At the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s first economic policy forum of the year in Budapest on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said that
Mr. Orbán listed future economic opportunities as follows: Hungary will continue to be capable of achieving an annual increase in the minimum wage; 4 per cent economic growth will enable a pension increase and pension premium every year; women will retain the opportunity to retire after forty years of employment; and tax allowances for families can continue to increase. He added that every year from 2018 to 2022 the tax burdens on employers can be reduced, the goal being for contributions payable by employers to be the lowest in the region. The Prime Minister also spoke about the need to launch the “Modern Village Programme” this year.
In addition, Mr. Orbán also spoke about several Central European infrastructure investment projects, including the Budapest-Belgrade railway line, and the Budapest-Warsaw and Budapest-Cluj/ Kolozsvár high-speed railway lines. He also said that the Government’s goals for the next term include the extension of the existing motorway to connect Košice/Kassa and Miskolc, and to link Pécs with the Croatian border.
He highlighted the fact that there will be no “election budget”, and that, come what may, the deficit will remain below 3 per cent – and is expected to be around 2.4 per cent.
In his 45-minute speech, the Prime Minister said that Hungary will develop providing it does not become an immigrant country; if that were to happen, however, the result would be “regression, decline and stagnation”.
He indicated that the EU’s proposal for new migrant regulations would involve Hungary being forced to admit ten thousand people. Taking family reunification into account – assuming a resulting total of twenty thousand people – this would cost the country a total of 90 billion forints (EUR 290 million) every year.
Mr. Orbán stressed that Hungary is performing better today because “we have not allowed the freedom of decision-making to be taken away from us”, but “if the ones deciding on important national decisions are not us, but Brussels or the IMF, then we will be in trouble”.
Among the Government’s achievements since 2010, the Prime Minister listed: the fact that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had been “sent packing”; the repayment of the IMF and EU loans; the reduction of unemployment to 3.8 per cent; the fact that full employment is well within reach; a low budget deficit, which has been under 3 per cent for 6 straight years; and, “although Brussels has been double-dealing with us”, the reduction of sovereign debt.
In relation to unemployment, Mr. Orbán said that if he is responsible for forming the next government, he expects the country’s economic leaders to ensure that Hungary becomes the European state with the second lowest level of unemployment – after the Czech Republic.
Speaking about family support, he highlighted schemes for widely-available free school meals and free school textbooks, and an increase in the number of crèche and kindergarten places. He said that the Government is making multinationals and banks pay for the demographic turnaround and the family support system.
The Prime Minister told the private sector representatives present that in recent years the Government has not relied on the IMF, has not searched for foreign models to copy, and has not accepted threats of any kind. Instead, he said, it has come to agreements with employers and trade unions, with the following results since 2010: the minimum wage has increased by 90 per cent; the minimum wage for skilled workers has doubled; the salaries of healthcare employees and medical specialists has also doubled; and the take-home pay of teachers, police officers and soldiers has increased by 50 per cent.
Mr. Orbán also spoke about political stability as the foundation for successful economic policy. He noted, however, that political stability does not simply mean having a strong government and parliamentary majority, because that is merely its outward appearance. The essence of political stability, he said, is rather that the country’s citizens feel that they have received what they believe to be fair. Crucial to this, he observed, is that everyone has the opportunity to work, that families receive support, and that everyone is given respect. In summary, the Prime Minister said that the four pillars of the Hungarian model are competitiveness, a work-based economy, and policies for both demographic growth and the maintenance and strengthening of identity.
In his speech, the Prime Minister praised the Governor of the Central Bank and several of his ministers. He said that he believes the country is lucky to have György Matolcsy as head of the Central Bank, Mihály Varga as Minister for National Economy, and Sándor Pintér as Minister of Interior. The Government can also be glad, he said, to have found a “young titan” in the person of Péter Szijjártó to head the Foreign Ministry. Mr. Orbán stated that in his opinion Mr. Szijjártó will be able to represent the country with “a Hungarian heart, a European outlook and a cool head” for many years to come. He added that “You will see that it is important that in Katalin Novák we have found, I think, the lady who in the years ahead can coordinate the government policies needed for a demographic turnaround – and perhaps even realise that turnaround”.
The Prime Minister offered a new alliance to those at the forum. He declared that it is important for every Hungarian businessperson that the next government’s economic policies represent the interests of Hungarian enterprises, and “the Alpha and Omega of this is defence of our national independence”. He asked those present to help defend Hungary, independent Hungarian tax policy, and governance that is not dependent on foreign interests and influence. In closing, the Prime Minister said that “Whether Hungary is led by a puppet government representing foreign political and economic interests, or an independent national government, depends also on you”.