MPs To Support Budget 2021 Only If It’s Beneficial to the People

Amid the political crisis involving Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the King has encouraged the MPs to support the upcoming Budget 2021.

Citing the welfare of the people, Comptroller of the Royal Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said the King stressed that the Budget will be crucial for the government and authorities to continue combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, several opposition MPs have widely indicated that they would only back Budget 2021 on November 6th only if it’s beneficial to the rakyat. 

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad together with Wangsa Maju MP Datin Paduka Tan Yee Kew during a press conference on Tapak Uptown Danau Kota. FAIHAN GHANI/The Star.

Shah Alam MP Khalid Abdul Samad said he wants to see a budget that would, among others, prioritize on protecting the people from the coronavirus and give a much-needed boost their livelihoods.

“Of course, I will surely back any motion or bill if it is advantageous to Malaysians, especially in this current situation. I hope priority will be given to the health sector, given this challenging period in tackling this on-going health crisis.

“If you remember in the previous budget, approved by former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, the sector which received the highest allocation was education, followed by health. So we hope this will be adjusted based on the priorities we see now for the next year.

“We also have to ensure that we have sufficient (financial) injection for the economy and businesses. We do not want everybody to close down (their businesses) because it would be costly to restart all over again. Therefore, the injection of economic packages is also equally important,” the Parti Amanah Negara MP told the New Straits Times.

The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government did not hold a pre-consultative session for Budget 2021 with opposition MPs, but Khalid said that it won’t be a problem as long as main points are discussed; although, this puts the government’s willingness to be open to fresh ideas into question as well.

“If they already have a budget that is prepared and ready to be tabled, they can always engage us immediately thereafter.

“We can always have discussions and form parliamentary committees to sit down and study the details, while the budget itself is being debated.

“We have about two weeks, so we can really do the ‘finger counting’ and reformulate the whole budget, if necessary, in order to achieve something you can have consensus on,” added Khalid.

PERAK 17-08-2017. Deputy Health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye talk to press at the 2018 Neonatal Cardio Respiratory Conference, which was held in the KPJ Ipoh Specialist Hospital today.MALAY MAIL/Farhan Najib

Gopeng MP Lee Boon Chye also added on how he would put a vote for motions and bills that would benefit both the country and the people.

“I think they should have a substantial increase in budget for the Health Ministry, which includes a special allocation to combat Covid-19. I do hope there would be considerable amount for public health.

“We need to prevent Covid-19 transmission, instead of (focusing on) putting out the fire (of infections). Prevention is better and we need to tighten up efforts to reduce the spread of the virus,” said the former deputy health minister.

Lee said that if the opposition was to support the PN government, they should’ve had talks prior to the Budget 2021 being tabled.

“There have been no consultations at all so far. So, it is premature to say whether we can support or otherwise. I believe there is still room to negotiate, as we have about 11 days before the tabling of Budget 2021.

“Certainly, we can work together based on the framework of the PN budget, as it will only come to a vote in about four weeks from now. So there is still ample time to have bipartisan input,” he said.

112 out of 222 Malaysia’s MPs are parliamentarians while 108 are of the opposition.

Lockdown Measures are Ineffective Against Covid-19 Spread, Says Experts

The number of daily positive cases in Malaysia have obviously been rising rapidly and that’s not even the most worrying part as it is that it is doubling almost every five days on an average since early September.

Things took a turn for the worst in September 7th onwards as positive cases stated doubling within four to 11 days. According to a study by CodeBlue, this rate sped up at the concurrence of the Sabah state election, with daily infection doubled almost every three days. 

A conditional movement control order (CMCO) has since been implemented in a number of significant areas, but experts are saying that such moves or a lockdown may just function as a temporary measure to reduce the cases and not completely annihilate transmission of the virus.

A mindful lockdown

Dzulkefly Ahmad

According to Dzulkefly Ahmad, who is also head of Selangor’s Covid-19 task force (STFC) and a former health minister, movement restriction measures are important to control the coronavirus but must be implemented mindfully and must be adhered to fully by the public.

“l need to stress that lockdowns do not end the pandemic. We do not exit a pandemic with lockdowns.” he said in an interview with CodeBlue.

“Theoretically, lockdowns are a last resort and must be resorted to, tactfully and judiciously, with unambiguous guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOP),” 

Covid-19 vaccine

Although a lockdown couldn’t do what a vaccine could, that may be the only option we have for now.

According to Joseph T Wu from the University of Hong Kong, lockdowns are merely a temporary fix without a vaccine.

“While these control measures appear to have reduced the number of infections to very low levels, without herd immunity against Covid-19, cases could easily resurge as businesses, factory operations, and schools gradually resume and increase social mixing, particularly given the increasing risk of imported cases from overseas as Covid-19 continues to spread globally,” he told The Guardian.

Compliance with SOPs

Dr Mustapha Kamal from the Covid-19 response unit in Sungai Buloh Hospital, Malaysia’s main Covid-19 hospital located in Selangor says that even with all the SOP guidelines set in place, it will still all lead to nothing if Malaysians don’t comply with it. 

“It has been said and proven during the second wave where we have seen the curve flattening, as per number of cases decreases. We are hoping with the MCO, the number of cases decreases again. Though, it must be remembered that MCO in the long run might jeopardise our country,” Dr Mustapha told CodeBlue.

Damages both mentally and economically

If not announced with the details of it fully enclosed to the public, a lockdown may cause more harm than good. Not only will there be confusion but there will also be the fear factor in place on the consequences that may follow if one is not clear about it. 

Low-income and vulnerable groups may find it much more difficult to survive during lockdowns as situations may just go from bad to worse. Those groups who are likely to even recover from the first MCO will be facing the difficulties and hardships head on, this is bound to take a toll on those groups not only financially but also mentally as well.

“But we must remember that it has a concomitant damaging effect on both lives — mental health, foregone preventive care, missed educational opportunities and livelihoods, especially of the lower income groups and small businesses in the informal sector, because they are ‘crude or blunt’ instruments,” Dzulkefly stated.

“Needless to say that businesses are under severe strain. A simple way to help businesses is to give predictable and clear, evidence-based guidance, so that they can anticipate what measures will be used and in what situation.”

Muhyiddin to Resign Amid King’s Dismissal of Emergency?

Following Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah’s decision to brush off Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s proposal for a state of emergency, calls for the PM to resign have surfaced as his support is coming into question as well prior to the budget hearing on November.

Since opposition leaders were not happy with the call for an emergency, news that the King had dropped the idea should’ve been music to the public’s and opposition’s ears, especially with all the panic that had turned up before, but some are saying otherwise.

Sighs of relief cut short

According to Kamarul Zaman Yusoff of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), they should be feeling the opposite way instead as it should be anything but music to their ears.

“Opposition leaders should not be happy with the King’s decision to reject Muhyiddin’s proposal to declare an emergency because Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah also believes in the current government’s abilities to contain the spread of Covid-19 effectively,” he told FMT in an interview.

According to Kamarul, this decision by the King could mean that there is no need for changes that would affect the government’s stability and that the King may be leaning towards wanting the PN administration to continue.

Criticism internally and externally

Apart from those in the opposition parties and coalitions, leaders of other parties in Muhyiddin’s coalition had also criticised his move to impose the emergency, and they too have called on him to step down.

“Thankfully, His Majesty the King was not influenced by the political game that could drag the country into more critical territory,” said Datuk Ahmad Puad Zarkashi, a senior leader in the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) — the largest party in the ruling coalition — said in a post on Facebook.

“The people’s wellbeing is more important. By right, Muhyiddin should step down,” Ahmad Puad said.

Opposition lawmaker Wong Chen said that the PM’s proposal was malicious and also rightfully rejected by the King. He also added that Muhyiddin should resign or rid of the ministers that proposed it.

A special meeting

Since the King’s denial for a state of emergency, Muhyiddin had chaired another special meeting with his Cabinet on the morning of Octover 26th; he was also reported to have met with PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and MIC president Tan Sri S A Vigneswaran before the special meeting.

Among the Cabinet ministers who attended the special meeting were Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, National Unity Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Education Minister Dr Radzi Jidin.

Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Idrus Harun was also spotted attending the meeting.

Muhyiddin said in a statement late last night that the Cabinet took note of the King’s decree and would hold further discussions on the matter.

Why Muhyiddin’s Proposal for an Emergency Was Denied and What’s Next

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah has denied Prime Minister’s Muhyiddin’s proposal for an emergency, while citing calls to remain calm and to function as a team against the Covid-19 pandemic.

With many in a panic frenzy when news of an emergency was still looming, it is safe to say that the decision to not impose an emergency certainly gathered a sigh of relief among the public. 

So why did Muhyiddin’s proposal for an emergency fail and what ‘s next?

The palace’s faith in the government and people

Even though we’ve reached the dreaded four figure positive cases recorded in a single day, the King believes that the government has been effective in handling the pandemic and is capable of continuing to manage under Muhyiddin, the palace said in a statement. 

When compared with other countries, Malaysia is far behind those worrying numbers; now especially with the conditional movement control order (CMCO) in place, and the majority of public already working from home, the people are already abiding the SOPs in place and there is no reason that an emergency be called yet when the streets are as empty as they are right now.

The importance of parliament 

The parliament was only suspended once in Malaysian history, during the May 13 racial riots of 1969. The parliament was suspended for two years and formation of an emergency administrative body. 

When compared to those times, we are well far away in terms of national security and threat; calling a state of emergency would do more harm than good to containing this virus as the aftermath from calling an emergency is surely something the country don’t need right now.

If parliament is suspended, the budget has to be passed somehow; this is where an emergency law (emergency ordinance) would come into play to approve and pass the budget. Although, an emergency must be declared for all this to happen.

2021 budget

Earlier this week, the Agong had emphasized the importance of passing the 2021 budget in the Dewan Rakyat; this was because of its importance to handling the Covid-19 pandemic and to restore the economy.

“Therefore, financial allocations are much needed to facilitate the front-line staff in carrying out their duties and responsibilities,” the palace’s Comptroller of the Royal Household, Datuk Indera Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, said in a statement.

“Al-Sultan Abdullah has expressed his confidence that with the strong spirit of unity and fighting spirit that we have demonstrated previously, we will be united again to battle the third wave of the pandemic,”.

Muhyiddin’s next move

It’s going to go down two ways: one is to leave the post and the other is to put Dewan Rakyat’s faith to test.

The next parliament session is to go as planned on November 2nd, which is two weeks away from now; one of the options is for Muhyiddin to go down that path and meet his political rivals head on while trying to secure the much needed majority.

Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi said “This is the most democratic and dignified way (of ending the political uncertainty),”.

He added that the prime minister might want to have a discussion with Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on either forming a unity government or getting opposition MPs to support the 2021 Budget.

Will a State of Emergency Be Justified? Dr M Says No

According to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s call for a possible state of emergency at the moment will not be justifiable.

Citing other countries that have seen worse and more severe Covid-19 positive cases and issues, he said that even those countries have not declared nationawide emergencies but instead just for those areas that are affected.

“None have suspended laws and Parliament as it would if Emergency is declared in Malaysia.

“There are no riots or violence in Malaysia, no breakdown of laws and order to justify an Emergency.

“But there is a need for some changes to be made to the government which seized power through undemocratic means,” he wrote on his blog chedet.cc today.

As positive Covid-19 cases continue its surge in several states, especially in Sabah, social media and even the general public were sent into a frenzy after talks of a state of emergency circled around news agencies.

However, an official statement from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is yet to  be released while the whole nation ponders on the wating game.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah said in an announcement on Friday that he will consult the Malay Rulers based on the recommendations made to him by Muhyiddin.

Dr Mahathir also joined other opposition leaders as all were convinced that the declaration of an emergency would be a blatant move by Putrajaya to avoid facing the Dewan Rakyat.

He added that the state of emergency would not bring any benefit Malaysia in any way, even regarding the Covid-19 outbreak as the government and people are already carrying out their daily lives with the conditional movement control order (CMCO) in place.

“He has a huge Cabinet that has contributed nothing to the well-being of the people and the country.

“Faced with the possibility of being overthrown, the Prime Minister wants the powers under a state of Emergency.

“The only benefit would accrue to the Prime Minister, as Parliament would be paralysed. He would claim that it is the wish of the Palace.”

Other than that, the stock market would also take a visible plummet if the state of emergency does in fact come into effect.

“If Emergency is declared then the market will collapse completely. The investors have no faith in the Prime Minister being able to manage the economy.

“He messed up the Covid-19 situation by trying to grab the government of Sabah. The present spike is entirely due to the Sabah election.

“So, the government has been changed. What good has it brought to Sabah?” he said

So A Friend Owes You Money, What Do You Do Now?

Growing up, we’ve heard it countless times before to not borrow out money to friends, but anyone who tells you so may have yet tried going on a vacation with 10 people or split a bill six ways.

At some point in life, you or your friend may start owing each other money; in a perfect world, it would be resolved quickly, but this clearly doesn’t always happen. Undercertain circumstances, things may go out of hand, here’s how you should handle it.

Follow up, with good intentions

It may be easy to get fired up on how a bad a friend is when they’ve owed you money for up to months. In most cases, they’ve just forgotten about it and would be even more stressed out to know that you are stressed out too about bringing up to them.

Approach with an open and neutral tone. Utilize e-wallet platforms to send a request and if a few days go by without response, you could approach or contact them by saying “Hey, I’m not sure if you saw my request from Monday for the hotel stay in Penang, but would you mind accepting that?”

Be firm with your requests

If you’ve done so a few times and you get the message that they are clearly avoiding the payment, it would be totally reasonable to ask the following:

“I hate to keep bugging you about this, but I really need to be paid back for the drinks from last month. I’m not sure what’s going on, but can you just  me right now?” (A good option if the conversation is happening in person.)

“Hey, when we talked the other day, you said you’d pay me back on Friday. We’ve been going back and forth about this for weeks now… what’s going on?”

If it doesn’t play put the way you want it to be, it’s justified in continuing to bug them for it because it’s perfectly logical for you to want your money back!

If someone tries to dodge your request with a shameful, “It’s just RM20, chill,” you can say something like, “If it’s just RM20, then why won’t you give it back?” You don’t have to drop the subject to keep the peace (or ever loan them money ever again).

If things do in fact turn sour, learn from the experience

Meaningful friendships in our current society means the occasional pushing of our boundaries and feelings. If friends do in fact react badly or you discover that you’re both on different pages when it comes to dealing with money, that’s valuable information to hold on to. 

You may realize that as much as you want to recognize this friend for the fun and loving personality he or she has, you may never want to go on a vacation or go out for a group meal together with them ever again.

A Guide on How to Spot Fake Money

When businesses big or small unknowingly accept fake money, they single handedly handle the full burden or loss; although counterfeit techniques are getting more and more complex, there are more than enough ways for them to recognize fake money from the real ones.

Fake money is a major problem is business as if accepted they’ll lose both the face value of the bill with any goods or services they provided to the customers who paid with the fake money bill.

Apparently, one in a million notes we see every day is counterfeit. So, how do we spot these counterfeits?

Simple, according to Bank Negara Malaysia, all we have to do is feel, look, tilt and check.

Feel

Feel the quality of paper as genuine banknotes are usually printed on very high-quality paper and manufactured from cotton. It has a unique feel, crisp sound and slightly rough in heavily printed areas. Fake ones would have poor paper quality and would feel similar to commercial type of paper.

Feel the intaglio (design that is engraved into the material) as counterfeit banknotes don’t have the feeling of the printing.

Look

Look at the banknote against a light. Genuine banknotes carry a watermark portrait, security thread and perfect see through features. A watermark portrait of Yang DiPertuan Agong has three-dimensional effect and appears soft and shady without sharp outlines portrait. At the base of watermark, a denomination number is clearly visible.

The security thread will always look embedded in the paper. The hibiscus flower on the obverse will register perfectly with the same flower on the reverse of the banknote.

Fake bills will look like a drawing and the features would be simulated and rather blur. 

Look under a magnifying glass to see the micro lettering on both sides f the bank notes, it should be sharp and not blurred. Use an ultra-violet light to see the Invisible fluorescent elements will be on both sides as well such as invisible fibers and phosphorescence squares.

Tilt

With the RM10, RM50 and RM100 bills, iridescent stripe shines under a bright light and showing the banknote denomination and the name of BNM when the view angle is shifted. When changing the angle of view by shifting the banknote, a hidden image of denomination number i.e. 50 will be revealed in the centre of the PEAK square.

The lead feature is very difficult to counterfeit and counterfeiters may try replicating it by using a plain shiny foil. There is also not latent image of the denomination in the PEAK feature on the fake bills.

In short, the public inly have their senses to depend on when examining a possible fake bill, which is at the first level of security features. Level 2 is where the cash handler comes in using both their senses and also special equipment.

It is also important to mention that involvement of an individual in the counterfeit banknote market may result in prison time of up to 20 years.

China’s Economy Continues Its Rise Post Covid-19

As Covid-19 spreads its wings to other countries around the world, China’s economy is slowly gaining momentum while countries like the U.S and Europe struggle with containing the virus.

The world’s second largest economy grew to 4.9% between July and September when compared to the same timeframe last year. However, economist expected a figure lower than 5.2%

“I don’t think the headline number is bad,” said Iris Pang, chief China economist for ING in Hong Kong. “Job creation in China is quite stable which creates more consumption.”

Its trade numbers also show exports growing by 9.9% and imports by 13.2% when compared to September last year.

While the pandemic has hurt this year’s growth targets, China remains in a trade war with the US which has hurt the economy.

According to Robin Brant, a BBC China correspondent, lockdown measures in China and its measures to control the virus and some government stimulus have appeared to do its job.

While 4.9% is slightly lower than forecasted, industrial output have come in above expectations.

Cash Injections

For the second quarter of this year, economic growth in China reached 3.2% as it started its rebound.

“China’s economy remains on the recovery path, driven by a rebound in exports,” said Yoshikiyo Shimamine, chief economist at the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo.

“But we cannot say it has completely shaken off the drag caused by the coronavirus.”

Tourism

The boost should also come from this month’s “Golden Week” – an annual holiday in October that sees millions of Chinese travel.

With majority of international borders shut off at the moment, millions of Chinese have been doing their travelling domestically instead. 

According to its Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 637 million trips in China over the eight-day holiday which generated revenue of 466.6bn RMB ($69.6bn, £53.8bn). The tropical island province of Hainan also saw a double in their duty-free sales , up to nearly 150% according to local customs data.

NASA and Nokia Are Bringing A 4G Network To the Moon

Former mobile phone giant and now equipment maker Nokia has recently announced its expansion into the new world by scoring themselves a deal to install the first cellular network on the moon.

The Finnish equipment manufacturer was selected by NASA to implement an “ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened” wireless 4G network on the surface of the moon as part of plans to establish a long-term presence on the moon by 2030.

The contract that is worth US$14.1 million that is awarded to Nokia’s US subsidiary is part of NASA’s Artemis programme which aims to put the first woman and next man to the moon by 2024.

Further experiments and explorations will also be carried out that will hopefully help with developing the first human mission to Mars.

Nokia said that the network equipment will be installed using a lunar hopper built by Intuitive Machines in late 2022.

“The network will self-configure upon deployment,” the firm said in a statement, adding that the wireless technology will allow for “vital command and control functions, remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and streaming of high definition video.”

The 4G equipment can also be updated to 5G in the future if needed, Nokia said.

NASA announced last week that it would distribute $370 million to 14 companies to supply “Tipping Point” technology for its mission, which includes robotics and new methods of harvesting essential resources such as oxygen and energy resources that are required for living on the moon.

According to NASA, a partial of the funding went to companies researching cryogenic propellants, freezing liquids used to fuel spacecraft.

Among them, Elon Musk’s SpaceX received US$53.2 million for their demonstration of transferring ten metrics tons of liquid oxygen between tanks on a starship vehicle.

Chicken Rice Seller Fined RM3000 While Travelling For Work During CMCO

A chicken rice seller in USJ4 was given a hefty fine under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) as only two individuals are allowed to be in a vehicle at once.

Malaysians have since have mixed reviews regarding the CMCO SOPs, with many questioning the reasoning behind this incident and saying that it doesn’t make sense.

A viral post by the SJ Echo Facebook page claims that the SOPs are unfairly implemented and this may force the famous chicken rice seller in USJ4, Subang Jaya to close his stall after being slapped with a fine of RM3000 in total, merely for travelling from home to work and back.

SJ Echo said that the small business owner, Seow Boon Keong was travelling with his two sisters and one nephew in the car, all of whom work with him at the Chuan Kee chicken rice stall.

“We travel from Jenjarom daily to USJ 4 to operate our chicken rice stall. It’s 30km one way from Jenjarom. Because of the distance and also because the other three cannot drive, we travel in the same car,” he said.

“All we do as a routine is [to] head to work from Jenjarom in the morning and go home by around 3.30pm when we finish work. We don’t go anywhere else,” SJ Echo reported the man as saying.

They were heading home from work when stopped along the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) by a policeman near the USJ toll plaza.

Despite having a letter to prove that he runs a chicken rice stall in USJ4, he was still issued a RM1,000 fine for each of the passengers in the vehicle.

“The two-passengers a vehicle SOP is not fair for people like us who run a business,” Seow said. 

He also added on how he may have to close down each time a guideline/SOP of such was imposed ,which would result in him losing his only source of income for the family.

“Because of the distance from Jenjarom to USJ 4, it would cost RM40 one way for two persons to travel that distance by Grab,” he said, adding that they do not go anywhere else except home to work and back.

The Subang Member of Parliament (MP), Wong Chen has since listed down the grounds for the chicken rice stall owner can file an appeal.

Now a bit of local community news. A favourite Subang Jaya chicken rice seller operating in USJ4 was recently fined by…

Posted by Wong Chen on Friday, October 16, 2020

“First is the fact that all three passengers are a family and living together, therefore being in the car together does not increase the risk of spreading the pandemic. Second, they were not on a joyride but on their way to work, which is not a prohibited activity under the CMCO,” he wrote on his official Facebook page.

“Based on these two mitigating points the police should consider dropping the total of RM3,000 of compounds and just issue a warning,” he said, adding, “it’s also wrong for the government to implement strict enforcement when it is also equally guilty of constantly updating and changing the CMCO SOPs”.

Chen has also said that the government should issue more warnings instead of compounds during this period as it is more or so an adjustment period for the public.

“This particular case also highlights the need to tweak the CMCO two passenger rule, to provide exemptions for family members travelling for work purposes. The economy is not doing well, therefore the CMCO SOPs should not add on further challenges to the overall sluggish economic activities,” he said.