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MOMA Chairman Lajos Bokros calls for opposition unity

“The current Hungarian government doesn’t respect private property” stated European parliamentarian and MOMA chairman Lajos Bokros in a televised interview last Friday. He cited 2010’s nationalization of private pension funds, this year’s stripping of 40,000 small- and medium-sized businesses of the right to sell tobacco products, and recent government proposals to nationalize public utility companies as examples of the current government’s attack on the institution of private property.  “Profits are the source of investments,” stated Bokros.  “If there are no investments or innovations in the energy sector then we should calculate in the long run with even higher energy costs as efficiency will not improve.” According to Bokros “those who are opposed to profit cannot be believers in Capitalism or the free market” and companies that are not profitable “cannot get loans.”

On the subject of the Hungarian banking system, Bokros claimed a number of foreign banks are eager to unburden themselves of their Hungarian investments as special taxes levied on the bank sector by the current government has rendered them loss-making. He denounced as “a huge lie” government claims that banks were withdrawing capital from Hungary, pointing out that for the past three years banks have had to replace capital lost to high taxes on the banking sector with fresh capital.  According to Bokros, however, the influx of capital does not result in higher levels of lending because “the government’s economic policies are so bad that new capital must be used to replace capital stolen and wasted by the government.”

On the subject of recent economic data released by the government purporting to reflect an improvement in the Hungarian economy, Bokros argued that reducing inflation through price fixing was counter-productive.

“Comrade Stalin is turning in his grave”, quipped Bokros.

Originally elected to the European Parliament in 2009 on the (now defunct) Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) ticket, Bokos founded his own political party, the Movement for a Modern Hungary (MOMA)  in April of this year. One of several finance ministers to serve in the first Socialist government under Gyula Horn, Bokros was the mastermind behind austerity measures introduced in 1995 that stabilized public finances, restored creditor confidence, and laid the foundation for a prolonged period of direct foreign investment driven economic growth. Short term hardship caused by the “Bokros package” contributed to the Socialists defeat by Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party in 1998.

Bokros’ comments echoed those expressed in interviews given to Népszabadság and ATV in September. According to Bokros what distinguishes his right-center party from other parties is its “devotion to the Hungarian nation”, its “European orientation” and its commitment to “human liberty” and “free market principles”. In his opinion what passes for political conservatism in Hungary these days is actually “neo-communism”. Bokros believes “Hungary shouldn’t be fighting a tribal, nationalistic war of liberation with Europe because Hungary’s interests are best served with the deepest and most effective European integration possible.” He claims his party is the only one advocating “smaller, limited” government capable of providing “better quality public services” in a manner that is “more effective” and “cleaner” meaning less corrupt.

Claiming his party practices “principled politics” Bokros told Népszabadság MOMA would support a unified opposition without first demanding seats in parliament or positions in the next government, warning that. “If we don’t come together Orbán will stay”.

According to Bokros the rules in force leave opposition parties no alternative but to form a “forced coalition” that includes all opposition parties “because even the loss of half a percentage can result in defeat.” Politics, says Bokros, is not about “who you love or hate” but about “interests”. In Bokros’ opinion “forced coalitions” are incapable of governing effectively or making necessary reforms. With regard to his party’s call for an overhaul to the constitution, basic law, and election law, Bokros says the first order of business is to modify the electoral system so that parties aren’t “forced into forming coalitions” and future elections are “free and fair.”

Bokros calls the “fight to decrease household utility bills ” launched at the end of last year “one of the most destructive” campaigns ever that will eventually result in underinvestment, downsizing, and even power shortages. Bokros believes such a development would have disastrous knock-on effects on the general economy, adding that “If the government really wanted to help those in need it would give financial assistance or vouchers to poor families” with which to pay household utility bills. According to Bokros government mandated cuts in household energy prices benefit rich consumers at the expense of poor ones in that the cost to the government is made up by sectoral and other taxes.

Bokros criticized government plans to nationalize loss-making steel manufacturer Dunafer and to open small coal mines across the country. According to Bokros prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s plans to make Hungary a country of “coal and steel” and to nationalize utility companies were causing former communist dictator Máttyás Rákosi to “turn over in his grave”.

He added that opposition political parties had a moral obligation to put their differences aside and form a coalition capable of defeating Fidesz in the next election. “The country won’t survive another four years of ruinous economic policies.”

Referenced for this article:

“Populista a rezsicsökkentés”. ATV Start, 3 October 2013.

“Bokros Lajos”. Egyenes Beszéd. 20 September 2013.

“Bokros Lajos a győzelem után új választást tartan.” Népszabadság Online.  20 September 2013

Benjamin Novak :