We talk national and state budgets, the auditor-general's concerns over borrowings, and Selangor's explanation over "missing/not missing" funds.

Meanwhile, the Dewan Rakyat devises some Covid-19 measures; the gomen releases its Deepavali dos and don'ts, while our Covid numbers are less than stellar.

Money, money, money

Ka-ching!

It’s budget day, ladies and gents!

You can tune in to whatever TV channel or online feed you want (such as the Parlimen Malaysia YouTube channel) later this afternoon to find out what’s in store for us. It’s likely our most important and biggest ever, considering we’ve never before produced a budget during such economic and health crises.
 
The majority of allocations will no doubt go to fighting Covid-19 and cushioning effects of the pandemic and global financial slump on people’s health and livelihoods, as well as trade and investments. You can expect significant allocations to several ministries, including Health, Human Resources as well as Tourism, Arts and Culture.

Other ministries involving frontliners such as the security forces, such as Home and Defence, will likely also see big allocations.
 
But it’s all still a little vague. The gomen usually keeps the contents of every budget close to its chest until it’s tabled in the august House.
 
Anyhoo, despite the tabling being so close, some tried to get their shot in with their wish list:

  • NGO Malaysian Medics International, for instance, has called on the gomen to offer permanent positions to as many contract doctors as possible. 
     
  • Teachers group Ikatan Guru-Guru Muslim (which uses the awesomely high-tech acronym iGURU) has wisely called for a budget allocation to buy mobile devices for poor students to help them follow online classes.

    If you remember, not every child’s been able to take online classes as school closed due to movement control orders (MCO). Some have had to skip classes altogether. The sitch has really exposed the income, infrastructure and opportunity inequalities between Malaysia’s urban-rural divide.
     
  • DAP’s Klang MP Charles Santiago’s suggested an RM1 billion allocation for a Rent Relief Fund to help small, family-owned and independent businesses survive the pandemic. 
     
  • Economists have said, while the budget must prioritise the healthcare system and provisions for a vaccine, steps must also be taken to face any oncoming threats.

    This means a bigger and more targeted budget to prevent further retrenchments and business losses, and fewer announcements of megaprojects (you hear that Annuar Musa?). TL;DR – focus on saving jobs first, then create more.

For more on what could possibly be expected and what some experts are saying, you can read this. It talks about the high hopes that people have, and god knows we all have them.

More money matters (and boy does it matter)

It never bodes well when Sir Auditor-General’s worried. Yet, that’s precisely what he was when he revealed 59.9 percent (or RM82.723 billion!) of the federal government’s borrowing for 2019 had been used to settle debts.

The good A-G has said new borrowings should’ve been used for development. This would generate economy and taxes which could repay the loans. Instead, the gomen used only 29 percent of borrowings for this purpose.

Meanwhile, PAS-led Kelantan yesterday tabled its state budget. The deficit budget of RM66.02 million represented a jump of RM19.95 million from the previous year. A budget deficit refers to when expenditures or spending exceeds revenue.

Kelantan’s budget, of course, is a far cry from Selangor’s. The latter is, after all, one of the richest states in Malaysia. Selangor had tabled an RM2.32 billion budget for 2021on Oct 31. 
 
The budget debate at the Selangor legislative assembly is still ongoing. Yesterday saw Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari having to defend the Pakatan Harapan state gomen over claims RM1 billion was “missing” from its coffers.

He, of course, has claimed no such disappearing act took place. Instead, the money was spent on development projects (allegedly! allegedly!). 

Anyhoo, expect more money matters come Monday when we, the good folks at BTL, break down the budget for ya!

Of Deepavali and Covid

The SOPs Deepavali celebrations on Nov 14 are out. We have to say, they seem quite potong stim, but fair.

Let’s face it, we always knew our religious celebrations were gonna be screwed over thanks to that damned virus.
 
Here are the deets – Temple visits will only be allowed on the first day, and that too only for those in recovery MCO (RMCO) or conditional MCO (CMCO) areas. Ceremonies must be limited to 30 peeps or less, depending on the size of the place of worship.

And sorry folks, there’ll also be no cross-district or cross-state movements allowed for those in CMCO or EMCO zones, even to makan murukku and spend time with loved ones. 
 
Some of the other key points of the SOPs are:

  • Sanitisation processes must be carried out after each prayer session;
     
  • Temples must provide conduct temperature checks and screenings for Covid-19 symptoms;
     
  • Devotees must sign in using the MySejahtera app;
     
  • Those with chronic diseases, the elderly and children aged 12 and below are not encouraged to attend ceremonies;
     
  • Those wishing to hold celebrations at their residences can do so for immediate family. This must be limited 20 people for large premises, 15 for premises between 1,500 and 2,500 sq ft; and 10 people for 1,500 sq ft.
     
  • As usual; everyone should wear face masks, practice physical distancing and use hand sanitisers.

In another policy announcement yesterday, the number of worshippers at Friday prayers in mosques and surau for yellow and green zones in the Federal Territories has been increased to one-third of the hall capacity, effective today.

As for Labuan and other areas in KL and Putrajaya which are red zones, the number of worshippers is limited to just 12 people for Friday prayers and three for obligatory prayers. 
 
Moving on to our Covid numbers. Sadly, the number of new cases was in the four-figure range for the third day in a row yesterday and total active cases hit a new high.

There were 1,009 new cases yesterday and, coupled with recoveries of just 839, this pushed the active case tally to 10,503
 
Another 6 people died yesterday– five in Sabah and the other in Selangor – bringing the total death toll to 277. Also, five new clusters were detected in Sabah (two), Selangor, KL and Penang. 
 
Three sub-districts – Parit Buntar in Perak, Jimah in Port Dickson and Rasau in Terengganu – will be placed under CMCO for two weeks starting tomorrow.

The temporary detention centre in Tawau and Sandakan Prison will be placed under EMCO for two weeks starting today, while the EMCO at the Anjung Teduh Felda Sahabat in Lahad Datu, which was supposed to end today, will be extended another two weeks. 

For a list of known cases of Covid-19 infections, you can refer to this piece which is updated regularly. 

Odds and ends

As usual, there were other news items that we thought were important or interesting enough for us to include for you in brief here:
 

  • The government’s still at it with emergency declarations. This time, Moo and co will consider asking the Agong to declare emergencies in Batu Sapi and Sarawak in order to delay the by-election and state elections there so as to prevent a new surge in Covid-19. 
     
  • With so many pollution cases plaguing Selangor’s rivers and disrupting water supply to residents and businesses in the Klang Valley, a lot of attention has been paid to the issue in the state legislative assembly.

    Yesterday, we’re told that most of the cases were caused not by illegal companies and factories, but licensed ones! But here’s the best part, one of those involved is none other than sewerage company Indah Water Consortium. Thanks guys, you really are shite (pun fully intended)! 
     
  • Former PAS deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa has been granted a discharge not amounting to acquittal over 16 counts of CBT of RM321,273.80 linked to his salary as then Nassar Foundation chairperson. However, he’s still facing 14 counts of CBT and three counts of money laundering totalling over RM3.65 million. 
     
  • The Health Ministry has issued a warning over 21 food products that contain controlled poisons. Many of the items on the list are coffee products “for men”. We especially love the tagline for a brand called Kopi Harimau! 
     
  • A concerned teacher in Petaling Jaya lodged a police report after witnessing a man beating his 12-year-old daughter while the teacher conducted an online class. The man was detained but later released on police bail. The Social Welfare Department, however, has returned the child to the family after an evaluation was conducted. 
     
  • Child rights NGO Child Rights Innovation and Betterment has expressed concern over the misuse of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act against a teenage couple for a sexual act, saying that a law meant for sexual predators shouldn’t be used against the teens. 
     
  • In what may be the saddest report of the day, an animal shelter in Seremban is appealing for help after 54 dogs, including a newborn pup, drowned in flash floods that hit the home. 
     
  • But, there is some good news at least. Nine-year-old Malaysian prodigy Zyson Kang Zy Shun (how cool a name is that?) has won a prize from America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (better known as NASA) for inventing a device that allows astronauts to answer nature’s call without having to take off their spacesuits. 

“... everything written is, at least in part, fantasy. Except maybe the national budget. That's horror.”

- Mercedes Lackey -

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The battle for the US presidency is still dragging on, though Democrat Joe Biden has inched closer to victory.

    Current POTUS Donald Trump has launched legal bids to challenge some results and has made more claims of ballot fraud. This has prompted one international watchdog to say the claims were the most disturbing thing about the election and a gross abuse of the President’s office and Twitter to flag Trump’s tweet as disputed and possibly misleading
     
  • The pandemic and Brexit are pushing the UK back into recession, with the Bank of England saying it is pumping another £150 billion into the kingdom’s economy. 
     
  • The UN and the EU have both condemned Israel after its military demolished a large portion of a Palestinian community in the West Bank, leaving 73 people, including 41 children, homeless. 
     
  • Singaporean blogger Amos Yee, who has been living in asylum in Chicago, has been charged with multiple counts solicitation and child pornography in Illinois. He is alleged to have exchanged nude pics and thousands of sexual messages with a 14-year-old girl in Texas. 

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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