RM15 billion band-aid
Indah dan ‘Permai’?
We’ll cut right to the chase. Yesterday, PM Muhyiddin announced Permai, which, according to him, is an RM15 billion shot in the arm formulated by the gomen for us, the people, with three main goals in mind: to fight Covid-19; preserve the people’s welfare; and keep businesses going.
It’s the fifth stimulus package introduced since last year. The other four, worth RM305 billion, are: Prihatin (the RM250 billion package announced in March 2020), Prihatin SME+ (April), Penjana (June) and Kita Prihatin (September).
In all, Permai contains 22 initiatives. And the devil, as they say, truly is in the deets. If you’re a sucker for punishment, you can read detailed breakdowns on the package here, here and here (look ma, infographics!). But if you can’t be arsed to do that, here’s the Reader’s Digest version for ya:
For us plebs:
- RM100 food baskets for qualified households;
- RM1,000 advance payment for i-Sinar (although, technically, this is our own money);
- Increased tax exemption for full health checks, including Covid tests;
- Tax deductions for donations;
- Extension of tax relief for mobile phones, computer and tablets until Dec 31;
- Free 1GB daily Internet;
- Three-month PTPTN loan moratorium for borrowers impacted by Covid or floods;
- One-off RM500 payment to tour guides as well tour bus, school bus, rental vehicle and e-hailing drivers;
- Full Socso contribution for delivery riders.
- 10% electric bill discount for six business sectors;
- Banks to continue to offer loan moratoriums and reduced repayments;
(If you’re confused, this means there’s no set gomen moratorium policy. Rather, it’s left to the banks. Moo has said the gomen can, of course, advise you over the phone should you hit a snag. We’re not sure how much that’ll help).
- Improved wage subsidy programme.
Health and Safety
- RM1 billion in additional funds to fight Covid (more below).
However, not every initiative announced by Moo were brand spanking new. Some critics, including former glorious leader Najib Razak, have accused Permai of being repackaged goods (our words, not Jib’s).
The gist of Bossku’s moan is that most of Team Moo’s stimulus measures weren’t actually new (though in some cases they’d been improved upon, updated or expedited), and failed to specifically address the current MCO and emergency.
Jibby said some of what was announced yesterday were actually measures from the first MCO and Budget 2021. You know, it’s really irritating to have to admit just how much sense he makes these days. 😤
No word yet on the opposition’s POV on the latest aid package. But we’re guessing we’ve not long to wait. After all, why let Jibby have all the fun?
Covid shot in the arm
What would a stimulus package in the time of Covid-19 be if it didn’t have any goodies for those battling the coronavirus?
Here are some of the initiatives announced by Moo yesterday:
- RM800 million for the Health Ministry;
- RM200 million for the National Security Council (NSC) and related agencies;
- RM100 million for private hospitals to treat Covid patients;
- One-off RM500 payment to medical frontliners;
- RM300 to non-medical frontliners serving during the pandemic;
- Additional 3,500 medical and health officers to be recruited.
The PM also claimed our Covid inoculation plan was “on-track”. The gomen is expecting to vaccinate 80% of Malaysia’s population by the first quarter of 2022.
For Muslims, the National Council for Malaysian Islamic Affairs has decreed that the Covid vaccine is necessary and mandatory for specified groups. However, Science (and unofficial vaccine) Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has already stated the vaccination programme will be voluntary.
Still, the Health Ministry is taking note after 23 elderly in Norway died after being jabbed with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the very ones Malaysia’s receiving next month. This vaccine reportedly has a 95% efficacy rate (allegedly! allegedly!), so the deaths are worrying.
The elderly were among those Malaysia’d planned to prioritise for vaccination, along with frontliners. But Norway has advised the vaccine may be too risky for the very old and frail. All those who died were above 80. Here are more deets on the vaccine.
Meanwhile, there are also questions about the efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine (insert your own Made in China joke here) after trials in Brazil lowered its efficacy rates to 50.4% – just a hair above the World Health Organisation’s 50% cut off. (More on this in the international section below).
Minister of Science, Technology and Beards Khairy Jamaluddin has acknowledged the concerns and said there are refundable payments and clawbacks in case Sinovac isn’t safe and efficacious. Let’s see what happens here…
In other Covid news, the Health Ministry has clarified that regardless if a person’s been tested or not, all those with close contact to a Covid positive person must self-isolate. This comes after the gomen said it’ll no longer test every close contact, only those with symptoms.
Meanwhile, remember the decision to allow students to return to schools and hostels without first taking a swab test unless symptomatic? Well, students at a Negeri Sembilan college have been quarantined after several tested positive. Genius!
In any case, here’s the rest of the biggest Covid-related news:
- Authorities are investigating if staff were involved in bringing buckets of beer into a quarantine centre in Sabah.
- Seremban and Port Dickson will be under MCO from today to Feb 1.
- SPM trial exams have been cancelled.
- Opposition MPs have called for F&B outlets to be allowed to operate longer hours beyond the 8pm MCO cut-off time. The current timing makes it difficult for many to purchase food after work, they claimed.
In a somewhat related and bizarre development, the hashtag #SiBodohKauDengarSini (for those that don’t speak Malay, it means Listen Here, Stupid 😂) is trending on Twitterjaya after a fed-up netizen used that phrase to lambast another for dissing calls for longer operating hours for restaurants. The phrase’s taken a life of its own now!
- Umno, which was set to vote at the end of the month on whether to split from Bersatu, has had to postpone its AGM due to the pandemic.
You get a lawsuit! Everybody gets a lawsuit!
Timing is key. But we’re sure the fact Permai was suddenly announced as Muhyiddin’s come under a lot of heat for securing a nationwide emergency is just a coincidence, right? Right??!?
Our glorious leader took time during his televised address yesterday to assuage fears, saying the emergency proclamation was “solely” to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Perhaps the 95-year-old former PM4/7 Dr Mahathir Mohamad is hard of hearing as Moo’s message seemed to fly over his head, as Maddey has joined the chorus of critics warning of the potential for the emergency to be abused.
According to Mads, Moo’s minority gomen has gained “absolute power” to act without being questioned – how envious must Maddey be? – and without parliamentary oversight (here’s a refresher on the Emergency Ordinance and the powers it brings).
In fact, ol’ Mads, along with sonny boy Mukhriz and three other ex-Bersatu boys, intend to intervene in a lawyer’s suit over the King’s decision to refuse Moo’s first request for an emergency over the pandemic last year.
That’s not all. Vocal Mahathir loyalist Khairuddin Abu Hassan has filed his own suit against le premier over the emergency. Khairuddin claimed Moo, having lost his majority hold on parliament, has no standing to advise the King on anything, let alone declare a darurat.
Will the old politician and friends have their day in court(s)? We don’t know. But if you go by his former lawyer’s learned opinion, there’s a hitch.
In the meantime, Mahathir’s party Pejuang is planning to send a letter to the King today to urge a withdrawal of the Emergency Ordinance. This is not to be confused with a similar letter planned by Pakatan Harapan boss Anwar Ibrahim and 95 lawmakers (allegedly! allegedly!).
Incidentally, the gomen’s suggested the controversial Emergency Ordinance would allow for buildings to be seized and used as temporary detention centres. This could help ease overcrowding at prisons and prevent them from turning into Covid-19 soup.
Speaking of court cases, retired judge Gopal Sri Ram has warned that a recent apex court ruling in Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah’s case rendered Parliament supreme over the Federal Court and the Constitution.
Let’s rewind for a bit. Earlier this month, the Federal Court ruled that a 2015 travel ban imposed on Maria was invalid. Great, except the court also held that an ouster clause in the Immigration Act was constitutional.
In simpler terms, the legal b̶a̶l̶d̶ eagle said a wronged party could not seek the court’s help where there’s such an ouster clause in a law passed by Parliament.
The reason we have the three branches of government – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary – is because they are supposed to act as a check and balance against each other. But if the judiciary can’t keep the legislature in check, then isn’t that cause for worry?
A little bit of this, a little bit of that
Here are other bits of news for ya:
- The parents of Nora Anne Quoirin, the teen who was found dead in the jungle in Negeri Sembilan, are asking for the verdict of the inquest into her death to be revised as “so many questions have been left unanswered”.
- ‘Red Shirt‘ leader, Umno’s Jamal Yunos, has claimed trial to two counts of sharing offensive content in the form of videos, last year.
- The Sarawak minister for women and children has called for a thorough probe into the horrific rape of minor in a police lockup. Seriously, as the goddamned minister, surely you can do more than call for a probe?
Meanwhile, Sarawak police said they can’t provide footage of the incident because… wait for it… the CCTV had no record function! So, it could only be monitored by the personnel on duty. What were they doing when they were supposed to be monitoring? Your guess is as good as ours.
The victim’s lawyer is demanding that the two cops who’d been on duty be arrested and charged. And you know what? We agree.
- DAP sacked its Malim Nawar rep after he allegedly frogged it over to MCA.
- Police have denied kicking down two helmet-less motorcyclists as claimed in online video.
- The hot-tempered hotpot Datuk has apologised for assaulting a young man and woman at a restaurant recently. We hope this isn’t the end of it – assault is a crime and should be treated as such, regardless of who many titles the perpetrator has.
“Why throw money at problems? ...Should the nation's wealth be redistributed? It has been and continues to be redistributed to a few people in a manner strikingly unhelpful.”
- Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- China’s Sinovac Biotech has defended the efficacy of its Covid-19 vaccine following concerns initially raised by Brazil. Sinovac claimed its vaccines were more effective if the two-doses are administered over a longer time frame. Brazil has since approved emergency use of Sinovac and Britain’s AstraZeneca vaccines.
- Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has said the world is on the brink of “catastrophic moral failure” due to unequal Covid vaccine policies. WHO boss Tedros Ghebreyesus bemoaned the unfairness of younger, healthier people in richer nations getting vaccinated before vulnerable people in poorer countries. No shit, Sherlock.
- An independent panel reviewing the global handling of the pandemic has said China could’ve imposed earlier forceful measures to tackle the outbreak. It also criticised the WHO for the delay in declaring an international emergency.
- Officials are concerned over possible insider attack during Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, with thousands of military personnel slated to guard the event being vetted.
The Donald is expected to issue over 100 presidential pardons before he leaves the White House. It’s unclear if he’ll pardon himself, however.
- Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong has been sentenced to jail for two-and-a-half-years over a bribery scandal. The case was a retrial of one involving the country’s former President Park Geun-hye, who had also been imprisoned for bribery and corruption.