Pakatan’s maiden Budget passed by Parliament

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (centre) heads to Parliament for the tabling of Budget 2019, in Putrajaya November 2, 2018. —  Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (centre) heads to Parliament for the tabling of Budget 2019, in Putrajaya November 2, 2018. — Picture by Azinuddin Ghazali

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — The Dewan Rakyat has approved Pakatan Rakyat’s (PH) maiden Budget 2019 at a policy level with a voice vote and the Bill will proceed to the committee stage tomorrow.

Throughout the entire debate, multiple ministries simply breezed through their winding-up speech as many MPs from the government and Opposition were not around in the Lower House during the final leg of the debate.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told reporters after his winding-up session that he was relieved it had passed without any hurdles.

“It’s the first Budget of Pakatan Harapan and we hope the poor can benefit from it. Even though we faced many challenges, we hope all can sacrifice together to overcome a difficult fiscal position,” Lim said.

Earlier during his speech, the minister told the Lower House that part of the reason behind PH’s zero-based Budget was to prevent the government from a “Christmas shopping” spree by spending allocated funds that were not spent at the very last minute.

“They will try their best to finish their budget by year-end and we want to prevent this,” Lim said, referring to the ministries.

Lim also traded barbs with former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over the RM19.4 billion Goods and Services Tax (GST) refund, calling the latter a person in denial.

Najib had said that the GST claims only amounted to around RM7 to RM8 billion but accused the new administration of racking up the RM19.4 billion figure due to the abolishment of the unpopular tax by granting the nation a three-month tax holiday.

“It seems that his honourable Pekan still has denial syndrome. This has nothing to do with the abolishment of GST. The three-month tax holiday is a different matter,” Lim said, referring to Najib.

He added that the missing GST refunds were practically daylight robbery by the previous BN administration.

Najib tried to defend himself, saying that the money collected had gone into a consolidated account.

A fiery Lim retorted that the money did not belong to the government in the first place but was supposed to be used for tax refunds.

“That is not the government’s money! That is the refund for GST! Why did you say that GST refunds must be paid within two weeks’ time but you failed to do so? This is the reason why the [current] government was forced to request a special dividend [from Petronas] of RM30 billion!

“It is to resolve the GST [refunds]!” Lim blasted Najib and other Opposition MPs who tried to interject.

An irate Lim told other BN representatives to sit down and to stop interrupting him since they “did not know anything” about the GST.

Umno’s Jasin MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Hamzah tried to calm things down and pointed out that everyone should wait for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report before speaking about the tax issue any further.

Lim countered saying he could not wait for the PAC report to come out next week.

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