One country or two?

Sometimes one wonders. If you pick up the Magyar Nemzet (Hungarian Nation)–once a respectable paper, but by now nothing more than the mouthpiece of the Fidesz, the political situation is outright terrible. I couldn’t find anything about today’s opening of a very important new bridge at Dunaújváros across the Danube that will open the area on the left bank of the Danube to foreign investment. This region was previously very difficult to reach and could be approached only through Budapest. Thousands tried to be the first ones to cross the bridge on foot. I couldn’t find anything about the 90 billion forints that the New Development Plan will allocate to "research and development" in the next few years. I couldn’t find anything, not surprisingly, about the fact that the number of signatures on a protest against gay bashing is growing rapidly. By now, over 800 well-known names can be found on the list.

But what can one read in Magyar Nemzet? Interesting things, for sure. One item is the unveiling of a memorial alongside Highway 47 where there have been several fatal accidents in the past few years. The memorial reads: "To the Memory of Souls." It seems that in 2002 Highway 47 was upgraded to a four-lane highway except for a four kilometer section that is still unfinished. This highway connects Orosháza and Szeged, and goes through Hódmezővásárhely which is a Fidesz stronghold with a mayor and parliamentary member, a certain János Lázár. Mr. Lázár’s name has been bantered about lately for two reasons. One was his greediness when it came to compensation for his alleged expenses connected to his parliamentary job. He got the highest sum of all 386 parliamentary members. The other was his inflammatory style. Perhaps the worst of his verbal abuses was his statement when a man died in the ambulance while being taken from Hódmezővásárhely to another city’s hospital that "this man was the first victim of the health reforms." He also accused the minister of health of genocide. An investigation revealed that if anyone was guilty, it was Mr. Lázár’s hospital, which refused to treat the patient.

Once again this weekend Mr. Lázár didn’t mince words. At the unveiling of the memorial he accused the government of not finishing the four kilometers of the old two-lane highway because it wants "to punish Hódmezővásárhely." Thus the government would rather endanger its citizens’ well-being; in fact, it kills people because Hódmezővásárhely didn’t vote the right way. And he added: "this is an excellent example of human viciousness."

What else is wrong? Everything. Yes, it is too hot and most of the ambulances don’t have air conditioning. As the other papers announced, the ambulance service (state owned) is planning to purchase new airconditioned vehicles, but there are about 900 ambulances and one cannot change the whole fleet overnight. According to Magyar Nemzet the Fidesz demands the immediate installment of air conditioning in all of the ambulances. According to their experts it would not cost much: "only" half a billion forints.

The government spokesman today announced that the ministry of health is planning to create "mobile pharmacies" for villages where there is no pharmacy in the vicinity. This is reported in Magyar Nemzet thus: "The government closes pharmacies in the villages." They add: "first they closed post offices and now they will close pharmacies. First came the mobile post office, now comes the mobile pharmacy."

Another headline reads: "No extra money for schools or hospitals." The news comes from an interview in Népszabadság with Gordon Bajnai who is in charge of the very substantial financial help that Hungary will receive in the next seven years from the European Union. The allocation of this money is of critical importance for the country’s future. Greece used its money very badly, Ireland very well. In any case, Bajnai spoke of some unacceptable requests for different projects. For example, small villages were asking two billion forints for refurbishing their schools. Bajnai pointed out that the whole yearly budget of these communities was no more than 20-30 million. He added: "We want to refurbish 700 schools and we have to be very careful about the money. We figured the amount per student." The Magyar Nemzet’s translation: "No extra money for schools or hospitals."

One really wonders how long things can go on like this.