Of PM tabling Budget 2023 himself and pay hike, cash aid for civil servants

TWO interesting developments took place today – (i) Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob confirmed speculations that he is contemplating breaking of an age-long convention by tabling Budget 2023 himself; and (ii) the doling out of pay hike for 1.28 million civil servants as well as cash aid for government retirees and (army) veterans.

First thing first. While Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob may be seen as ‘hijacking’ the role which is rightfully that of Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz, this by itself does not offer strong clue as to whether the staging of the 15th General Election (GE15) will be expedited at all.

After all, this could be merely a move to ensure that the PM is in full control of the country’s monetary matters. Likewise, neither had the shifting of the Budget 2023 tabling date to Oct 7 (or three weeks earlier than the originally planned Oct 23) serves as a hint that GE15 will happen this year.

Nevertheless, the Bera MP was quick to caveat his intention that the matter has to be studied first to ascertain if it is allowed under the Federal constitution.

Like FocusM had argued yesterday (Aug 29), the change-of-date could be only a tactical move by the PM “to thwart mounting pressure from UMNO warlords who are demanding that GE15 is held soonest to save their skin”.

Moreover, the announcement of the new date last Friday (Oct 26) coincided with the staging of the UMNO president’s special briefing that was scheduled the following day (Saturday, Aug 27).

Whatever said and done – whether GE15 will happen this year or next year – is the sole prerogative of Ismail Sabri despite mounting pressure by UMNO president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi whose agenda for GE15 to be held soonest is well-known.

As for the PM, he is obviously not in a hurry to dissolve Parliament to pave way for GE15 given GE15 must only be held only on or before Sept 16 next year (with the Parliament to be dissolved only by June 2023).

As for the pay hike, whether it serves as a tell-tale sign for GE15 is subjective although it has to be stressed that the exercise will only take effect from January next year. If indeed GE15 would be held this year, the PM could have directed the Public Service Department to implement the exercise right away.

At a glance, this gives the impression that GE15 is more likely to be held next year while the three-month gap between the announcement date (which happens to coincide with Merdeka Day celebration tomorrow) and implementation date is intended to ensure that civil servants continue to back Ismail Sabri’s administration for the rest of this year.

Seen from another perspective, this is also a strategic move to instil hope in civil servants while preventing them from be swayed away by the agenda of UMNO’s court cluster.

All-in-all, the exercise will involve government staff in Grades 11 to 59 with an overall cost of RM1.5 bil.

“For example, the annual pay raise for Grade 11 was previously set at RM80,” Ismail Sabri said in his speech at the 18th Civil Service Premier Gathering (MAPPA XVIII) in Putrajaya. “In 2023 they will receive RM100 in addition to the basic annual raise, making it a total of RM180.”

Ismail Sabri also announced a RM700 special financial aid for each government staff in Grades 56 and below. Meanwhile, government retirees and (army) veterans without pension will receive RM350 cash aid each that would be paid out in January. – Aug 30, 2022

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