I am sure that we could go on for days listing the appalling crimes of the current regime, and even then we would not necessarily get to the end; but I will not venture to do so at this time. For me, the most sickening and indefensible act of the leaders and beneficiaries of the NER – as I have already pointed out on several occasions – was their willingness to prey like vultures and profiteer on the covid pandemic that killed over 60,000 Hungarians.
It is not Kurutz-style wheeling and dealing, it is not some Fidesz finesse, to overprice life-saving medical devices in the middle of a deadly epidemic, and to import them through shark-like companies of plas that rake in the dough. There is a proper Hungarian term for this, but I will not write it down out of respect. We know that for our Christian conservative government the Ten Commandments mean very little, but the fact that even in the time of a killer pandemic they did not respect the commandment ‘thou shalt not steal’ was really the lowest of the low. And I’m sure that no Conservative leader or ordinary voter with any sense of decency would find this kind of disgusting profiteering in any way acceptable.
There are many things that can and should be criticised about Fidesz’s unlimited power – and therefore unlimited opportunities – over the past thirteen years, even if Orbán’s rule cannot be judged on a purely black and white basis. For there are positives and there are negatives; in my assessment, there are obviously considerably more of the latter. However, as a committed social democrat – but also as a simple family man with six children – I cannot understand how, in a position of power without any constraints, it is possible to talk about the importance of the nation and allowing, for example, the health service to be brought to the brink of collapse – all this without cracking one’s spine.
I understand that from the Jacuzzi of yachts and the VIP boxes in football stadiums covered with sunflower seed shell, the stark Hungarian reality is less visible, but I do not think that Orbán and his NER locusts that surround him are unaware of the steady increase in hospital debt, for example. The only question is, if they are aware of it, why they are spending public money on barely justifiable investments and not on running the public health system properly. I have an answer as to why, but that would probably fall within the definition of libel.
The fact is that healthcare institutions run by the Hungarian state – i.e. the two-thirds majority Hungarian government with unlimited decision-making power – have not paid their suppliers for about a year now, and the accumulated debt has reached a record HUF 100 billion. To put it plainly: the companies that state hospitals do not pay the bills of are the ones that supply the equipment needed for day-to-day operations, for treatment, for operations, for saving the lives of Hungarian people. The continuing accumulation of hospital debt is not new: last year the institutions accumulated billions in arrears – roughly just over half of the current debt.
It is clear that the system itself is incapable of providing a long-term solution to this, thanks to record low public funding in the European Union, government insensitivity and negligence, or the effects of the on-going economic crises. (I hasten to add that the European Union – with which the Fidesz government is at war – has recently provided billions of forints through the Regional Development Fund to support the development of equipment and human resources in Hungarian hospitals.)
For the Fidesz government, profiteering is a national strategic priority (in fact, only a NER strategic priority): that’s why they buy a mobile phone company with hundreds of billions of forints of public money and even plan to buy an airport with a bid of over a thousand billion forints. A simple mathematical calculation shows that, for example, one sixth (!) of Vodafone’s purchase price could be used to settle the current hospital debt, and then we wouldn’t have to worry about when suppliers would collapse and stop working, thus putting security of supply at risk.
Of course, according to the reality-bending Fidesz state, there is nothing wrong, the National General Directorate of Hospitals (OKFŐ) says that „care in state-run health institutions is uninterrupted”, so there is no need for any fuss. I would just like to add that it was the same National General Directorate of Hospitals that, during the covid epidemic, ordered antigen rapid tests for three billion (!) forints from a company that was founded shortly before the tender was launched, and whose owner was formerly the leader of the Fidesz parliamentary group in Ferencváros and even the personal secretary of a former vice-president of the governing party. Moreover, according to press reports, shortly after the three billion-contract for the covid tests was signed, this Fidesz person quickly sold the company to an eighteen-year-old boy living in the slums of Borsod. Just like that. According to the OKFŐ, there was nothing wrong with this deal either; however, they refused to release the documentation that prepared the decision, despite my request. Gotta wonder why.
The power, or the elite circle of power, which makes profits even in the time of a deadly epidemic, deserves no respect, deserves no forgiveness. A government that does not value education, that does not give priority to health care, that allows the health institutions it controls to run up billions in debt again and again, while pouring countless billions into shoddy business, has lost its ‘national’ character in my eyes. It does not serve the interests of the nation, but only the interests of the NER. The expensive luxury of a few cheap people. As long as we let it.
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament / Founder of the Community of Chance