By Wong Chen
HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR to all!
I will be going to the first Parliament session of the year on 13th February and this sitting will continue until 23rd March. The main agenda of this upcoming sitting will be the national budget to be tabled on 24th February. This sitting will be crucial, as will be able to get a clear picture on the fiscal state of the government and the state of the Malaysian economy.
The budget will also highlight the policy spending priorities of the new unity government. Included in the national budget will be the community budget allocations for government MPs. For a majority of my community minded Subang constituents, the community allocation is probably the most important issue for them. Most want to know, how much will their associations be receiving in terms of financial support from my office. I will address this matter shortly.
But first, let me address the issue of the national budget and the likely role I will play in the next few years, in terms of policy work. I am not involved in the budget process this year. This work is now in the hands of the capable civil service, advisors and ministers of the unity government. In my previous two terms, I was asked by my party, PKR to focus on the budget, the economy and finance issues. Since these portfolios are now safely in the hands of PKR ministers, I will switch focus onto other issues such as international relations, human rights and climate change.
So, for the next few years, my office will slowly re-align our policy work to other areas. As for the many suggestions, comments, messages and advice received from academics and the public on the national budget, while I appreciate them, please also appreciate that I am in no position to directly influence any of these policies. Nevertheless, I will relay these good ideas to the relevant ministers in charge.
Now on to the matter of the community budget. As you may know, the issue of community budget allocation is a highly contentious and political one. For decades, this allocation is parked under the discretion of the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) and the unwritten rule has been to deny the Opposition any or very limited community funding. This is a very bad practice that must stop. Ideally, these community budget need to be given to all MPs equally and put under the control of Parliament, rather than the PMO. I sincerely hope that this will be part of the reform agenda of the new unity government.
Now, let me address the actual community budget allocation for 2023. In 2022, the total yearly allocation for MPs was RM3.5 million. This amount is divided into RM1.5 million for direct grants to constituents and RM2 million for projects under a program known as “Mesra Rakyat”.
In mid-January, my office was informed by the PMO that our direct grants to constituents have been slashed by 33.3% from RM1.5 million to RM1 million. As for the RM2 million under “Mesra Rakyat”, we have yet to receive any information yet. So, for the time being, my office will be working on a budget of RM1 million for 2023, until a decision is made on “Mesra Rakyat”. That being the case, I have decided to allocate RM400,000 to the poor and the balance RM600,000 to the all the associations. Since we have 300 associations in Parliament Subang (serving a population of 480,000); each association will be receiving RM2,000 from me as an annual grant. As such, do take note that all other spendings on projects will be suspended until clarification on the status of “Mesra Rakyat”.