BN MPs want more funds ahead of polls

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 — Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmakers have told coalition leaders that the government must ensure more funds trickle down to their constituencies instead of concentrating on big-ticket projects like the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) construction in Kuala Lumpur if the ruling coalition wants to receive a strong mandate in the next general election.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the matter was raised during a meeting on Monday night between 100 BN federal lawmakers and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The lawmakers argued that if Putrajaya could set aside funds for the MRT project, a similar amount should be given to generate economic benefits in more constituencies.

While the BN representatives said they “understood” the purpose of the MRT project, some of them felt that development projects within “rural” constituencies should be given top priority.

MPs who attended the briefing told The Malaysian Insider that many had voiced out concerns that further announcements and implementation of “mega” projects would pose a financial constraint in funding to constituencies.

It is understood that some BN leaders present at the meeting had requested an extra RM1 million in allocation of funds on top of the estimated RM1 million usually allocated annually and signed by the district officer of a particular constituency.

“There was a general feeling that it (MRT project) is costly, and that the money could be used for the time being for constituencies for smaller projects. One MP needs millions to do a project in his or her constituency,” a BN source told The Malaysian Insider.

There is controversy over the estimated cost of the MRT project, which some reports have pegged to be as high as RM50 billion, although the authorities have said the cost cannot be finalised until the MRT alignment is confirmed.

But Umno MP Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan stressed that while BN MPs were very frank with their suggestions during the meeting, none of them voiced out any disagreement with the MRT project.

“Everyone present that evening understood what the MRT was for; questions and points were just raised to strengthen arguments to allow more allocation… it’s only as far as MPs who serve in rural areas feel that development projects in their own areas should have been given priority. They were quite frank in giving their input.

“It was not about objection towards MRT, it was about more about wanting more funds to spend on a constituency. They are just saying that the money could have instead been used in rural areas, but the government has a different view about the economy,” he told The Malaysian Insider.