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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 — Federal lawmakers who currently chair government-linked companies (GLC) or government-linked investment companies (GLICs) should have their fees for chairing such companies cut by half and channelled to the country’s Covid-19 fund, PKR MP Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail proposed today.
In her debate in the Dewan Rakyat on the Bill for Budget 2021, Dr Wan Azizah also mooted other pay cuts for the sake of the country.
“I propose for the allowance and chairman fees of any MPs who chair any GLC, GLICs, be reduced by 50 per cent and this reduction be channelled as corporate social responsibility (CSR) to Tabung Covid-19 because these MPs already receive salaries.
“And at the same time, leadership by example, the prime minister, senior ministers, ministers and deputy ministers also be cut by 10 per cent,” the Pandan MP said in her speech when proposing a pay cut for the Cabinet.
A written text of Dr Wan Azizah’s speech that was made available to the media showed that she was referring to a 10 per cent cut in the pay of the Cabinet and deputy ministers until the end of 2021.
The former deputy prime minister also proposed that all MPs get an equal allocation of funds and an equal pay cut, regardless of whether they are part of the ruling coalition or from the federal Opposition.
“I hope if operating funds and community funds for parliament service centres be given equally to the Opposition and the government bloc, I think Opposition MPs too will not feel difficult to have a 10 per cent cut to the Tabung with the condition that all government MPs are also subject to the same cut,” she said.
For the proposed cut for MPs, the written text of Dr Wan Azizah’s speech showed that she was suggesting the proposed 10 per cent cut in monthly allowances of all MPs to be channelled to the Covid-19 fund.
Dr Wan Azizah also expressed her hope that no threatening statements would be made to claim that the income of civil servants would not be approved if the Budget 2021 is not approved, pointing out that the Opposition had never disputed the emolument or pay for civil servants.
Earlier this month, Pokok Sena MP Datuk Mahfuz Omar had also told Malay Mail that there would be no problem if Budget 2021 tabled by the government is rejected, as it would mean the Budget could be revised and improved on, further noting that the there would not be late payment of government officials’ pay as the government could still continue to pay civil servants’ wages promptly while pending the approval of a revised Budget in such a situation.
In the same speech today, Dr Wan Azizah proposed that Parliament establish a bipartisan special select committee on Covid-19 to scrutinise policies, expenditure and administration relating to the pandemic and for such a joint committee to function until the end of the pandemic, in light of the extremely high uncertainty as Malaysia is now facing a third wave of Covid-19 cases.
Thanking the finance minister for meeting opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan’s MPs for almost two hours to hear their proposals on Budget 2021 before it was tabled, Dr Wan Azizah said she hoped that this would not be a mere “public relations exercise” but would mark a new normal with the government of the day being ready to accept and make changes to the government budget before voting is carried out in Parliament for its approval.
Dr Wan Azizah then went on to list various improvements that can be made to Budget 2021, including having the government do more for and spend more on Covid-19 frontliners.
“For example, expenditure on frontliners is not comprehensive and there are some among them who complain that the process for applying for overtime pay is complex and burdensome while they work hard, face high risks. Besides that, we hope their status can be changed from contract workers to permanent workers,” she said.
She also urged the government to provide measures such as incentives for childcare, work comfort and a safe working environment to ease frontliners’ worries about their families while carrying out their work.
The Budget 2021 speech had proposed a one-off RM500 payment to 100,000 medical staff with the Health Ministry in appreciation for their efforts as frontliners, on top of the ongoing RM600 Covid-19 special monthly allowance since March.
Highlighting the increased risk of domestic violence during the movement control order (MCO) period, she proposed an inter-agency fund to train first responders including the police, medical officers and welfare officers in responding to such cases.
Pointing out a government study between 2018 and 2019 that showed Malaysia only had a ratio of one social worker to 8,500 Malaysians as compared to the UK’s 1:3,000 and Australia’s 1:1,000, Dr Wan Azizah said the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry — under which the Social Welfare Department (JKM) comes under — should be made a senior ministry for Covid-19 to be successfully tackled.
She pointed out that this ministry was only allocated RM2.6 billion or 1 per cent of Budget 2021’s estimated RM322.5 billion, before going on to suggest the government allocate at least RM5 million to operate and improve the Talian Kasih call centres and 24-hour emergency call centres operated by the public and non-governmental organisations, including to train officers at such centres to increase their capabilities and effectiveness.
About jobs and EPF withdrawals
Dr Wan Azizah also proposed that the government integrate all its existing statistics — under the Department of Statistics Malaysia, the Companies Commission of Malaysia, the Home Ministry, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), the Human Resources Ministry and the Social Security Organisation (Socso) and the data on informal workers by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation — for a big data approach to provide targeted solutions in terms of jobs.
She urged the use of big data and analytics to enable job matching of potential employees with employers as well as their locations, and the level of skills and training required, which she said would help reduce the problem of underemployment among graduates or situations such as where a worker is overqualified for a job.
She also proposed that the recently-announced i-Sinar facility under EPF — where contributors are allowed to withdraw up to 10 per cent of their retirement savings in Account 1 amid the Covid-19 pandemic — to be expanded to cover those who have experienced a reduction of at least 25 per cent in their income.
She also urged for the process to apply for the i-Sinar withdrawals to be simplified, noting that the public needs those funds immediately.
Yesterday, EPF announced the details of the i-Sinar facility that was announced in the recent Budget 2021 speech, stating that it is expected to benefit two million eligible members — covering those who have lost their jobs, were given no-pay leave or have no other source of income — with an estimated advance amount of RM14 billion to be made available.
With a maximum 10 per cent allowed to be withdrawn from the EPF Account 1 savings with the condition that there is a minimum balance of RM100, EPF yesterday said members with RM90,000 and below in Account 1 can withdraw up to RM9,000, while those with more than RM90,000 in Account 1 can withdraw up to RM60,000.
EPF also said that those who make withdrawals under i-Sinar will have to replace the full amount advanced, with future contributions by such contributors to be fully channelled to Account 1 until the withdrawn amount is replenished before the contributions revert to the typical arrangement of 70 per cent to Account 1 and 30 per cent to Account 2.