Hungary’s PMO has granted itself unsupervised access to the cookie jar

March 30, 2016

Orban

The Hungarian parliament voted today to strip itself of the right to approve interim changes to the budget.

Fidesz MPs successfully passed a controversial bill that modifies the budget law to allow the government to unilaterally decide how to spend state funds, reports Hungarian business news site portfolio.hu. The proposal was submitted one month ago by Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár.

The modification essentially allows the government to govern by decree, that is, the government can spend public funds on whatever it likes without going through the normal budget approval process.

Numerous lawyers and economists criticized the bill for clouding the budgetary process and denying parliament its right (and obligation) to exercise control over the state budget.

Former finance minister Lajos Bokros said: “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.”

The law passed with 114 votes in favor and 56 against.

It now allows the government to allocate funds through government decrees without having to modify the existing budget. This means the government does not need to run the expense through parliament, any parliamentary debate on the expense is skipped, the government need not account for the use of said funds, and the funding falls out of the purview of the Budgetary Council.