Make fuller use of our MP’s expertise, skills and talents

Media Statement by the Pakatan Rakyat Alternative Budget Committee on 9 September 2011 in Petaling Jaya

Make fuller use of our MPs’ expertise, skills and talents

This week, the Pakatan Rakyat Alternative Budget Committee focused on process.

Media and public attention focuses only on the Minister of Finance’s Budget speech. After the usual complimentary quotes and feedback following the Budget speech on Friday, media and public attention goes elsewhere.

It is forgotten that the Minister of Finance gives his speech and tables the proposed Budget for a reason:

The proposed Budget is tabled for the consideration and approval of Parliament.

In our system of parliamentary democracy, our Members of Parliament, or MPs , are required to provide input and exercise supervision over the Executive, or government. This function is considered so important that no fewer than 18 sitting days, equivalent to nearly a calendar month, are devoted to debate of the Budget in the “Committee” stage.

In the “Committee Stage”, the budget for each Ministry should be discussed and debated in detail. However, this is currently not possible in Malaysia.
• In first world parliaments, there are actual committees specialising in particular ministries. These committees are made up of MPs from both Government and Opposition;
• In Malaysia, there are no such committees. The entire Dewan Rakyat is the committee. This results in very ineffective debate and oversight because:
o MPs do not have the opportunity to develop specialist skills and knowledge in particular Ministries;
o MPs with knowledge and insights to add may be unable to contribute if they are unable to ‘catch the eye’ of the Speaker;
o MPs suffer fatigue as Parliament sits until late at night;
o There is insufficient time as all 25 federal ministries have to be covered by the same “committee” (the whole Dewan Rakyat) in just 18 days;

The input of MPs is important – they represent the interests of the rakyat. Pakatan Rakyat will implement proper “Committee Stage’ debates:
• For a start, 7 Committees will be formed. These Committees will include a mix of Government and Opposition MPs in a similar proportion to Parliament as a whole;
• Committee members will be given allocations to employ parliamentary research assistants to improve their effectiveness.

Pakatan believes this will result in Budgets that are more effective and reflective of the wishes of the rakyat:
• As time goes by, long-serving MPs will develop specialist expertise and experience which will enable them to ask pertinent questions and provide useful input;
• As the committees are smaller, MPs can participate meaningfully. Also, Committees facilitate less partisan and more productive interaction, unlike in the full Dewan Rakyat where Government and Opposition are expected to ‘cross swords’.

Pakatan Rakyat proposes the following 7 Committees and the Ministries they will oversee:
1. National & International Affairs
• Prime Minister’s Department
• Ministry of Foreign Affairs
• Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture
• Ministry of Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing

2. Economics & Finance
• Ministry of Finance
• Ministry of International Trade and Industry
• Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism
• Ministry of Tourism

3. Security
• Ministry of Defence
• Ministry of Home Affairs

4. Education, Talent & Employment
• Ministry of Education
• Ministry of Higher Education
• Ministry of Human Resources

5. Agriculture and Regional Development
• Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities
• Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry
• Ministry of Rural and Regional Development

6. Infrastructure, Resource Management & Environment
• Ministry of Works
• Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
• Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation
• Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water

7. Community Wellbeing
• Ministry of Transport
• Ministry of Housing and Local Government
• Ministry of Health
• Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development
• Ministry of Youth and Sports

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