Migration, the “leftist attack” on Hungary by the European Parliament, vandalism of government anti-immigration billboards, higher education, the Roma “Bridge to the World of Work” scandal, development plans for the Budapest City Park, and the decision to build a circus were some of the topics addressed during the course of this week’s super press conference held by Minister of the Chancellory János Lázár and undersecretary for government communications András Giró-Szász.
Immigrant rapists in Sweden
Lázár warned that illegal migration was a serious problem. He cited “UN statistics” according to which first- and second-generation immigrants constitute 80 percent of those who are sentenced to more than two years imprisonment for rape in Sweden. Lázár neglected to explain what this had to do with Hungary where a vast majority of those sentenced to prison for rape are neither first-, nor second-, nor third-generation immigrants, but Hungarians. (Perhaps this is an argument for deporting Hungarians to Sweden so that when they commit sexual offenses, they can be incarcerated at the expense of Swedish taxpayers.-ed.)
Lázár and Giró-Szász say that between 120,000 and 130,000 migrants may enter Hungary before the end of 2015. They cite EC data not yet available to the public purportedly showing that migrants pose a huge threat to Hungary’s GDP. This is difficult to fathom as immigrants tend to be consumers of products and services.
When asked about the Hungarian government’s costs associated with dealing with the migrant problem, Lázár said he couldn’t provide an answer.
Hungarian welcomes EU monitoring
In reaction to yesterday’s European Parliament resolution calling on the EC to monitor “democracy, rule of law and human rights in Hungary”, Lázár said the Hungarian government would welcome EU monitors with regard to Hungary’s treatment of refugees.
Both Lázár and Giró-Szász referred to the EP resolution as a “leftist attack on Hungary”.
True to form, Lázár and Giró-Szász defended the Hungarian government’s xenophobic billboard campaign with reference to the worst practices of other EU member states, citing examples of similar billboards erected by Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, Austria and Spain.
Lázár called the defacing by activists of the Hungarian billboards “a political provocation totally unacceptable in 2015”. Activists argue that the xenophobic billboards constitute a political provocation totally unacceptable in 2015.
Higher education in the roughs but don’t worry, the government will fix everything
Lázár said that major reforms would take place at 67 institutions of higher learning with a view to enabling them to better connect with Hungarian businesses to facilitate jobs for those completing higher education. Apparently this involves creating new layers of bureaucracy made up largely of individuals beholden to the national government.
Lázár also said the government plans on turning the National Public Service University into an “elite university for the best students”. He said the government hopes to create an environment in which students can also excel at learning how to become experts in public administration, law and “state science”.
Gov’t officials are to get less benefits but may increase salaries of SOE management
In the interest of cutting costs, Lázár announced that the government will sell off state-owned resorts and reduce the amount of compensation government officials receive for travel and relocation expenses. This is ironic, considering that Lázár himself has been among the most profligate of Hungarian officials when it comes to gravel expenses, typically spending thousands of euros per night on accommodation, food and miscellaneous expenses.
He announced that henceforth only 150 state secretaries and deputy state secretaries will qualify for the premium health-care services.
In response to a recent State Audit Office report showing that state-owned enterprises are poorly managed and cost Hungarian taxpayers a lot of money, Lázár said the government would consider capping salaries for management at state-owned enterprises. Ironically, the monthly salaries of public officials and state company employees were capped at HUF 2 million by the incoming Fidesz government, only for the cap to be removed in 2012. However, in light of the reports finding that paying management more would enable them to produce better results, Lázár believes that in some cases the management of loss-making state-owned enterprises should be paid more.
Countrywide Roma Council scandal
On the subject of recent law enforcement and tax authority raids on the National Roma Council which has been accused of defrauding Hungarian and EU taxpayers, Lázár said that while he hopes authorities will get to the bottom of it, he expects Fidesz MP and former Roma Council president Florián Farkas to defend himself if need be because Prime Minister Viktor Orbán expects that of him.
In the event that the scandal proves to be untrue, Lázár said those who made “false allegations” must be called to account for tarnishing the reputation of the Roma Council. Lázár neglected to mention that it is the Roma Council itself which is accusing its previous president of financial malfeasance.
Hundreds of billions for recreation
Lázár talked about the controversial Budapest City Park project pushed through parliament in late 2013. He said the government has greenlighted HUF 151 billion (USD 550 million) for construction scheduled to take place between 2016 and 2018.
The government plans to invest some HUF 25 billion (USD 90 million) expanding the Budapest zoo which is to be renamed “Pannon Park”. The Lázár also announced that a new circus is to be built at a cost of around HUF 7.5 billion (USD 27 million).
Gov’t to rescind ban on lamppost advertising
Lázár said the government would reverse a decision it made during the second Orbán government banning small billboards from being affixed to lampposts. He said the government initially favored the idea because it believed it would “save lives”.
According to Lázár data from the Central Statistical Office shows there is no correlation between billboard proximity to roads and automobile accidents, and that for this reason the government will consider changing the law.
Leftwing online daily says the reason for the government’s change of heart is the fact taht the company owning the rights to advertise on lampposts in Budapest was recently acquired by Viktor Orbán’s close friend and associate István Garancsi, presumably for far less than what the company was worth before the government banned lamppost ads back in 2013.