The government of Hungary has diverted HUF 3.6 billion (USD 12.6 million) from municipal programs intended to feed hungry children and combat poverty to the construction of soccer stadiums and other sport facilities, reports RTL Klub.
The HUF 3.6 billion is from national funds not called down by municipal governments in 2015 to feed hungry children and cover the costs of social programs. The money has been reappropriated to help pay the costs of building sports centers and to financially support Alcsútdoboz city council, reports Hungary’s largest independent broadcaster.
According to the Hungarian government’s official bulletin, the Hungarian Gazette (Magyar Közlöny), the government has reappropriated what remains of the funds to construct and maintain sporting centers, construct swimming pools and bridges, and to cover expenses of Alcsútdoboz city council.
The decision helps explain Minister for Human Resources Zoltán Balog’s extraordinary claim of December 21 that the government had eliminated child hunger. In an interview given to daily online Origo.hu, Balog stated that it was “out of the question” that a single child goes hungry in Hungary as educational institutions guarantee three meals a day and resources had been provided with which to feed children during school breaks.
Minister Balog’s statement was disingenuous, as many municipalities are either unable to apply to the government for grants for lack of matching funds or are reluctant for fear of acknowledging the level of poverty that exists in their locality.
This is not the first time Balog, a Reformed minister, lied for the sake of political expediency. Opposition party Dialogue for Hungary (PM) announced at the end of September that some 40,000 children do not get enough food, and many hundreds of thousands go to bed hungry every night.
Ministry of National Economy undersecretary András Tállai said the money was reappropriated because it had not been spent by local municipalities. If a municipality does not provide a service for which it requested funding, then the government will take the money back, he said.
József Halmi, the mayor of Győrteleki, told RTL Klub that his municipality was not allowed to submit an application to call down funding to help provide food for disenfranchised children for the period between Christmas and New Year.
“The treasury told us there is no money,” Halmi said.
László Pásztor, the mayor of Erdőkertes, said his local government had to cover the cost of providing food to disenfranchised children through funding that only covered the cost of feeding the children when they were in school.
“Every lunch had to be a bit a thinner so that it would last until the end of the year,” he said.
Ever since the national government foisted responsibility for funding and administering a number of social programs onto local governments earlier this year, municipalities have been hard pressed to cope with the fact that one in three Hungarian children live in poverty.