Prime Minister Viktor Orbán used a meeting of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK) to deliver a campaign speech on Tuesday, reports index.hu, even as chamber head László Parragh called for a strengthening of its role as a “bridge between the government and the private sector.”
Orbán started out by praising central bank governor György Matolcsy and key members of his government for their competence. He lauded Matolcsy for his “patriotism” and “international perspective,” Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga for “proving in recent years his ability to control and direct” the economy, and Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér for “precisely knowing what security means.” Orbán also praised Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó as a “young titan” whom he expects to manage Hungary’s foreign relations “guardedly” for a long time “with a Hungarian heart and a European outlook.”
Orbán expressed approval of Katalin Novak, undersecretary for family and youth at the Ministry for Human Resources, whom he said would “reconcile and implement steps relating to demographic changes.”
Turning to the subject of economics, the prime minister said there existed a “Hungarian model” whose main accomplishments over the past eight years were:
- “Sending home” the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
- Repaying the IMF and EU loans
- Decreasing unemployment to 3.8 percent, bringing total employment “within reach”
- Keeping Hungary’s deficit to under 3 percent for six years straight
- Increasing minimum wages 90 percent and doubling the so-called “guaranteed minimum wage” over their 2010 levels.
Having “restored the dignity of work” and the country’s “financial independence,” the prime minister said his government would refrain from “an election year budget,” and that it was projecting a deficit for 2018 of around 2.4 percent but “in any case under 3 percent.”
“Brussels is playing tricks at our expense”
Orbán then accused the European Union of a “double standard” by classifying the external debt of the Eximbank, Hungary’s import-export bank, as national debt. Without going into greater detail, he turned to the subject of a common EU tax policy, which his government would oppose using “all means,” as a uniform EU tax system would “obviously” be made for the Hungarian people and companies, warning that the country would be in trouble if they did not succeed in obstructing this.
Four pillars on three foundations
He went on to state that the four pillars of the government — competitiveness, work-based economy, demographic policies, and identity politics — rested on three underlying foundations, being work, family, and country.
Index.hu reports that Orbán said Hungary was not dependent on EU supports because the country’s gross domestic product exceeded the 1,200 billion forints it receives annually from the EU.
The online daily reports that he then proceeded to say something along the lines of the following:
“We would be successful without it, but the situation right now is that they are offering this, and we accept it. Anyway, we do not need EU money but only its markets. We need to remain a member of the EU in order to access its markets.”
The head of government said present circumstances define three points on the basis of which the government must work:
- We mustn’t allow a single migrant into Hungary.
- We need to protect the border fence, and have Brussels pay for it, or at least for half of it.
- We must banish from Hungary those organizing immigration.
If the government followed these guidelines “we are capable of doing anything.”
Orbán said immigration will be the main political theme for the next ten years. He said there were two kinds of political parties, those in favor of immigration and those opposed. He said the majority of people in Europe would vote for the latter.
Claiming that each migrant who comes to Hungary costs the public HUF 4.5 million (USD 18,000), he warned that a hundred thousand migrants could come to Hungary from Africa alone at a cost to the country of HUF 450 billion (USD 1.8 billion).
He quoted the incoming prime minister of Bavaria, Markus Söder, as saying that Bavaria spends more on asylum-seekers than it does on the economy, health-care and environmental protection together.
“What does this mean? Imagine if, instead of a German province, the entire Hungarian state had to spend a similar proportion on refugees,” Orbán said.
But we mustn’t hate refugees
Being a “Christian government,” his government did not hate refugees, saying “we mustn’t hate refugees.” Migrants were not “our enemies” and he acknowledged that there were “victims among them.” He assured the audience that his government was not built on hatred, and that, in fact, there was sympathy, Hungary having recently completed construction of a school in “the land of the Kurds.” Orbán stated reassuringly that his government only disliked certain actions, and did not hate people who were in trouble (all evidence to the contrary-ed.)
Index.hu comments caustically that the prime minister neglected to
“reveal who is organizing immigration to Hungary, or where to find those to be banished. We know that the Ministry of National Economy is the organization organizing immigration the most conspicuously. However, they are trying to lure Ukrainians and Serbs with generous offers of money, unfortunately with less success for the time being than expected. But presumably Orbán doesn’t want to banish Mihály Varga, as he could have told him this face to face as he was in attendance at the event. We even attend an event organizing immigration, by the way, but it was precisely the Chamber of Trade and Industry that organized it.”
Saying he was not in the habit of making promises, the head of government went on to promise that the following would happen if his government was re-elected on April 8th:
- Minimum annual economic growth of 4 percent and a pension premium
- Total employment by 2022
- An increase in the minimum wage every year
- A decrease in payroll contributions each year with a view to Hungary’s being the lowest in the region by 2022
- A “modern villages” program very similar to modern cities involving the distribution of money to villages primarily to improve “living conditions” so that people will remain in villages.
- Railroad construction in the direction of Warsaw, Cluj-Napoca (Romania) and Belgrade.
- Motorways from Pécs in the direction of Croatia, and the construction of a motorway from Miskolc to Košice, the largest city in east Slovakia.
Index.hu concludes its coverage of the speech as follows:
“Orbán said interesting things at the same event last year. At that time he warned us of the importance of preserving our ethnic homogeneity, but that this did not apply to those already living here. At that time he projected annual growth of 5 percent after 2020, so this means his expectations have greatly deteriorated. In addition to this, we learned that Hungary was an agrarian country, and would always remain as such, and that in place of every kind of scientific theories we should honor the simplicity of the village. All of these assertions can be revived here as later there was a scandal over the fact that the editors of Orbán’s own web page modified the part of his speech about ethnic homogeneity.”
Following the prime minister’s address, the following individuals made the following presentations, according to the MKIK webpage.
Mihály Varga, Minister for National Economy
Promising to balance the budget by 2020, Hungary’s Minister for National Economy, Mihály Varga, said the Hungarian economy needed to continue growing faster than the EU average over the next four years. He said one of the most important goals was to decrease the national debt to 60 percent of GDP by 2022. He said one of the most important achievements of the past eight years was decreasing unemployment from 12 percent to 3.8 percent, and increasing the number of employed and those actively seeking employment from 3.7 million to 4.4 million. However, the minister did not provide figures as to how many were employed in public works or working abroad while still officially residing in Hungary.
György Matolcsy, National Bank Governor
Hungary’s controversial central bank governor said Hungary needed to catch up to the more developed countries of western and northern Europe. He said that by 2030 Hungary needed to reach the average EU level of development and by 2050 that of Austria. He said Hungary had executed 12 successful “about faces” since 2010, including in the fields of economics, labor markets, and monetary policy, and that thanks to the latter Hungary’s interest payments and state paper yields had fallen. The goal in the coming years was to maintain knowledge-intensive growth and the implementation of capital-intensive growth.
László Parragh, MKIK president
In his speech the president of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry emphasized the importance of doubling real wages over the next ten years. He believes this can be realized through cooperation between the economy and the government, and would improve the effectiveness of competition. Among other things, he emphasized the important role the chamber plays as a bridge between the government and the economy, and said this needed to be strengthened. He said the chamber had participated in the economic changes in recent years based on the cooperation agreement concluded with the government. Among the joint accomplishments he cited the introduction of the KATA and KIVA personal income tax regimes (whereby small entrepreneurs with revenues up to a certain amount pay a fixed percentage of their total revenue to the government in lieu of corporate tax and payroll contributions). He said the introduction of online cash registers, electronic invoicing, and electronic road fees had done much to “whiten” the economy. With regard to the knowledge-based economy, the MKIK president said the chamber had cooperated in the restructuring of higher education and technical training, as well as in establishing sectoral advisory councils. Future plans included a merger of the chamber and Company Court records, the organization of adult education and its oversight, and a strengthening of foreign trade.