KUALA LUMPUR: The opposition narrowly failed to stop the allocation of RM1.2 billion for the International Trade and Industry Ministry after a bloc vote was taken in the Dewan Rakyat.
The allocation was passed after 110 MPs voted in favour and 104 against it.
Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun announced that six MPs were not present during the voting process.
The bloc voting was held under a new system that Azhar implemented to prevent a repeat of the miscount last week, in which he instructed those taking attendance on each side to be monitored by another lawmaker opposite them.
Last week, Datuk Shabudin Yahaya (BN-Tasek Gelugor) had wrongly included Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz (BN-Padang Rengas) in the list of those supporting the Finance Ministry’s budget at the committee stage, when he was not present in the house.
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali in his winding-up speech came under attack from former finance minister Lim Guan Eng (PH-Bagan).
Lim said the RM25 million addition to the ministry’s allocation to host the Asia Pacific Economic Council (Apec) 2020 was too high.
He said the RM350 mil previously approved was sufficient since the event was held online.
Azmin said the original budget approved in 2018 had been RM635 million, but it was reduced last year.
He said funds were used for 104 APEC-related meetings that started with former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir’ Mohamad’s meeting in Langkawi in 2019.
He said the rest was spent on branding and services for the conference.
Azmin said the ministry spent RM66.6 million while the remaining RM233.4 million was returned to the Finance Ministry for use in its Covid-19 stimulus packages.
Lim disagreed and insisted the figure was too high, prompting Azhar to call for a vote.
This is the fourth time that opposition lawmakers have failed to vote down allocations proposed under the Budget, with the first being the RM6.947 billion allocation for the Prime Minister’s Department, RM35.1 billion for the Finance Ministry, and RM476.67 million for the Plantation and Commodities Ministry.