KUALA LUMPUR: Members of Parliament (MPs) have their work cut out when they return on Monday (16 Feb 2009) for the first sitting of the second session in the 12th Parliament with bills, a mini-budget, and by-elections to keep them busy.
The 20-day session ending on 19 March would begin with the opening by the King, followed by debates on the motion of thanks to the King’s speech.
Set to hog the limelight is the Special Complaint Commission Bill (SCC), the final piece of reform legislation that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi wants to push through before relinquishing his premiership at the end of March.
In the last Parliament session, Abdullah managed to get the House to pass the Judicial Appointments Commission Act and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act within a week.
Abdullah would find it tough to garner opposition support for the SCC because the opposition had wanted the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) bill, which was recommended by the Royal Commission.
The SCC, deemed a watered-down version of the IPCMC, was first presented to Parliament in December 2007, but was withdrawn due to overwhelming protest.
Other bills in the queue expected to see some intense debate are the Witness Protection Bill, Judges Ethics Committee Bill, and the DNA Bill.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is expected to table a mini-budget that is likely to exceed RM10 billion to bolster the declining economy.
Economists have figured that the mini-budget to be tabled on 10 March is expected to involve more policy changes rather than outright spending by the government.
Tax cuts for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and further optional deductions on employees’ contribution to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) are believed to be in the offing.
More personal reliefs are also anticipated for individual taxpayers with children, while an announcement of a new fuel structure cannot be ruled out as the fuel rebate of RM625 for vehicles below 2,000cc would cease next month.
Najib, who is also finance minister, has said the mini budget would, among others, include aid and financial assistance to Sarawak, as parts of the state had been affected by floods and landslide recently.
Some market analysts are also looking at further lowering the overnight policy rate by Bank Negara Malaysia. The government is also likely to review its gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast of 3.5% for this year, and will be adjusting upward the projected budget deficit of 4.8%.
In November 2008, the government announced a RM7 billion stimulus package that was sourced mainly from money saved from fuel subsidies.
Swearing-in and by-elections
Abdul Wahid Endut Set to make his debut is freshly minted Kuala Terengganu MP Abdul Wahid Endut, who will be sworn in on the second day of the session and take his place in the opposition block. The number of opposition MPs would remain at 81, as the Bukit Gantang seat is now vacant following the death of PAS MP Roslan Shaharum.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and company can expect much taunting and snide remarks from the government front over the change of government in Perak.
The by-elections for Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau are likely to be conducted during the session, hence attendance is expected to be low with MPs hitting the campaign trail.*
The session last year saw many walkouts and MPs being thrown out of the august House and suspended, although a few who misbehaved got away scot-free. Hopefully, there will be less irresponsible behaviour, and the MPs would get down to serious debate and come up with solutions to problems affecting the country.
This news report first appeared on 13 Feb 2009 in The Edge Financial Daily. Used with permission.