At last the money is coming from Brussels

In the next seven years Hungary will receive 22.4 billion euros (more than ten thousand billion forints) from the European Union. The idea is to close the gap between the rich and the poorer countries of the union. How this money will be used is of crucial importance. Such financial help can be used well and used badly. Ireland used the money very well while Greece, for example, used it very badly. The Hungarian government realizes the importance of decisions concerning the spending of the money and therefore worked out a seven-year Plan of National Development headed by Gordon Bajnai, a young businessman, who at the last reorganization of the cabinet became minister without portfolio. According to all reports Bajnai is doing a very good job.

Wednesday Prime Minister Gyurcsany and Bajnai together gave details of the plans for the next two years, during which about 2,800 billion forints will be spent on 271 projects. Out of these 271 projects 191 have already been accepted and contracts can be signed within six months. However before signing the contracts Bajnai’s office will conduct a very thorough examination of the proposed expenses. They will make sure that no unnecessary expenses will be encountered.  Another 80 projects met with governmental approval theoretically, but they still need further work and refining. In addition, by the end of the year there will be approximately 150 projects for which regions and local governments can apply.

Among the projects for the next two years one can find investments of national significance, educational programs, and 123 different projects for highway construction. As far as the development of infrastructure is concerned another 882 kilometers of highway can be built. When an application is approved, the project must be finished within three years. Otherwise, the European Union wants its money back.

Among the projects of cultural and historical significance is the Hungarian Royal Castle’s renovation. The cost will be about 22-23 billion forints, of which the Hungarian government will shoulder about 10 billion. The rest will come from Brussels and the private sector (about 12-13 billion forints). The Museum of Fine Arts will have a new underground section. The Franz Liszt Academy’s more than one hundred year old building will be restored. The Hungarian government’s contribution here will be 10 billion forints. The Szentendre (north of Budapest, along the Danube) outdoor museum will have a new northern Hungarian village, a market town typical of the Hungarian plains, and an old historical railway station. The different parts of the outdoor museum most likely will be connected by a miniature railroad. In Balatonfüred, in the old early eighteenth century city center will be a new building for a local history collection and for an information center. The planners kept a watchful eye on the tourist industry, which is of great importance for the country’s economy. According to people familiar with tourism, the Hungarian share lags behind for example the Czech Republic and, of course, behind Austria.

In Sárvár, close to the Austrian border, the city hospital will be modernized and a new wing will be built and it will serve as a rehabilitation center for the whole region. Between the Danube and the Tisza rivers where almost desert-like conditions exist, several projects will be built in order to increase the water supply.

These are only examples of some of the many, many projects. Once these monies are pumped into the economy, there should be an immediate improvement in employment and economic growth. No wonder that Viktor Orbán would very much like to have early elections because although it is true that if elections were held today the Fidesz would win, this situation most likely not going to remain so indefinitely.

A few months ago poor Bajnai appeared on the early morning political interview show on MTV and the three reporters attacked him mercilessly that there is only talk, talk, and talk and no money. Not a cent. When will the money come? Bajnai tried to explain that a lot of work must be done before the projects’ contracts can be signed, but the reporters were not satisfied with his answers. Now at last they can be satisfied that the money is more or less allocated and with January 2008 work on the actual projects can begin.