“In the past twelve years, Fidesz has not performed an economic miracle in Hungary, but rather built a sandcastle that will collapse at the first sign of any global crisis and will not be able to protect us. This is clearly the responsibility of the government”, MEP István Ujhelyi said in his online press conference on Wednesday, adding that Viktor Orbán had all the opportunities in the past decade, but failed to build a stable Hungarian economic and social policy that rests on solid foundations.
The Social Democrat politician stressed that there is no way out of the crisis without EU funds, but that the money is still uncertain to come, as the proposals made by the government will not be sufficient to reach an agreement. “An autocratic regime can only be merry as long as it can finance itself. When it runs out of funds and starts to extort money from the people, it will become clear that the emperor is naked. These are the times we are living in,” Ujhelyi said.
According to MSZP’s European politician, while the whole of Europe is trying to find the right solutions to the deepening crisis from the left and social measures are being taken to protect the security of families, the Hungarian government is doing no more than introducing “austerity, withdrawals, cuts and tax increases.” Ujhelyi called Fidesz’s blaming of “war inflation” for the spiralling prices a “wretched lie,” pointing out that rampant inflation had already caused serious problems before the Russian aggression began, with the so-called price cap on fuel and a range of basic foodstuffs introduced long before the war broke out.
The Social Democrat politician said that the economic crisis and the resulting social crisis began much earlier, yet Fidesz did not take security measures in the recent period, but started distributing thousands of billions of forints in market credit before the elections.
At the press conference, Ujhelyi pointed out that there are many examples in Europe of how national governments, instead of austerity measures, are strengthening their range of social measures to protect families and small businesses from the effects of the deepening crisis. In Spain, for example, a social package worth six thousand billion forints has been announced by increasing basic income, limiting the increase in rent prices and halving the VAT on electricity. He also cited Austria as an example, where minimum pensioners and the unemployed receive a one-off grant worth more than 100,000 forints, but the family allowance for children has also been significantly increased and businesses receive a rebate linked to the price of electricity.
Ujhelyi also mentioned that the Scottish Government’s response to the crisis includes an increase in the subsistence minimum, a temporary suspension of VAT on household energy bills and an increase in support for energy efficiency investments in households. He also cited the example of Romania, where a major social package, including an immediate increase in the minimum wage, a €50 food voucher and, for example, the partial takeover by the state of the salaries of those on forced leave, was also recently announced with the support of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ).
According to Ujhelyi, the Hungarian government should also examine and adopt the successful social programmes of other member states. He added that MSZP has already submitted its “security of living package” to Parliament, in which it proposes, among other things, to include the oligarchs in the payment of higher public taxes and the extra profit tax, to expand the range of products with official prices, to introduce a 20,000 HUF monthly food voucher, the so-called Chance coupon, and to ensure ” permanent cuts in overheads” for the population through investments in energy efficiency financed by EU funds.
The Socialist MEP added at the press conference that these proposals have been rejected by the Fidesz government for the time being because, according to Ujhelyi, they are more interested in “attacking Europe, putting small businesses in a difficult situation and appointing lord-lieutenants” than strengthening social measures.
Budapest/Brussels – 20/7/2022