said he wants to work with US allies to put pressure on Beijing in terms of trade, meaning that the US-China trade war will continue. 

    It remains to be seen what route Malaysia will take in this matter if called up as it would be keen to appear neutral in the standoff between the two global superpowers, being economically and geographically caught in between the two.
     
  • There may be more engagement with Southeast Asian countries (that means us, too) as Biden has vowed that the US will keep sea lanes secure in the South China Sea.
     
  • A Biden administration would be more willing to work with allies like Australia, South Korea, Japan and even China to push North Korea to denuclearise. This would be in sharp contrast to Trump who has threatened to pull troops from South Korea and Japan if they don’t pay billions of dollars more in support.

In any case, you may want to pace yourself as this is gonna be a long, albeit tight, race to the finish for Trump and Biden. With Nevada not expected to resume counting of ballots till Thursday morning (later tonight, our time), you can probably only expect to find out whether Ol’ Orange will have to vacate the White House till Friday.

And even then, he may contest the results in the Supreme Court, though America’s apex court may not have a say

“Information is like compost; it does no good unless you spread it around."

- Eliot Coleman -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Le président orange and his campaign team has filed a suit to halt vote counts in the swing state of Michigan, even as Biden edges ahead in the nationwide tally. Trump’s team wants representatives to have access to observe mail-in ballots being opened and processed.

    Win or lose, Biden has already garnered the most votes won by any candidate in US history, breaking Barack Obama’s record in 2008.
     
  • While the US elections have been monopolised by the Trump-Biden battle, one piece of news other than that garnered some interest – The state of Delaware will see the first transgender state senator in US history in Sarah McBride. 
     
  • Philadelphia officials will release police bodycam footage of the Oct 26 fatal shooting of a 27-year-old black man Walter Wallace Jr which sparked protests as well as looting, destruction of property and attacks against police officers in the city. 
     
  • The gunman who carried out the deadly attack in Vienna that saw four people killed and at least 22 others injured had been sentenced to 22 months in prison for attempting to join Islamic State in 2019 but was released early. Despite this, the lawyer who represented him last year said nobody thought he was capable of carrying out any attack. 

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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