Najib lambasted for not tabling revisions in Parliament

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KUALA LUMPUR: Opposition lawmakers have lambasted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for not tabling revisions to Budget 2015 in Parliament, claiming that his decision to make the announcements at an event in which Pakatan Rakyat Members of Parliaments (MPs) were excluded demonstrated his “utter contempt” for the highest legislative body in the country.

“In today’s (yesterday’s) budget revision announcement, Datuk Seri Najib Razak unilaterally revised the Malaysian budget and significantly changed the use of government funds, which was approved by Parliament at the end of November last year,” said DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua in a statement yesterday.

“The fact that Parliament passed the government budget and expenditure by law via a Supply Bill matters little to the Prime Minister, who has decided that he can change the will of the Parliament as he pleases.

“Instead of being answerable to Parliament, Najib made the announcement in a hall of invited guests comprising diplomats, the business community, non-governmental organisations as well as  MPs from Barisan Nasional (BN). Pakatan MPs were completely ignored on such an important government decision,” said Pua.

He added that the manner in which Najib had announced the revisions to the budget left MPs with absolutely no avenue to debate and decide on the changes made by Najib on the budget.

“It also proved the BN government’s utter contempt and disdain for the parliamentary institution, whose sole role is to rubber-stamp the decisions of the dictatorial executive,” said Pua.

The outspoken MP also said Najib had taken “the easy way out” by deflecting the economic situation squarely on external factors such as falling crude oil prices and its consequent impact on the ringgit, which were beyond the government’s control.

While Pua acknowledged that the Prime Minister was spot on to emphasise and prioritise an “orderly financial market” as well as the need for the return of a stable currency, he said Najib “had failed to address the local and international financial communities’ concern about the RM42 billion debt load of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)”.

“The failure of the troubled investment firm to repay a RM2 billion loan in November 2014 has also hit 1MDB’s bonds and fuelled investors’ concerns about Malaysia’s economy.

“The ominous omission of 1MDB’s debt crisis will certainly not lend any confidence to the financial markets on the government’s ability to ensure an ‘orderly financial market’, meet its revised budget commitments and the 3.2% deficit target,” Pua added.

Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen, when contacted, also expressed disappointment over Najib’s revision of Budget 2015 as he opined that the latter should have formed an economic council consisting of experts — senior economists, the central bank, Petroliam Nasional Bhd, as well as MPs from BN and the opposition — to look into the current economic developments and the government’s financial position before making the adjustments to the budget.

PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli, who is also Pandan MP, pointed out that “one thing blatantly missing” from Najib’s speech was the government’s response to the plummeting ringgit.

“All regional currencies have weakened compared to the dollar, but the ringgit is the worst-performing currency in 2014. At the rate the ringgit is weakening, we will reach RM3.70 very soon,” Rafizi warned, adding that “this means that we would be at the same level that the ringgit was in 1997/98”.

“The continuous weakening ringgit will begin to impact the daily lives of the rakyat through more expensive imports,” he said.

In contrast, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar felt that Najib had managed to address the country’s economic and financial situation through the revisions announced yesterday.

The strategies put in place by the government will be able to reduce the deficit from 3.5% to 3.2%. This, in addition to a current account surplus, albeit a reduced one, is already “a good thing”, said Abdul Wahid.

He stressed that there is no issue of the country being hit by a twin deficit, a situation in which a country registers not just a fiscal deficit, but also a deficit in its current account.

Hence, Abdul Wahid felt it is unlikely for international rating agencies to downgrade the country’s ratings.

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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on January 21, 2015.