Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi on the 21st of December, 2020 on what the PH “Reset” Entails

The recent parliamentary session concluded with the passing of the 2021 budget in the Dewan Rakyat at the 3rd and Final Reading with a razor thin majority of just three votes (111 to 108). Subsequently, a few key Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders, namely Lim Guan Eng from the DAP and Mohamad Sabu from AMANAH, called for a “Political Reset” to consolidate the strength of the 108 opposition Members of Parliament (MP) in the Dewan Rakyat. A press statement issued by both leaders stated “This is the reality that PH must face, the need for a political reset to focus on uniting our friends amongst the opposition MPs who stood by us on Tuesday. PH should not be wasting time on opportunistic government backbenchers exploiting PH for their own private benefit to get more and more lucrative deals from the PN government”.[1]

I fully support this call for a “Political Reset”. For me, this reset should incorporate FIVE important elements that will strengthen the opposition bench and lead us forward together in a strategic and focused manner. These elements are:

  1. Maintaining our position as a STRONG, FORMIDABLE and CONVINCING opposition until the next general election (GE15)
  2. Negotiate a Confidence and Supply Agreement (CSA) with the federal government as part of the institutional and democratic reform process
  3. Nominate spokespersons from each party to play the role of check and balance on each government ministry
  4. Provide inputs and recommendations on COVID related measures across the policy spectrum
  5. Prepare for the upcoming Sarawak state elections and also GE15                                                     

1. Maintaining our position as a STRONG, FORMIDABLE and CONVINCING opposition until the next general election (GE15 )  

While the opposition MPs from PH, Warisan, Pejuang, MUDA and independents have tried our best to play an effective role of check and balance during the last two parliamentary sessions, the reality is that we have been inevitably distracted with discussions of the PN government losing a motion of confidence and subsequently, being replaced by a new government. This distraction or confusion was made most apparent during the decision at the last minute not to call for a vote by division (“belah bahagi) during the conclusion of the 2nd reading of Budget 2021.

Rather than continue to be distracted by further schemes and backroom dealings to cause the fall of the PN government and form a new government, we should instead focus our energies on consolidating the strength of the existing 108 opposition MPs in order to form the strongest opposition bench in Malaysian history. As much as I STRONGLY OBJECT to the manner in which this PN government was formed, the truth of the matter is that a new government that would replace the PN government would likely NOT have a sizable majority and would be beset by the same threats of political ‘blackmail’ which Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is currently facing from certain leaders from UMNO. Like it or not, another change in the federal government through non-electoral means will further destabilize the political landscape in Malaysia. This will also negatively affect the nascent economic recovery, drive investor confidence in the country down further and potentially disrupt the COVID related rollout plans which have been put in place.

We should let the voters decide on the next federal government at the next general elections. Let the voters judge between the 22nd months of the PH government and the governing record of the current PN government at GE15. We should spend the time from now until the next GE to consolidate the strength of the 108 opposition MPs and to play the most effective role of check and balance that a STRONG, FORMIDABLE and CONVINCING opposition bench can play.

2. Negotiate a Confidence and Supply Agreement (CSA) with the federal government as part of the institutional and democratic reform process

Once we are clear that we will maintain our position as an effective opposition, we would be in a better position to negotiate for a Confidence and Supply Agreement (CSA) with the PN federal government. A precedent has been set in Perak, where under the new Menteri Besar, it was decided that all state representatives / ADUNs would receive an equal allocation from the state government and opposition ADUNs would be able to attend district level committee and task force meetings.[1] This CSA was carried out in the interest of political stability for the state government and also as part of a process of institutional and democratic reforms in the state.

A similar arrangement should be made at the federal level whereby opposition MPs will receive their fair share of their federal constituency allocation as part of a larger package of institutional and democratic reforms. This should include opposition MPs being invited to attend certain government meetings such as the Economic Action Council, as was proposed by the Prime Minister in early November, and allow opposition MPs to be invited to schools and other government institutions in their respective constituencies.[2]

Such an arrangement would set a much welcomed precedent in terms of institutional reform for future parliaments so that opposition MPs and their voters are not unfairly discriminated against. It would also provide the Prime Minister with some breathing room so that he is not ‘blackmailed’ into agreeing to demands by certain government MPs – to drop charges against them, for example – in exchange for their support in parliament.

3. Nominate spokespersons from each party to play the role of check and balance on each government ministry

There have been some suggestions for PH to form a shadow cabinet as part of being an effective opposition bench. Unfortunately, any such move by PH will give ammunition for irresponsible quarters to play the race and religion card. Such a move would also cause unnecessary tension with PH and between PH and other opposition forces such as Warisan and PEJUANG. What ‘shadow’ positions should be given to Dr. Mahathir, Shafie Apdal, and Mukhriz Mahathir, for example?

It would be better for each party to nominate key spokespersons for the various ministries. There is already a natural allocation that has taken place with former Ministers and Deputy Ministers ‘shadowing’ their former Ministries. Other opposition backbenchers who were previously not part of the government also can ‘shadow’ the ministries which they are naturally interested in.

The roles of these spokespersons can be bolstered by giving them more prominent speaking roles during parliamentary debates involving the ministries they are shadowing. The speaker and deputy speakers should also be made aware of the role of these spokespersons so that they stand a higher chance of being selected by the speaker to ask additional questions pertaining to the Ministries they are shadowing during the Q&A sessions in parliament. Joint press conferences can be held by these spokespersons on the ministries they are shadowing.

These spokespersons should be named publicly by the respective opposition parties and coordination between the parties can take place thereafter.

4. Provide inputs and recommendations on COVID related measures across the policy spectrum

Malaysia and the rest of the world are suffering from unprecedented health and economic crisis as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. The challenges as a result of COVID 19 has hit every single corner of life in the country and beyond. Such unique challenges require unique responses. Opposition MPs have provided clear recommendations in specific policy areas related to the COVID 19 response. Whether it is better data sharing with the state governments[1], pressuring the government to extend the loan moratorium to a larger segment of the population[2], setting up a rental relief fund for SMEs[3], setting up a constituency employment center for those who looking for jobs[4], asking the government to reconsider the blanket closure of schools[5], proposing an economic recovery plan for Sabah[6], these are just some examples of opposition MPs proposing clear alternative policy recommendations in relation to the COVID crisis.

Ideally, we should be presenting clear COVID related policy responses in ALL sectors of social and economic life but this requires greater focus and coordination among the opposition leadership.

5. Prepare for the upcoming Sarawak state elections and also GE15

Finally, rather than be distracted by attempts to replace the current PN government, the opposition MPs should be focused on preparing for the upcoming Sarawak state elections, due to be held in 2021, and also possibly GE15 which may also be held in 2021.

It would be better for any elections to be held off until the COVID vaccines are fully deployed throughout the country in order to prevent another spike in COVID cases (as was the case after the Sabah state elections) but the current government may feel otherwise. Regardless, preparations need to begin and these preparations would not be effective if there was still uncertainty as to whether or not a new government can replace the PN government through non-electoral means in the near future.

In conclusion, a political reset led by PH does not require there to be a leadership change in PH.

]What it does require is a change of direction and focus given by the PH leadership. And it starts with building a strong, formidable and convincing opposition bench which can play an effective role in negotiating with and checking on the current government.










Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi, on the 9th of November 2020

Budget 2021 does not prepare us to face the challenges of a COVID economy in 2021

“I know that you’ve had a tough 2020. But don’t worry, 2021 will be better. We think you business will improve by 6.5% to 7.5%. We’ll give you some help but less than what we gave in 2020. Once the vaccine comes, things will go back to normal. The worst is over. Here’s a small bandage for your wound.”

This is basically the gist of the recently announced 2021 budget. A slightly expansionary budget that is out of touch with the economic reality that was 2020 and the grim uncertainty of 2021. Still very much a peacetime budget when we are still very much at war with the ongoing effects of the COVID economy. The offering of a small bandage when most businesses are bleeding from multiple wounds.

But hold on… didn’t the government just announce the largest expenditure in Malaysian history for Budget 2021? Isn’t the government increasing the budget deficit significantly so that we can pump more money into the economy?

Yes, the projected budget deficit will increase from 3.4% to 6.0% of GDP in 2020 because of COVID related spending such as the Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat payments and also the Wage Subsidy Program (WSP). But rather than spending MORE in 2021 to face COVID related challenges, the budget deficit is projected to DECREASE to 5.4% in 2021. At the same time, the allocation to the special COVID fund is projected to DECREASE from RM38b in 2020 to RM17b in 2021. Rather than having an over optimistic projection of economic growth in 2021, we should be preparing for the worst by planning to spend MORE in COVID related expenses in 2021 in order to save businesses and help vulnerable groups.

But wait, wouldn’t the record setting RM69 billion in development expenditure be a helpful fiscal injection for the economy? It depends. If the development expenditure can be rolled out relatively quickly, is transparent and has high multiplier effects, its economic effects will be enjoyed and felt by a larger proportion of the population. For example, the RM500m allocated in 2021 for the rollout of the National Fiberisation Connectivity Plan (NFCP) is very much needed especially for the semi-rural and rural areas. The additional development expenditure to repair dilapidated schools especially in Sabah and Sarawak is also much needed not just for the school children but also for the small contractors which are given these projects. This is assuming that the contracts are tendered out transparency and at reasonable costing.

But the bulk of the increase in development expenditure from the originally projected RM56b in the 2020 budget to the RM69b in the 2021 budget may not have the desired economic multiplier effects. For example, the allocation for “special projects” under the Prime Minister’s Department has increased from RM100m in 2020 to RM1 billion in 2021. In the past, we have highlighted that such large allocations without stating the nature of such projects can be subject to great abuse and lacking in transparency. At the same time, an additional RM5.5 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Finance’s Development Expenditure (from RM8.1 billion in 2020 to RM13.6 billion in 2021) under the category of “various capital injections”. Without knowing the details of these capital injections, it is hard to gauge how much of the real economy this additional expenditure will benefit. Finally, an additional RM1.5b worth of development expenditure was allocated to the Ministry of Transportation for increasing the capacity of KTMB. If this increase in allocation is largely for the much delayed Klang Valley Double Tracking (KVDT) project, then the multiplier effect is likely to be small because of the limited number of contractors involved.

Why is it important for the government to plan to spend more and have a bigger budget deficit in 2021 compared to 2020? The recent reinstatement of the CMCO, which began in Sabah and Selangor in early October 2020, has now been expanded to all states in Peninsular Malaysia (with the exception of Perlis, Kelantan and Pahang) until the 6th of December. The recent spike in COVID cases shows that this virus does not respect calenders or timelines. There is no guarantee that the CMCO will not be extended into early 2021 or that it may make a sudden appearance again in 2021 even if the cases come under control by the end of 2020. We are seeing similar spikes occur in Europe and also in the United States. These new semi-lockdowns and lockdowns in Malaysia and other parts of the world will definitely have a negative economic impact and will likely slow economic recovery in 2021 as long as the COVID threat remains.

We also should not be too optimistic about the prospects of mass vaccination which may only be available in the 2nd half of 2021 at the earliest.

Many businesses have used up their cash reserves during the initial MCO period in the first half of 2020. The recent CMCO have hit them hard even though conditions under the CMCO are not as severe as under the MCO. The number of economically vulnerable have also increased as evidenced by the increase in self unemployment over the past few months even as the number of unemployed have dropped slightly. What this means is that more SMEs and vulnerable families are expected to require assistance in 2021 compared to 2020.

Wait a minute… What if the government is adopting a wait and see attitude before deciding to spend more in 2021? Perhaps the government is willing to spend more but only if the signs of economic recovery are weak in 2021.

This kind of ‘business as usual’ thinking is one of the main shortcomings of this budget. If we wait until things become worse before deciding to spend more, it will be ‘too little too late’. We can look to Sabah as an example. I am sure that the economic situation in Sabah is much more serious compared to the Klang Valley given the number of COVID cases and also the number of people working in the service sector and in the informal economy. However, under Budget 2021, the only additional assistance given to Sabah is the Special Prihatin Grant (Grant Khas Prihatin) of RM1000 to 20,000 traders and hawkers and taxi, ehailing drivers, rental car and tour drivers in Sabah. This kind of one-off assistance is simply insufficient especially since the number of COVID cases in Sabah shows no sign of being under control anytime soon. If the same kind of ‘business as usual’ attitude is adopted for 2021, without more government assistance and direction, we can expect more suffering among businesses and vulnerable families.

What we need in Budget 2021 is a ‘war time’ approach in facing the challenges of the COVID economy.  This means that we have to budget for a significant increase in government spending and be ready to accept a budget deficit that is higher than the currently projected 5.4% of GDP. The allocation to the COVID fund needs to be increased significantly from the currently budgeted RM17b for 2021. The increase in this fund can be used for the following purposes:

  1. Increase the Wage Subsidy Program (WSP) to at least RM1000 per Malaysian worker (from the current RM600 per worker) for all businesses which are in the CMCO areas which cannot operate as per normal (especially in the retail, service and tourism sectors)
  2. Provide an allocation to heavily subsidized testing on a regular basis for workers (once a month to start) as a pre-emptive measure to control the COVID virus.
  3. Provide a 6 month EIS contribution for free with a 50% matching contribution for another 6 months to ALL workers who have not signed up for the EIS in order to capture workers in the informal sectors and to provide the necessary assistance to them if they cannot work as a result of a CMCO
  4. Provide cash grants of RM1000 per month per Malaysian family in areas under EMCO. This incentive will also limit the number of people who will ‘escape’ from the EMCO areas before the lockdown begins.

Without such bold thinking on measures to help businesses and vulnerable families, the current Budget 2021 is underwhelming and makes us unprepared to face the challenges of a COVID economy in 2021.

Kenyataan Media Dr Ong Kian Ming, Ahli Parlimen Bangi dan Penolong Pengarah Pendidikan Politik Parti Tindakan Demokratik (DAP) pada 21 Oktober 2020

Kekeliruan dan Percangahhan di Antara MITI and Majlis Keselamatan Negara (MKN)

Pada 20 Oktober 2020, Menteri Kanan merangkap Menteri Pertahanan, Ismail Sabri, mengumumkan bahawa semua pekerja barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan di sektor swasta dan awam akan Bekerja Dari Rumah (BDR) mulai 22 Oktober 2020. Sejak pengumuman ini, telah terjadi kekeliruan antara Kementerian Perdagangan Antarabangsa dan Industri (MITI) dan Majlis Keselamatan Nasional (MKN) mengenai dasar dan SOP untuk wilayah di bawah Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan Bersyarat (PKPB) iaitu di Lembah Klang dan Sabah. Pengumuman oleh kedua-dua Menteri, Azmin Ali dan Ismail Sabri, telah menimbulkan lebih banyak persoalan daripada memberi jawapan.

  1. Mana sektor dan industri yang perlu Bekerja Dari Rumah (BDR)?

Pemahaman awalnya adalah bahawa arahan ini akan melibatkan SEMUA sektor di sektor swasta. Ini berdasarkan kenyataan media yang dikeluarkan oleh Menteri MITI, Azmin Ali, pada 21 Oktober yang meruju kepada 3.1 juta pekerja di Lembah Klang dan Sabah yang bekerja di sektor pembuatan, perkhidmatan dan pembinaan. [1] 

Tetapi dalam sidang akhbarnya pada jam 6 petang 21 Oktober, Ismail Sabri menyatakan bahawa hanya “industri dan perkhidmatan awam” yang akan terlibat. Dia juga dilaporkan mengatakan bahawa sektor runcit tidak termasuk dalam “industri” dan ini bertentangan dengan kenyataan MITI yang dikeluarkan pada hari yang sama. [2]

2) Siapa sebenarnya barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan? Apakah definisi MITI?

Banyak syarikat masih belum pasti siapa sebenarnya yang terdiri daripada barisan pengurusan dan penyelia. Ini sangat relevan di sektor perkhidmatan profesional di mana hampir semua orang di atas tahap kemasukan mempunyai sekurang-kurangnya beberapa tanggungjawab penyeliaan. MITI mungkin lebih biasa dengan sektor pembuatan di mana sebahagian besar kakitangan bekerja di kilang dan di mana nisbah penyelia dengan pekerja “blue-collar” sangat tinggi. Model yang sama tidak boleh digunakan dalam sektor perkhidmatan perakaunan, perundangan, IT dan kewangan kerana bilangan pekerja “white collar” adalah lebih tinggi.

3) Bagi 10% barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan yang masuk pejabat untuk bekerja, apakah susunan kerja terperinci? (misalnya bekerja dalam shift, bekerja selama 4 jam tetapi tidak semestinya dari 10 pagi hingga 2 petang, dll.)

MITI mungkin mendapat tekanan dari dewan perdagangan dan kumpulan industry. Tekanan ini mungkin menyebabkan pihak MITI membenarkan 10% barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan termasuk mereka yang mempunyai tanggungjawab dalam bidang perakaunan, kewangan, pentadbiran, perundangan, perancangan dan ICT untuk datang ke pejabat dari jam 10 pagi hingga 2 petang selama 3 hari dalam seminggu. Tidak dinyatakan sama ada syarikat dapat menyesuaikan waktu kerja ini misalyna dari jam 9 pagi hingga 1 tengah hari atau dari 12 tengah hari hingga 4 petang. Tidak jelas juga jika syarikat boleh menggilir kakitangan yang boleh masuk ke pejabat selama 4 jam sehari, 3 hari seminggu. Dalam wawancara dengan Astro Awani, Timbalan Ketua Setiausaha MITI, Norazman Ayob, menjelaskan bahawa syarikat-syarikat boleh memilih bagaimana mereka mahu menetapkan barisan pengurusan mereka untuk masuk ke pejabat secara bergilir tetapi ini tidak dimasukkan ke dalam kenyataan media MITI. [3]

Di samping itu, pengaturan kerja untuk staf penyeliaan ini tidak mengambil kira sektor pembuatan yang perlu mengoperasikan kilang mereka secara 24/7. Mengehadkan waktu bekerja dari pukul 10 pagi hingga 2 petang tidak sesuai untuk barisan penyeliaan yang harus menjaga “shift workers” pada waktu yang berbeza di kilang pembuatan.

4) Bagaimana dengan syarikat-syarikat yang tidak dapat berfungsi dengan baik jikalau hanya 10% barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan bekerja di pejabat untuk hanya 4 jam selama 3 hari seminggu?

Arahan MITI hanya membenarkan 10% barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan masuk ke pejabat untuk bekerja boleh menjejaskan operasi syarikat di sektor tertentu. Ini sangat relevan untuk sektor-sektor di mana barisan pengurusan dan penyelia perlu berinteraksi secara langsung (“face to face”) dengan pelanggan mereka misalnya dalam perkhidmatan kewangan dan penjualan.

Adakah MITI akan membuat pengecualian untuk sektor-sektor yang dapat menunjukkan bahawa mereka tidak dapat beroperasi dengan baik dengan hanya 10% barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan yang bekerja di pejabat?

5) Bagaimana dengan perniagaan kecil yang pekerjanya kurang dari 10 orang?

Terdapat juga soalan yang ditujukan di media sosial MITI yang membangkitkan soalan mengenai syarikat yang mempunyai kurang daripada 10 kakitangan. Adakah ini bermaksud bahawa bagi syarikat-syarikat ini, tidak ada kakitangan pengurusan atau penyelia yang dapat bekerja di pejabat?

6) Adakah ujian swab bagi mereka yang masih harus pergi bekerja wajib? Atau hanya untuk mereka yang berada di zon merah? Atau hanya untuk kategori pekerja dalam industri tertentu?

Salah satu kekeliruan utama adalah sama ada kakitangan yang tidak dapat bekerja dari rumah perlu menjalani ujian swab sebelum datang ke pejabat untuk bekerja. Isu ini tidak dijawab dalam kenyataan media MITI. Kemudiannya ini diperjelaskan oleh Ismail Sabri dalam sidang medianya. Ujian swab COVID 19 hanya diwajibkan untuk pekerja di sektor pembinaan dan keselamatan dan pekerja yang menunjukkan gejala. Bagi pekerja di zon merah yang harus pergi ke pejabat, tidak wajib tetapi mereka sangat digalakkan untuk menjalani ujian swab. (Lihat Rajah 1 di bawah)

Oleh kerana penjelasan ini hanya dikeluarkan pada petang semalam, banyak syarikat telah membuat pengaturan agar kakitangan mereka diuji. Ini adalah kos tambahan bagi syarikat yang sudah mengalami tekanan kewangan kerana pandemi COVID.

Sebagai tambahan, bagi mereka yang ingin menuntut perbelanjaan ujian swab dari PERKESO (maksimum RM150 setiap ujian), mereka hanya boleh pergi ke SATU klinik panel di seluruh negara iaitu rangkaian klinik kesihatan BP. [4]Bilangan klinik panel harus ditingkatkan sehingga kesulitan dapat diminimumkan dan lebih banyak klinik dapat menawarkan perkhidmatan ujian COVID mereka.

7) Kawasan mana yang diklasifikasi sebagai zon merah?

Juga tidak jelas daerah / kawasan mana yang diklasifikasikan sebagai zon merah oleh Majlis Keselamatan Nasional (MKN) untuk tujuan ujian swab COVID. Sebagai contoh, Rajah 2 di bawah menunjukkan bahawa terdapat 5 daerah (“daerah) yang dianggap sebagai zon merah di Selangor – Petaling, Hulu Langat, Gombak, Klang, Sepang dan Kuala Langat.

Tetapi menurut Rajah 3 di bawah ini, tidak semua mukim diklasifikasikan sebagai zona merah di dalam daerah zon merah. Contohnya, mukim Kapar di daerah Klang adalah zon kuning dan hanya mukim Kajang di daerah Hulu Langat yang diklasifikasikan sebagai zon merah. Adakah ini bermaksud bahawa mereka yang berada di mukim Cheras di Hulu Langat (zon kuning) tidak digalakkan untuk menjalani ujian swab dan hanya mereka yang bekerja di mukim Kajang yang harus melakukan ujian swab?

Sebagai tambahan, adakah syarikat mengetahui batas sebenar daerah / mukim ini? Sebagai Ahli Parlimen Bangi, saya tidak 100% pasti di mana batas mukim Cheras di Hulu Langat bermula dan berakhir dan di mana sempadan mukim Kajang bermula dan berakhir. Saya cukup yakin bahawa banyak syarikat juga akan keliru tentang mukim mereka.

8) Apakah hukuman yang akan dikenaka untuk ketidakpatuhan?

MITI telah mengumumkan bahawa mereka akan melakukan pemeriksaan (“spot check”) ke atas syarikat untuk memastikan bahawa mereka mematuhi syarat yang diumumkan di bawah PKPB. Tetapi adakah adil untuk menghukum syarikat yang tidak dapat mematuhi syarat ini memandangkan kekurangan maklumat daripada pihak MITI dan juga kenyataan yang bercanggah antara MITI dan MKN? Saya berharap bahawa syarikat tidak akan dihukum kerana arahan yang tidak jelas daripada pihak MITI dan MKN.

9) Di manakah FAQ terperinci yang sepatutnya dikeluarkan oleh MITI?

Kenyataan MITI pada 21 Oktober menimbulkan lebih banyak persoalan daripada jawapan. Ini adalah sebab utama mengapa MITI seharusnya mengeluarkan Soalan Lazim (FAQ) terperinci untuk menjawab soalan khusus dari syarikat-syarikat yang menimbulkan soalan. Sebilangan jawapan nampaknya diberikan oleh Timbalan Ketua Setiausaha (TKSU) MITI, Norazman Ayob, semasa sesi dialog bersama industri pada 21 Oktober. Tetapi oleh kerana jawapan ini tidak disahkan oleh MITI, syarikat tidak dapat menganggap bahawa ini adalah pendirian rasmi kerajaan. MITI masih perlu berusaha untuk  menjawab soalan-soalan ini dengan mengeluarkan FAQ yang terperinci.

Kekeliruan dan kekurangnya dari segi penjelasan daripada pihak MITI dan MKN bermaksud bahawa majikan dan perniagaan akan beroperasi di bawah suasana kekeliruan apabila arahan PKPB ini bermula pada 22 Oktober 2020.