“Today, we can no longer say that anything is a pessimistic forecast”; said Minister for Economic Development Márton Nagy at a recent professional event, where he spoke with surprising and perhaps careless frankness about the crisis period ahead and its dire consequences: deepening recession, rising inflation and increasingly difficult means of subsistence; or, surprisingly for a Fidesz government member, the long-term unsustainability of official prices.
The minister said nothing new, perhaps only in his frankness, compared to what independent economists have been saying for some time, and who have been calling for an urgent change in the government’s misguided economic policy, which has failed to make any real changes in order to obtain EU funds. Let us therefore accept, after the warning signals of competent economists, that the Fidesz government is now aware of the serious crisis that Hungarian society will have to endure in the next short or longer period. Social crises can best be dealt with by social measures, of course, and now is the time for the authorities to put people first, and not just economic interests: Hungarian families and the livelihoods of Hungarian people must be protected by every possible means. MSZP has already put its own ‘Security of Livelihood Package’; on the table of Parliament, and the instruments it contains, such as the provision of food support through the Chance Coupon, can certainly contribute to increasing the security of Hungarian families; all it takes is for the governing majority to implement them, at least in part.
At a time when the euro-forint exchange rate is skyrocketing, when the cost of living is rising many times over due to high inflation, and when the government is trying to raise all the resources it can to deal with the crisis (through extra taxes and austerity measures), it is clear that all luxury spending must be reviewed. Antal Rogán, who is also responsible for tourism alongside propaganda and the secret services, recently spoke of plans to organize “Europe’s biggest fireworks display’; at the end of August, as part of a multi-day celebration. There is no reliable and accurate information at the moment on how much public money is planned to be spent on this, but what is certain is that last year we spent nearly HUF 12 billion on the 20 August celebrations, which means that the cost of this year’s celebrations is likely to be higher. In the current economic and social situation, the government should certainly reconsider this. Make no mistake: I am not calling for the August celebrations to be postponed or for the fireworks to be cancelled, but I do argue that in times of social crisis, the costs of these events should be kept within reasonable limits. Obviously, a fraction of this multi-billion dollar sum can create a festive atmosphere worthy of our state traditions, especially if we exclude the NER (Orbán’s so-called National Cooperation System) percentage gains on state programmes in advance. I am sure that it would also be an appropriate and fair gesture on the part of the government if it were to spend a larger part of the money earmarked for its original ideas not on “Europe’s biggest fireworks display”, but on helping families who are unable to make ends meet because of the crisis, for example, by funding Chance Coupons, and if it were to make do with, say, Europe’s fourth or fifth biggest fireworks display. It is harder to look up at the sky and enjoy any light show when you are hungry and with your back arched from the burden of daily living. So let this year’s celebrations be dignified and patriotic, but let this year’s commemoration of the founding of the state also be a celebration of care, rather than of excess. I trust that the in the so-called purist Carmelite Monastery (Orbán’s office) they will at least consider this possibility.
Member of the European Parliament
3 July, 2022