Having destroyed Hungary’s constitutional rule of law institutions, parliament is next says Bokros

March 8, 2016


Lajos Bokros, leader of the center-right party Movement for a Modern Hungary, says the Fidesz government’s plan to introduce a governance by decree method of spending with respect to the state budget will only exacerbate the deplorable post-communist habit of “tax cheating and tax avoidance”. The former finance minister came down hard on the government’s plans during an interview on ATV’s morning program Start.

“Think about it,” Bokros said. “Citizens begin to contemplate the notion of tax avoidance when they see that in exchange for their tax money they receive poor quality services from the state, if the state is too expensive and spends too much money on its own poor performance, if the state is very corrupt, and if they have no idea how the state is spending their money. In this particular case, the last reason is what’s important.

“If the citizens have no idea how their tax money is being spent by the government, then they will be less willing to pay tax. This leads to a vicious circle that will ultimately end in tragedy.”

But why would the government want to do this?

According to Bokros, there is no rational justification for this from an economics point of view. The only reason the government would choose to unilaterally take over the decision of how to spend public funds is to provide itself enough elbow room to exercise its own discretion in doing so.

One such example of this practice is that of the foundations owned by the National Bank of Hungary (MNB). Bokros said the government is essentially trying to do exactly what the MNB has been doing, i.e., it wants to eliminate public oversight of the state budget. “What has happened is that they have taken what is unlawful and made it lawful by bending the law to their own will. This is exactly what they did when they passed the law allowing the MNB’s foundations to classify data related to its spending. The governing by decree practice as it relates to the budget is exactly the same thing. Even though it is difficult to so shamelessly transfer ownership of the taxpayers’ money, they will now make this process secret and pull it out from being under the supervision of the taxpayers. This is always what it boils to. First, they act unlawfully. Then, when society catches them breaking the law, it isn’t the unlawful behavior they stop, instead they move to change the laws to ensure that the theft of money becomes legal.

Any self-respecting finance minister would not allow this to happen

“A finance minister must not allow, especially if he has any self-respect, for the budgetary process to be removed from the control of parliament. Setting up an annual budget going back year on year is one of the most important economic legislative acts. It happens every year. This is where it is decided how much should be allocated for the common projects and tasks, how much needs to be taken from individuals and companies, and how it is to be distributed. There is no single more important economic question that happens annually,” Bokros said.

All of this is just another step towards the complete destruction of the rule of law

“We have arrived at the next stop on the road to destruction of the rule of law: the parliament has had one of its functions stripped away because the government can now decide to modify the budget that had originally been adopted by parliament. It does not matter what the parliament decides now because what will happen is whatever the government wants,” he continued.

“They have destroyed all of the constitutional rule of law’s important institutions. Now the parliament is next. The Constitutional Court has not been functioning well for a long time. They destroyed the Media Authority.  We have no freedom of the press. They destroyed the National Bank of Hungary’s most important monetary policy activities and have turned it into a real estate company, art merchant and endower of education for a distorted economic policy. They preach charlatanism through all these institutions. The competition authority does not work because monopolies are on the agenda instead of competition. Now we are seeing that the harvest has come for both education and health-care because even these institutions were destroyed…. Why are we surprised now that they are destroying the parliament, too? This is the goal! This is a neo-communist dictatorship that does not like self-sufficient economic entities, a business community that is proud of private property, or political pluralism. It is completely clear that they are cementing themselves into power,” Bokros said.