The 1971 Budget

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at a reception given by DAP Bungsar Branch on Sunday, November 1, 1970 at 5p.m.

The 1971 Budget

The Finance Minister, Tun Tan Siew Sin, disclosed yesterday that the Budget for next year will be announced on Dec. 18, and indicated that like the previous year’s budget, will take the form of a National Operations Council presentation.

If Parliament is not allowed to debate and approve the 1971 Budgetary estimates of expenditure and taxation proposals, then it will have to wait until the end of 1972 before it could discharge its important duty to be the financial watchdog of the country over the government’s expenditures.

In other words, it means that although Parliament reconvenes next February, for another 12 months, the government will be spending public money and collecting taxes without the approval of Parliament, but merely on the strength of a fiat from the National Operations Council.

This goes openly against the fundamental principle in a parliamentary system of strict government accountability to Parliament over government expenditures and taxation proposals.

I do not think any firm believer and upholder of the parliamentary democratic system will support any measure which seeks to evade the principle of government financial accountability to Parliament, unless the government has something to hide from public scrutiny and debate in the way it proposes to spend public money and levy taxation.

If what worries Tun Tan Siew Sin and the government expenditure between January 1 and the reconvening of Parliament and its passage of the government’s new budget, the NOC can approve provisional estimates of expenditure for this interim period. When Parliament meets, the Finance Minister can then present the full budget for debate and approval, without violating the sacred principle of strict government financial accountability to the people of this country through the Parliament.

This suggestion is nothing new in Malaysian budgetary history. In previous years before 1969, the Finance Minister, Tun Tan Siew Sin, had presented provisional budgetary estimates of expenditure to cover the first quarter of the new year, because the Finance Minister wished to present the budget in February or March of the new year.

If in the past, to suit Tun Tan’s own purpose, he could present provisional estimates for the first few months of the new year, allowing the full budget itself to be presented and adopted only in March of the new year, then there is even stronger reason why he should only present provisional estimates of expenditure in the name of the NOC to cover the period before the reconvening of Parliament. The full budget should then go before Parliament for debate and decision.

The government’s attitude of the presentation of the 1971 budget will be a test as to whether the government is really sincerely in wanting the restoration of the principle and practice of parliamentary democracy, or still want s to rule this country by fiats and decrees without public consent and parliamentary approval.

The DAP urges Tun Tan Siew Sin to make an urgent public statement that the Parliament when it reconvenes in February will have before it for debate and decision the 1971 Budget.