KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim questioned today the RM11.7 billion allocation for the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD) under Budget 2021, or RM1 billion more than this year.
In his debate of the Budget 2021 today, Anwar asked why the PMD needed so many ministers and was allocating for special envoys whom he said were unlikely to be effective as international travel would be limited throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that while the entire Cabinet was top heavy with a total of 32 ministers, this was most apparent in the PMD that has five ministers and five more deputies in its payroll.
Anwar honed in on an entry for the PMD’s budget that included allocations for a special communications and media advisor, special economic advisor, special functions officer, and offices of special envoys in the Middle East, China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, among others.
“I would like to ask what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ role will be when we appoint [these people] and burden the people and the country due to high managing expenditure.
“It is not worth it to pay wages towards these positions which are ineffective because of Covid-19. Where are these special envoys going to go? They are all in Kuala Lumpur,’’ said Anwar.
He also argued that special envoys — who are considered ministers — were effectively overlapping with the duties of Malaysian ambassadors.
The Port Dickson MP said the line item he cited above was responsible for RM482 million for next year along.
Anwar also argued against a RM108 million allocation for political appointees, saying the money was more needed elsewhere in the country such as to improve the welfare of frontline workers battling Covid-19.
“I want to ask, what is the link between this RM181 million and the suffering of the poor and the unemployed who are now asking consideration and attention from the government,’’ he said.
Anwar then pressed his opposite, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, to personally address these questions.
Later, Arau MP Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim retorted by saying the PMD needed the funds to rehire the personnel and appointees who were dismissed under the Pakatan Harapan administration.
“The PH government, without mercy, fired contract workers. So if you want to be a hero, you have to hire these contract workers back,’’ said Shahidan.
* Editor's note: A previous version of this report incorrectly stated the allocation made for political appointees which has since been corrected.