2024 Outlook: Growth in Hungary 'Realistic', After 'Year Of Orbán's Austerity'

  • 21 Dec 2023 8:54 AM
  • Hungary Matters
2024 Outlook: Growth in Hungary 'Realistic', After 'Year Of Orbán's Austerity'
Putting the Hungarian economy back on a growth path is a "realistic goal", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview to commercial television TV2.

The prime minister said he “could not exclude” inflation falling to around 7% by the end of December. While the government planned next year’s budget with inflation at 6%, “it now seems more likely that inflation will be lower, even as low as 5%,” he added. “My feeling is that we are on a good path,” Orbán said.

“In 2023 we were fighting that the situation should not be worse, next year we will work to make it better,” he said. “From this aspect 2024 looks like a much more hopeful year than 2023 was,” he added.

Answering a question about the recently adopted sovereignty protection act, Orbán said it had been prompted by the transfer of foreign funds to the Hungarian opposition before the 2022 general elections.

“The law has been designed to make sure that Hungarians can decide for themselves what should happen in their country” and to prevent foreign influence, he said.

Asked what Hungary can be most proud in 2023, the prime minister noted the Nobel prizes received by Hungarian scientists Katalin Karikó and Ferenc Krausz.

DK: 2023 'Year Of Orbán's Austerity'

The opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) has slammed economic measures taken by the government over the past year, saying that 2023 had been “the year of [Prime Minister Viktor] Orbán’s austerity measures”.

Olga Kálmán, the party’s spokeswoman, told a press conference on Wednesday that “the year’s biggest austerity measure, Orbán’s inflation” had resulted in the “largest price increases in Europe”.

She said the “400% in extra profits the Orbán government made on the price of natural gas” had “caused a serious rise in utility prices for millions of hard-working Hungarians”.

Kálmán criticised last December’s lifting of the fuel price cap as “a brutal austerity measure”, adding that the increase of the excise tax would raise the per-litre price of petrol and diesel by 41 forints.

She also slammed next year’s “drastic” rise in motorway vignette prices and the “weakening” of state public transport, pointing out that the government had shut down 17 railway lines earlier this year.

“Those who still have some savings left will be forced from July 1 to pay a 13% social contribution tax besides the 15% personal income tax,” Kálmán said. Meanwhile, she said the cabinet had lowered the age threshold for eligibility for prenatal baby support loans to below 30 and “scrapped” the CSOK home purchase subsidy scheme.

Kálmán said that while annual inflation had reached 18%, pensioners had only received a 3% top-up in November.

She added that the government had cut spending on health care by more than 13% and on social services by 12%.

LMP Calls on Govt To Raise Teachers' Wages from Jan 1

 Opposition LMP has called on the government to raise the wages of teachers to 700,000 forints (EUR 1,800) from Jan 1 “as promised by the head of the Prime Minister’s Office”. Antal Csárdi told a press conference on Wednesday that there was “nothing left to wait for” now that the European Commission has released funding for Hungary.

He said his party had submitted a question to the interior minister querying whether teachers would receive a wage hike given the extraordinary restructuring of funds or if the budget would be amended in parliament’s spring session. He added that LMP also wanted to know when the amendment would enter into effect.

Csárdi said the 10% pay rise teachers are set to receive from January would still mean that their real wages would decline. “The ball is now in the government’s court,” he said, noting that it had to raise teachers’ wages which would later be covered by the EU.

President Orders Promulgation Of Sovereignty Protection Act

President Katalin Novák has ordered the publication of the recently passed national sovereignty protection act, the president’s office said in a statement.

According to the statement, Novak had received several appeals concerning the new legislation both from abroad and from Hungary.

“Messages from abroad support parliament’s goal: there is a need to protect our national identity and sovereignty,” the statement said, but added that powers of the new sovereignty protection office, to be set up under the law, should be “interpreted in line with the constitution”.

The new office will “meet its obligations as outlined in the constitution if its activities do not impact the freedom of the press or the freedom of expression,” the statement added.

The statement also said Novak had vetoed and returned to parliament another piece of legislation, on the sustainable development of certain parts of the cultural heritage.

It said the concept of transferring state-owned chateaus “could be supported” but cited a lack of guarantees “to ensure appropriate protection to state assets”.

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