Even though we have an unconstitutional government, Parliament is carrying on and some good seems to be coming from it. Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on Wednesday that all ministers have been instructed to present a 100-day in office report card to the public.
His announcement came a day after Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman revealed in the Dewan Rakyat that ministers could earn around RM100,000 a month in salary and entitlements. A minister’s salary is RM55,000 a month plus a slew of additional income in the form of a luxurious house in Putrajaya, cars, drivers, and daily meal expenses that can be claimed back.
In addition ministers also get a gratuity of RM 1 million to RM 2 million depending on their length of service as MPs.
If the 100-day report card was instructed in response to Saddiq’s expose in the Dewan Rakyat, that means the Dewan Rakyat is working and Saddiq is doing his job! His expose is now putting the spotlight on ministers and why they are earning so much when the government is supposed to be cash-strapped as claimed by the previous Prihatin Nasional (PN) government.
Yet, the PN government spent RM38.5 million on renovations on Seri Perdana, the prime minister’s residence. Both former premier Muhyiddin Yassin and Sabri explained in reply to a written query by Datuk Mahfuz Omar (PH-Pokok Sena) that the renovations were due to faulty wiring and tarnished furnishings and that there was a need to undertake the renovations as Seri Perdana was also the venue to welcome foreign dignitaries.
So, how many foreign dignitaries did the prime ministers welcome at Seri Perdana during this pandemic period?
This is unnecessary spending just as a bloated 70-member Cabinet’s individual minister’s monthly earnings of about RM100,000 is needless expenditure during this pandemic when what really is there for ministers to do?
Taxpayers whose annual earnings have been curtailed by the pandemic are expected to keep supporting these ministers whose only job is to warm their seats?
Is Sabri’s intention to embarrass his ministers? What are they going to say on the report card? That there was nothing much to do because of the pandemic or cook up a list by hook or crook?
This is yet another poorly thought-through idea to appease public opinion, particularly that of the Malay electorate. It’s no wonder that Sabri acted. A fallout of Malay public opinion can be expected.
Wouldn’t it be better to just cut down the Cabinet to the barest minimum? That’s the smart thing to do but it is doubtful that Sabri would do the smart thing because he needs the votes of his ministers to justify remaining in government.
Apart from the vaccination programme, which is nothing more than the continuation of the previous PN government’s policy, what can the majority of the ministers do during a pandemic? So, taxpayers must foot the bill to keep redundant ministers in their positions to prevent the Sabri government from falling?
Apparently, they need a lot of money to do so. And it looks like they plan to get the money through debts. The Finance Ministry announced yesterday that the government would be tabling a motion on raising its statutory debt limit from 60 percent to 65 percent of gross domestic product “given the need for spending flexibility during this unprecedented pandemic crisis”.
More debts and the taxpayer pays. It will be interesting to see how the people will benefit when the Budget is presented in the Dewan Rakyat next month.
My conclusion: Don’t expect anything; It’ll be the same old same old!