Civil servants will personally deliver vouchers to Hungary’s 2.7 million pensioners by Christmas, announced Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár at his weekly press conference on Thursday, reports index.hu.
In response to a recent survey showing that 68 percent of Hungarians over the age of 60 were dissatisfied with the direction of the country, and only 25 percent felt they had reason for optimism, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced last week that the government would send a voucher worth HUF 10,000 (USD 35) to each and every pensioner by the end of the year, if not before Christmas, at a cost to Hungarian taxpayers of HUF 27 billion (USD 93 million).
Subsequent revelations that the vouchers would be subject to a 30 percent gift tax suggest the actual cost will be nearer HUF 35 billion (USD 121 million).
And then there is the question of how the vouchers are to be physically distributed over the next few weeks.
On Thursday Lázár announced that rather than send the vouchers via the Hungarian Post Office at a cost of HUF 482 (USD 1.6) per recipient, they would be distributed by some 30,000 civil servants employed at regional government offices, each accompanied by a security guard. Lázár did not explain how this solution was cheaper than using the post.
The Trade Union of Hungarian public servants, public employees, and public service workers responded to the announcement by reportedly sending a letter to Hungarian print daily Magyar Nemzet asking the government to find another solution, reports daily online 24.hu.
Trade union leader Péter Boros told Magyar Nemzet it was unreasonable for the government to expect overworked, underpaid civil servants to personally visit so many pensioners before Christmas.
He points out that two-thirds of the civil servants in question are women, with some regional governmental offices responsible for as many as 18 settlements, and it is against the law to deprive the employees of vacation time to which they are entitled.
“How are they to deliver the vouchers to these places? With their own car after work?” he asks.