Budget 2023: Bersih urges Anwar to deliver on promise of equal funding for MPs

PETALING JAYA: The lack of mention of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) being allocated to Opposition MPs in the Budget 2023 has been pointed out by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih).

Its steering committee said that the promise of equal CDF had been a part of Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto and its promise to give all MPs an equitable CDF should be honoured in the spirit of Malaysia Madani.

“It is regretful that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim missed an opportunity to demonstrate his reformist credentials and what Malaysia Madani should look like.

“The government and the Opposition should sit down to negotiate a law that would ensure equitable CDF,” said Bersih in a statement on Saturday (Feb 24).

It also said that Opposition Perikatan Nasional with 74 MPs represents 4,666,529 voters or 30% of those who voted in the 15th General Election (GE15).

It added that CDF were needed by MPs to better serve their constituents and plug any local development needs not covered by state or federal programmes and also included a portion for the running of the constituency service centres.

Based on what was given to the 148 MPs aligned with the unity government which was RM1.3mil annually each, it would have cost an additional RM96.2mil or only 0.024% of the RM386bil budget, said Bersih.

It added that CDF had long been used by successive governments as a political tool to punish the Opposition and “starve” them of needed funds with the hope of causing discontent among constituents towards Opposition representatives.

Funds for Opposition-held constituencies were instead channelled to unelected coordinators from government parties, who were normally tentative candidates in the next election, to win support, said Bersih.

“If anyone sincerely despises Sheraton Move, they should despise CDF discrimination against the Opposition too, not crying foul when they are victims but doing the same thing when in power,” said Bersih.

It also pointed out that it was possible for this tactic to backfire on the parties of the Unity Government in the upcoming state elections, as Pakatan had won the 2018 general election despite not getting any CDF.

“If Anwar does not make the first move, Parliamentary Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin should prepare a private member’s bill on equitable CDF, with civil society groups, academics and other stakeholders invited to give inputs, and seek a meeting between the Unity Government cabinet and his Shadow Cabinet,” said Bersih.