In Budapest on Tuesday, at a Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry ceremony marking the beginning of the business year, Viktor Orbán stated that “we must stay on the course that we are on now”, and that between 2017 and 2020 Hungary must defend the potential for growth of between 3 and 5 per cent in the Hungarian economy.
At the same time the country must achieve a breakthrough in competitiveness, and reach a growth range above 5 per cent after 2020, the Prime Minister stressed.
To this end, Hungary must defend its “upward course” against approaching threats posed by attacks from the European Union on Hungary’s budget and job creation support programme. The country must also defend itself against foreign interference and illegal migration, and must fight for cheap energy, he stated. In this context, he said, the Government hopes that, sooner or later, it will bring to a conclusion its dispute with Brussels on enlargement of Paks Nuclear Power Plant.
Mr. Orbán gave a detailed account of the ten undertakings in the agreement between the Government and the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, concluded in 2014. One of these was related to management of government debt, in relation to which he said that the country has become self-supporting, the IMF and EU loans have been repaid, a higher proportion of government securities are denominated in forints, and fewer are held by foreigners. At the same time he said that he is not in complete agreement with Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga over government securities being issued in foreign currencies. In the Prime Minister’s opinion, these should not be issued abroad and denominated in foreign currencies unless absolutely necessary.
The Prime Minister listed a number of achievements: Hungarian ownership in the banking sector is well above 50 per cent; the Government has implemented its policy of eastward opening; and it has further reduced taxes. At the same time, he observed, not everyone in Western Europe – and particularly in Austria – likes this low taxation. He made it clear, however, that if Hungarians’ employment opportunities are restricted in any country, Hungary will reduce investment opportunities for capital coming from the country practising such discrimination.
He also highlighted reindustrialisation, making specific mention of the goal of reviving the Hungarian bus manufacturing industry, renewal of agriculture, and creation of a workfare society. In this context Mr. Orbán criticised the notion of basic benefits being available without the need to work in return. “Hungary’s ethnic composition is also complex, and this is therefore not such a simple question”, the Prime Minister said, but such a notion “is an utterly unthinkable approach” when one considers both the country’s attributes and the logic of competitiveness based on work.
Moving onto the other undertakings in the agreement, he spoke about the following: reductions in energy prices, and the necessity of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant for cheap energy; the availability of increased funding for research and development; and measures designed to improve Hungary’s demographic situation.
The Prime Minister also pointed out that in order to “enhance the position” of the country, its ethnic homogeneity must be preserved, because “too much mixing results in problems”. It is likewise important to preserve cultural homogeneity and the outstanding level of public safety, he said, as well as Hungary’s status as a “clean, green country”: the lack of industrial pollution, and the cultivation of arable land. Mr. Orbán also mentioned full employment, adding that he sees it as significant that in a Hungarian hotel even the cleaners are Hungarian.
“It is also important that Hungary should not lose sight of greatness and the desire for greatness” he said. “In this respect, the abandonment of the Olympic bid is like a broken rib”, he noted.
Touching on the presentations of those who spoke before him, Mr. Orbán said in summary that the economic situation is promising. He said that he would not describe the situation as “good”, because in Hungary one legacy of communism is that good news is greeted with cynicism, and success and wealth are concealed from others. The current promising situation does not exclude the possibility of errors, and therefore “we must be alert” at all times, he said.
The Prime Minister indicated that he agrees with central bank governor György Matolcsy that Hungary must break free of the trap of moderately advanced countries, he said, and that more is needed than what has been achieved so far in order to take a genuine step forward, and for the situation to not just be promising, but remain promising.
He also said he agrees with László Parragh, President of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, regarding projects related to Budapest’s Olympic bid. The Prime Minister concurs that “without great things” Hungary will remain at the level of moderately advanced countries. Among the “great things” necessary, he mentioned the modernisation of the railway line between Budapest and Belgrade, the enlargement of Paks Nuclear Power Plant, and the upgrading to a dual carriageway of the road linking Békéscsaba and Debrecen.
After his speech the Prime Minister was asked by audience members about a variety of issues, including the shortage of labour that can be seen in Hungary. In response he cautioned against a guest worker programme, saying that he only supports specific job offers for foreign workers for fixed terms, and that he would not like to see the country in a situation in which lower-skilled jobs are only performed by foreigners. This, he said, is undesirable in terms of national strategy, adding that “we must do all the jobs needed to run the country ourselves – all the way from cleaning toilets to nuclear science”. This, however, also means that we must appreciate those cleaning toilets as valuable members of society, he added.
In answer to another question, the Prime Minister confirmed the Government’s intentions on construction of the M8 motorway.
A businessman asked about Hungary’s tourism concept, in reply to which The Prime Minister said that the Government wants smaller accommodation facilities to access EU funds, while development funds from the central budget will be made available to larger hotel establishments.