Spend first, debate later, ex-MP says on stimulus plan

There have been calls from the opposition to have a Dewan Rakyat debate on the RM250 billion stimulus package announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

PETALING JAYA: A former MP says the government could spend the funds allocated under the RM250 billion economic stimulus package before obtaining approval from Parliament as the country is in a state of emergency due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Dominic Puthucheary, who is also a lawyer, said allocations need to be disbursed as quickly as possible to allow frontliners to combat the spread of the virus and provide timely assistance to those in need.

Dominic Puthucheary

“Normality no longer exists, and the government must do something different in a bold and dramatic manner to deal with the situation,” he told FMT.

He suggested that the money be spent first on preventing more people from succumbing to the virus and providing food for the needy who have been out of a job since the movement control order took effect on March 18.

Opposition leaders and some in the civil society have been calling for the economic stimulus package, announced last Friday by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, to be debated in the Dewan Rakyat.

Port Dickson MP Anwar Ibrahim and Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang have also made similar calls, saying no other matter should be raised during the sitting.

Puthucheary, who served as Gerakan’s Nibong Tebal MP for the 1990 term, said the government is allowed to spend funds before obtaining approval from Parliament due to urgent and unforeseen circumstances under financial provisions in the Federal Constitution as well as federal laws governing the finance minister.

However, he said the Cabinet must be transparent in Parliament regarding the source of funds and how they were spent.

He said there should be no reason for the opposition to vote against the package as the “people and nation” come first.

Health watchdog Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy meanwhile supported calls for the package to be debated in the Dewan Rakyat but with conditions due to the spread of Covid-19.

Its chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said a bipartisan committee should be set up immediately to look into the details of the package.

“Their conclusions can then be channelled to the MPs,” he added.

He said a one-day emergency meeting should then be convened, during which the economic stimulus package is the only issue on the table.

This, he said, would ensure fiscal transparency and good governance while providing a platform for democratic debate.

He said this had been done by other governments as well.

But he warned that the matter should be discussed by the bipartisan committee before it is brought for debate.

“Even with the necessary precautions, convening a normal parliamentary sitting means mobilising hundreds of MPs and support staff in one location,” he said.

This could expose them as well as their families to the virus, he added.

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