GEORGE TOWN, Oct 2 — Budget 2023 would have no legality if Parliament were to be dissolved before it could be approved as rumoured, constitutional lawyers explained.
Fahri Azzat and Surendra Ananth said this was because the federal spending plan for next year would only remain a Bill — a proposed piece of legislation — until it undergoes the complete process of debate and voting approval.
Consequently, any measures or policies announced in such a budget cannot be implemented until a new one was tabled by the next government, even if this were to be the same ruling coalition as now.
Surendra explained that the same Bill could be tabled again in order for it to proceed to the second reading when debate could take place, or a new one submitted entirely.
Either scenario could lead to significant delays in passing Budget 2023 as both would have to wait until the 15th Parliament is sworn in, which could be weeks or months after the general election.
“The Bill should be approved by the end of 2022 or there might be difficulties in government spending money for various things in 2023,” Surendra cautioned.
The tabling of Budget 2023 has been expedited by three weeks to October 7 this year, fuelling suspicion that this was to allow for a general election to be held almost immediately after.
Such a plan could be restricted by the country’s seasonal floods, typically in late November and December, leaving only the earlier parts of the eleventh month of the year as a viable window.
These circumstances then fuelled rumours that the prime minister would advise the Yang di Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament immediately or shortly after the tabling of Budget 2023, reminiscent to events before the 1999 general election.
In 1999, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was the prime minister at the time, sought the dissolution of Parliament shortly after the tabling of Budget 2000 in November, and his finance minister was forced to table another one at the end of February 2000 or around three months later, after Barisan Nasional prevailed.
Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng said this would also be the case if Parliament were dissolved before Budget 2023 could be approved, which effectively meant the document would little more than a draft.
Disagreeing with such a route, the DAP national chairman said dismissing Parliament before Malaysia’s spending plan for 2023 could be approved would be pure a political play to entice voters for the general election.
Lim also said it would be a disservice to Malaysians at a time when the country should be grappling urgently with a cost-of-living crisis and its rapidly depreciating currency.
“There is a necessity for an economic reform for the country and for the budget to prioritise the people’s needs,” he said.
“The Budget should be taking care of the people’s needs,” he said.
Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz is set to table Budget 2023 on October 7, three weeks earlier than initially scheduled.
Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun reportedly said the first reading of the Budget 2023 will be on October 5 and then it will be brought for the second reading on October 7.
After the tabling of the Bill, it will be debated at the policy level and then, the committee level.
The third meeting of the fifth term of the 14th parliamentary session will be from October 3rd to November 29.