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Why Is Everyone Talking About JASA & The RM81.5 Million Allocated To It In Budget 2021?



Source: RTM & JASA's Facebook

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After Budget 2021 was announced last Friday (6 November), Malaysians have had a lot to say about the funds that are being allocated across society.

One particular section of the budget that has been drawing quite a bit of attention is the whopping RM81.5 million that was set aside for a unit called JASA. Since then, you may have seen politicians and netizens voice their opinions on Twitter about the fund. But what is JASA and why is everybody talking about it?


JASA isn’t new

JASA is a Special Affairs Unit known as Jabatan Hal Ehwal Khas under the Communications and Multimedia Ministry (MCMC). It was dissolved in 2018 but is set to be revived following the announcement of Budget 2021. The purpose of the unit was to inform the public about ongoing government initiatives and policies but it was also used by each government as a tool to promote support for their respective campaigns.

JASA had a major role to play in the broadcast and emphasis of initiatives like Tun M’s “Wawasan 2020” and Najib Tun Razak’s “1Malaysia”, and was highlighted by some as a tool used for political propaganda.

Why people are getting upset

But even if JASA was used as a tool to disseminate government information, why are people getting upset? Well, firstly, the allocated funds under JASA greatly outweighed how much it was given under previous governments. Kluang MP, Wong Shu Qi shared this comparison on Twitter:

Another reason why people have been voicing their dissatisfaction is because the RM81.5 million allocated for JASA greatly exceeds what is set aside for other crucial sectors in the country like healthcare and education, as brought up by Muar MP, Syed Saddiq.

Even the previous JASA Director-General has broken his silence to criticise the funds put aside to revive the unit: “An allocation of RM85.5 million to Jasa proves that Budget 2021 is insensitive to ‘priorities’ when the country is being hit by a third wave of Covid-19 infections,” said Datuk Puad Zarkashi, in a statement recorded by the Borneo Post.

To put things in perspective, let’s remember that only 100,000 frontliners who are battling the virus every day are receiving an RM500 one-off compensation under the budget, against the revival of JASA which is receiving more than RM85 million. In fact, Twitter user @yoongkhean shared a full list of sectors in healthcare that are undervalued in comparison:

What the government has said

Despite immense backlash from the public, Deputy Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin says that the fund is justified as the money is used to provide for more than 1,000 JASA officers who were let go in 2018 when the unit was dissolved.

“The role of this service is important. That is why the government used to need Services. Do not look at it from a negative point of view, such as propaganda. Among JASA’s services are to report to the government on people’s issues, people’s poverty what needs to be helped and so on,” said the Deputy Minister in a statement recorded by Sinar Harian.

Since then, Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan from the Prime Minister’s Department said that government or opposition MPs are free to debate the 2021 Budget in Parliament, if there is any dispute including on the re-establishment of the Department of Special Affairs (JASA), as reported by Astro Awani. A petition to abort the RM85.5 million plan to revive the Special Unit has also been circulating and has garnered nearly 23,000 signatures at the time of writing.

What do you guys think of this? 

Disclaimer: The views expressed are the author’s own. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of WORLD OF BUZZ.


Also read: Here’s Everything You Need To Know About The Initiatives Under Budget 2021

Source: RTM
Source: Astro Awani

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