Despite reaching across the aisle and consulting with everyone previously, PM Muhyiddin Yassin's Money Man now appears to be resorting to emotional blackmail (allegedly! allegedly!) to get gomen's detractors into supporting Budget 2021.

In other news, it was good news-bad news as far as Malaysia's Q3 growth goes; KL knocks Sabah off the top of the Covid-19 scoring charts (in a bad way); and we sign a massive trade pact.

Paint it blackmail?

Trick or threat?

More than a week since being tabled, Budget 2021 remains the most debated news item. Not only is it our largest and most crucial money plan to date, but it’s also still unclear if the Perikatan Nasional government will win enough support in the Dewan Rakyat.

 

The House is set to vote on the budget – nama sebenar: Supply Bill (Budget) 2021 – on Nov 25. Initially, it’d seemed on track to get an easy passage through with the opposition on board. However, several leaders, including Pakatan Harapan head honcho Anwar Ibrahim, have since questioned certain allotments and plans – that insane RM86 mil to the gomen propaganda arm a.k.a Special Affairs Department a.k.a. Jasa, for instance – and called for amendments to be made.

 

Problem is, despite early assurances by PM Muhyiddin Yassin himself of a framework to unite all MPs on the matter, it doesn’t look like the PN gomen’s interested in making tweaks to the budget. 

 

To make matters worse, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz’s kinda sought to guilt trip elected reps into supporting the budget. He’s lamented that the salaries of civil servants and medical frontliners would likely not get paid if the Supply Bill doesn’t get passed.

 

Here’s the thing though: lotsa folks, one Najib Razak included, have pointed out flaws in the budget. So logically, the right thing for Zaf and co to do would be to get back to the figurative operating table and make the necessary nips and tucks. Instead what Rich Uncle Pennybags appears to be doing is blackmailing PN’s detractors into submission.

 

It’s disingenuous. More importantly, Zaf’s reasoning, as one veteran lawyer has noted, is totes wrong!

 

According to the lawyer, salaries and stuff wouldn’t need to be sacrificed if the Bill gets voted down. Article 102 of the Federal Constitution allows Parliament to authorise expenditure for part of a year in the event of any “unusual urgency”. Meaning Moo’s gang could well table a Bill for a few months of 2021 that only details allotments for operational items like paying salaries while it irons out other kinks.

 

The question is though whether Zaf, MooMoo et al. would be willing to do such a thing.

 

Meanwhile, the man who would be PM, Saudara Nuar Ibrahim, has called out Zafrul on the tasteless “threat” and the gomen’s plan (allegedly! allegedly!) to sideline the voices of majority MPs.

 

Now we dunno about Anwar’s strong, formidable, convincing majority – ahem, ahem – but the dude does have a point. Except for the gomen people who’ve been falling over themselves to back Zaf and co., it sure doesn’t look like the budget’s winning many admirers in Parliament. 

 

Unfortunately, based on our dear finance minister’s remarks and the fact he hasn’t met with the opposition since that bipartisan discussion on Nov 1, it doesn’t look like a budget re-draft is part of the government’s plans. 

 

So was that big bipartisan meet just a show? There’s still time for another meeting, although the sands are running out. It’s just a matter of political will and sincerity kalau ada lah!

 

Which leads us to wonder then what MooMoo’s next steps are considering he needs at least 111 MPs in his corner to see the budget through, hmmm …

Negative positivity

It appears Malaysia’s recorded yet another quarter of negative economic growth. The good news, however, is while our gross domestic product (GDP) was expected to remain in negative territory, the stats show that the third quarter of 2020 saw a significant improvement from the three months before.

 

According to the Statistics Department, Malaysia saw a contraction of just 2.7% in the third quarter of this year compared with a 17.1% decline in the second quarter. Tl;Dr for those of us not familiar with financial jargon is that while we’re officially in a recession, the period from July 1 to Sept 30 saw the economy make some notable improvements.

 

There are several reasons why this is, including the fact agriculture and manufacturing experienced significant recoveries. However, one of the key factors for growth in Q3 was the easing of movement restrictions. If you remember, the country moved into the recovery movement control order (RMCO) phase with the reopening of most businesses, domestic tourism and schools. Which brings us to the big question: what happens NOW considering a major part of the country is under conditional MCO (CMCO)?

 

Bank Negara Malaysia has claimed the CMCO’s impact will be minimal. In contrast to the last time the order was in force – from May 4 to June 9 – it’s pointed out the restrictions this time are more targeted. However, analysts aren’t all convinced by the central bank’s rosy outlook. At least one fella thinks the likelihood the economy’ll stay in recovery mode depends largely on how well we deal with the Covid wave that’s currently bashing us (We’ll dive into the latest coronavirus numbers in a minute). 

 

One thing to note right away about BNM’s projections and Malaysia’s Q3 growth is that while there’s reason to be optimistic, the reality is there are a tonne of industries that are drowning.

 

The entertainment and tourism sector, for example, continue to be pummeled, while school bus operators fear an imminent end. So yes, we may be doing better than certain people predicted we would. And yes, it’s great there’re guys like Ustaz Ebit Lew out there fighting the good fight and helping out folks in need. However, the bottom line is we ain’t anywhere close to being outta the woods.

 

By the way, while folks in the private sector continue to lose work, certain fellas in power still think that it’s wise to greenlight yet more bonuses for civil servants. All this while our politicos in the august House fight over Budget 2021, and others have pointed to gaps – such as in healthcare and tourism – where the moolah is more urgently required. 

Look, we’d have no problem with medical frontline staff and the folks in certain high-risk government sectors being taken care of, but do we need bonuses for everyone in the civil service across the board?

Dark is the night

After about a week of sub-1000 figures, the last three days saw Malaysia’s daily Covid-19 infections shoot back up. Worse though, loads of cases are being recorded outside of the third wave epicentre of Sabah.

 

On Friday, for example, a total of 567 cases were notched in the Klang Valley, in comparison to 556 in Sabah. And yesterday, we saw 475 cases registered in Kuala Lumpur alone! The bulk of new infections are linked to the Damanlela construction site and is not representative of the entire federal territory of KL, true. Yet, despite the CMCO, cases don’t appear to be doing down.

 

A total of 1,013 were discharged from hospital on Sunday, bringing the number of active cases to 12,323. The death toll now stands at 309.

 

Recoveries paint a picture on things like the nature of infection (how severe/infectious a strain), the patients and the state of our healthcare. However, the number of recoveries have no actual bearing on daily infection tallies.

 

According to one study, local Covid cases could increase by loads over the next four weeks. What exactly is “loads”?

 

Well, according to the projection, we could be staring at over 7,000 cases and 16 deaths per day by Dec 8 (fuckerama!), IF more measures aren’t put in place NOW.

 

Disclaimer: London’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, the folks who derived at the numbers, have insisted these are mere projections and not real predictions. The projections are, however, deduced from current data and meant to help countries deal with potential healthcare demands. 

 

While you all chew on that, here are some other important coronavirus-related news from the Deepavali weekend:

  • Renowned economist KS Jomo has questioned whether Malaysia’s various incarnations of the MCO are the best way to deal with the pandemic, pointing to countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, which didn’t sanction lockdowns but introduced strict protocols instead.
     
  • Three people from the same household are now allowed to travel in the same vehicle. The rule change applies to private vehicles as well as e-hailing and taxi services. Police will, however, have the discretion to allow exemptions. No word on if this means more than two family members can buy essentials or dine together outside.
     
  • Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing has finally apologised for calling Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah a coward and accusing him of being afraid to die from Covid-19.
     
  • A total of 27 residents of Medan 88 in Bandar Baru Salak Tinggi have surrendered themselves to authorities. The residents were among 400-plus people who didn’t return home after the area was placed under enhanced MCO (EMCO) last week. 

    Sinister (we mean senior minister lah) Ismail Sabri Yaakob has warned those still missing to turn themselves in pronto to get tested, or face arrest. Perhaps it would help if you spell out what laws these people have broken? Article 11(3)of Act 342 perhaps? In any case, we shouldn’t have to guess. 
     
  • In other runaway news, meanwhile, the cops are tracking down a 23-year-old man who escaped from Penang Hospital while he was being treated for Covid-19. 

Odds and ends

And here are a few more things you should know heading into your Monday:

  • Malaysia has inked a massive free trade agreement with 14 other nations. The deal, called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), is aimed at spurring economic growth for member states – ASEAN’s 10 members plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

    In a nutshell, the agreement’ll allow companies to export products anywhere in the trade bloc without having to meet country-specific requirements. This piece on the pact has more deets.
     
  • The MACC’s been urged to probe a Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) contract which awarded to a company with links to an MCA leader (again, allegedly! allegedly!). 

    This followed the Public Accounts Committee’s revelation that political influence played a part in the award of the contract. The VEP is a permit that allows for the entry of foreign vehicles into Malaysia.
     
  • Wong Yan Ke, the ex-Universiti Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany) chief, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of disobeying an order by police to stop a live recording of a raid. Wong had filmed the cops during a raid at the current Umany president’s home. This over an article on the role of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

    Still not clear about Umany and what it stands for and does. This explainer should help clue you in.
     
  • Human rights group Suaram and Klang MP Charles Santiago have joined the chorus of voices calling for the release of 25 men allegedly being held illegally. The cops reportedly detained the 25 in a probe into a shooting case in Banting. However, it seems that applications for their remand orders to be extended have been denied at least four times.
     
  • Meanwhile, the politicking continues with DAP accusing MCA of facilitating the “oppression” of the Chinese. Now, MCA and DAP have been at loggerheads for yonks. What’s particularly annoying about this latest tiff is that DAP’s statement was issued in Mandarin only. Ya know, on the one hand, DAP tries to project itself as being a party for all Malaysians, and on other, it pulls this kinda crap. 

    To be fair though, DAP isn’t the only one that does this kinda thing. Here’s an example courtesy of former Pakatan Harapan minister P. Waythamoothy.
     
  • Speaking of politicking, ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad still hasn’t had his fill of Anwar bashing, and this time it’s about his eternal frenemy being incapable of steering Malaysia’s economy through rough seas. The subtext here is simple: Only I can lead you to salvation Malaysia.

    Anwar, meanwhile, has claimed he chose to tread the Maddey-less path as he cannot take any more betrayals. Fair point, we suppose. Oh and he’s said his claim of having majority MP support to form a new gomen still stands. Read the room and give it a rest mate!
     
  • In other ridiculous Mahathir news, the former PM twice over has warned United States space agency NASA to be wary about bringing back “poisonous” and “harmful” substances from outer space. The “warning” is contained in a blog post concerning Nasa’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting samples from an asteroid 200 million miles from Earth. Been rewatching Alien ah, Atuk?

“The bonds of friendship dwindle with age...But a little blackmail lasts forever.”

- Stephen Hunt in The Court of the Air -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • US President Donald Trump has finally acknowledged rival Joe Biden’s victory in the recent polls, but like the bratty toddler he is, has refused to concede defeat. Reason? The election was “rigged”!

    Typhoon Vamco, which has claimed the lives of 67 people in the Philippines, has made landfall in Vietnam. Around 500,000 people in Vietnam’s central region were earlier ordered to leave their homes.
     
  • Toxic smog blanketed many parts of India on Sunday with New Delhi among the worst cities hit. Air pollution is typically bad there this time of the year thanks to crop burning and weather conditions. However, that crappy situation appears to have been exacerbated by many folks defying fireworks bans during the Deepavali celebrations.
     
  • Lewis Hamilton drove a splendid race at the Turkish GP to bag his seventh Formula 1 driver’s championship. The Brit, who already holds the record for the most race wins by a driver, is now on par with Michael Schumacher in terms of title victories. 
     
  • Soumitra Chatterjee, the Indian film legend who’s best known for his work with the late, great film director Satyajit Ray, has died of Covid-19 related complications. The star of over 200 films was 85. 

    The Grim Reaper also came for another legend on Sunday – English footballng giant Ray Clemence. The Liverpool, Spurs and England goalkeeper, who’d battled cancer for many years, was 72.

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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