Budapest Mayor's Refusal to Pay City's Taxes 'Unprecedented', Says Hungarian FM

  • 22 Jan 2024 9:16 AM
  • Hungary Matters
Budapest Mayor's Refusal to Pay City's Taxes 'Unprecedented', Says Hungarian FM
Finance Minister Mihály Varga, in an interview with the online edition of business daily Világgazdaság, said it was “unprecedented” that while Budapest residents and businesses meet their tax obligations, the city’s mayor “ignores them”.

The solidarity contribution is paid by 724 cities, including Budapest, Hungary’s richest city, Varga said in the interview published on Saturday, adding that the tax was meant to aid the 1,800 localities that have a more modest tax capacity.

The minister noted a ruling by the Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court, declaring that Budapest could not be even partially exempt from its obligation to pay its taxes.

Varga said if the Budapest city council failed to meet its obligations, the government “will follow the given legal provisions along the clear decisions taken by the judiciary”.

As regards inflation, Varga said the government estimates an average annual inflation rate of 5.2% for 2024. He said such a rate still carried risks, so it was crucial to keep inflation at bay and strive for sustainable economic growth.

The minister said he expects to see substantial real wage growth this year along with a decline in interest rates, leading to rising retail sales. He said international estimates put Hungary among the fastest-growing EU countries this year, adding that the government put this year’s GDP growth at 3.6%.

He said he considered it “realistic” for the government to pay another pension premium in November.

Concerning Hungary’s EU funds, he said the country received 520 billion forints’ (EUR 1.4bn) worth of EU money by Jan 17 and the government was now working on unlocking the remaining funds.

Hungary last year received 2,200 billion forints’ worth of EU funds and expects to receive at least 2,000 billion this year, he added.

Meanwhile, Varga said the budget’s figures could be maintained, but could be amended if it became necessary later in the year. He said the 2025 budget and tax changes will be passed in the spring.

LMP Congress: Ungár Calls for 'Alternative' Candidate for Budapest Mayor

The opposition LMP party “wants to show that there could be an alternative political proposal to lead Budapest … the party seeks a candidate [for Budapest mayor] who is not associated with their political affiliation,” LMP co-chairman Péter Ungár said at his party’s congress.

LMP’s candidate would “represent the 60% of Budapest residents using public transport” in the long run, and work “to develop rather than shrink services”, Ungár said.

Budapest needs parks and social housing “rather than skyscrapers and luxury homes”, he said, adding that LMP would “not make concessions” on that subject. Ungár declined to name a candidate, saying that LMP was “not in search of a coat to complete a button”, adding that “there is joy in anticipation”.

Slamming Gergely Karácsony, the incumbent, opposition mayor of Budapest, Ungár suggested Karácsony’s priority was “to pose as [PM] Viktor Orbán’s victim on Facebook”.

Ungár also criticised the other opposition parties in Budapest for “pretending to support cooperation whereas none of them are really eager that it should happen”.

Ungár insisted that political discourse within the opposition was “about persons rather than content”.

He said “every election or referendum is about Viktor Orbán, while the opposition sees Ferenc Gyurcsány as the cause of all their problems or the solution to everything and Karácsony as the only hope”. Ungár said his party was the only opposition party “that can define itself”.

LMP is Hungary’s only green party, for which “the question if Lake Balaton should be surrounded by concrete” is a greater priority than “whether there is a police cordon around the prime minister’s office”.

“LMP is familiar with the dangers of GMO,” he said, adding that his party would “fight against battery plants in Hungary to the last minute.”

Ungár added, however, that “the EU is not the source of all good things and markets are not omnipotent”.

He said LMP was the “only party that has drawn conclusions from the dramatic defeat of the 2022 election” and offered a “completely different alternative to the unnerving spiritual civil war raging in Hungarian politics”.

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