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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — The approval of the Supply Bill 2020 (Budget 2021) with a slim majority was among the focus of the Third Meeting of the Third Session of the 14th Parliament which ended yesterday.
The Supply Bill was passed through a bloc vote after the third reading by Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz which saw 111 Members of Parliament (MPs) vote for and 108 against, with one MP absent.
Even though there were attempts by MPs from the opposition to thwart the passing of the Supply Bill during the winding-up session at the committee level, it failed when the bloc voting saw the same result.
The Supply Bill 2021 went through a period of 10 days of debate and winding-up by each ministry at the committee level after it was approved at the policy level on November 26.
At the committee level, nine ministries faced the bloc voting process before they were approved, namely the Finance Ministry; Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities; Ministry of Federal Territories; and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.
The rest are the Prime Minister’s Department; Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture; Ministry of Transport; Ministry of Housing and Local Government; as well as the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia.
Allocations totalling RM322.5 billion were proposed under the budget, the biggest in the history of the country, to help the government in facing the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the nation’s economy and the livelihoods of the rakyat.
The 46-day sitting which began from November 2 until December 17 also deliberated on various other issues relating to the economy, national debt, commodities, targeted moratorium, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The last week of this sitting also saw several amendments to bills under the Ministry of Finance approved, including Customs, Excise, Free-trade Zone, and Sales Tax bills.
The Bill on Temporary Measures for Government Financing related to Covid-19 was also debated and was among the hotly debated bills during this session, following the spread of the pandemic which had severely impacted the economy and the rakyat’s wellbeing.
Among the announcements made during the debate session relating to the Covid-19 pandemic was that the cost of treatment and vaccine for parents of taxpayers can be deducted under expenses for medical, special needs and parental healthcare.
Deputy Finance Minister II Mohd Shahar Abdullah said individual tax payers may claim for income tax exemption for Covid-19 treatment and vaccine costs for their parents, up to a maximum of RM8,000.
A tax exemption amounting to RM1,000 for vaccinations, including for Covid-19 is also applicable to taxpayers, their spouses and children.
Meanwhile, in his winding-up speech for the ministry, Tengku Zafrul had also announced several measures such as the i-Sinar facility which allows Employees Provident Fund (EPF) members to withdraw up to a maximum of RM10,000 from Account 1.
There were also proposals to reinstate the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to replace the Sales and Services Tax (SST) in an attempt to boost the government’s revenue in the midst of the pandemic.
According to Tengku Zafrul, the government has yet to decide on the reimplementation of the GST for now, as the priority remains in supporting efforts to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, protecting the people and supporting businesses.
However, he said the government is currently conducting studies and obtaining the views and feedback from various stakeholders on the appropriateness of implementing any consumer tax model by taking into account all aspects including the weaknesses of the current SST system, as well as the weaknesses of the previous GST system.
Meanwhile, the Parliament had also discussed on the future of the national airline company, Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB).
Responding to the issue, Tengku Zafrul stressed that any proposed recovery and restructuring of the company is subject to the consideration and approval of the Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s board of directors, as the sole shareholder of the company.
He said the decision to close or terminate the operations of Malaysia Aviation Group Bhd has yet to be finalised and would depend on the outcome of the company’s negotiations with creditors and lessors for the purpose of restructuring.
However, he said the government would hold further talks with Khazanah to identify the company’s direction, especially in strengthening its financial position and identifying the best strategic solution for the airline. — Bernama