Citing two government decrees published in today’s National Gazette, daily online news portal napi.hu reports that Viktor Orbán’s government has instructed Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga to find HUF 8.2 billion in the 2016 budget with which to fund the reconstruction of the former Carmelite church and monastery (pictured left) in Budapest’s Castle District, and an additional HUF 5.7 billion in 2017.
A separate decision published today allocates an additional HUF 2.3 billion in 2016 and HUF 2.6 billion in 2017 for “preparations” necessary to carry out the renovation, writes napi.hu.
Originally expected to cost HUF 1.4 billion (USD 6 million) (although admittedly at the time the government spoke only of budgetary allocations and not total investment), the cost of planning and undertaking the renovation increased nearly five-fold to HUF 6.8 billion by the end of 2015.
It now seems set to increase yet another four-fold by the end of 2017.
Napi.hu writes that prior to today’s announcement, the government had allocated a total of HUF 6.8 billion in three installments, of which HUF 5 billion was included in the 2015 budget—already well in excess of the original HUF 1.4 billion allocated in August 2014.
The two decrees, which were published today in the National Gazette, come several months after parliament approved the 2016 budget.
The Office of the Prime Minister announced in August of 2014 that it would move from its current offices in Parliament to the landmark building next to the Presidential Palace (pictured right) in March of 2016, and that HUF 1.4 billion (USD 6 million) had been allocated towards this.
It appears the building’s renovations will cost in excess of HUF 21 billion (USD 77 million) and will not be completed until 2017. Together with the additional HUF 4.9 billion (USD 18 million) allocated for “preparations”, the total cost to Hungarian taxpayers comes to HUF 26 billion (USD 95.5 million), or roughly USD 10 for every man, woman and child living in Hungary!
In case our readers are having difficulty doing the math, 26 billion divided by 1.4 billion comes to a little over 18.5. So the actual cost to taxpayers of planning, renovating and building the new Office of the Prime Minister is eighteen and one half times that of the original cost announced in August 2014, that is, in the run-up to municipal elections.
Napi.hu speculates (somewhat disingenuously) that the reason for the additional cost and delay “may be the decision to build a new addition” in the form of a large hall suitable for hosting formal state events in the area where the monastery’s garden is presently located.
Unless the new addition is to be built from solid gold, we at the Budapest Beacon find that extremely difficult to believe.