A new poll in Hungary

Today I will be brief because occasionally I have other mundane duties. For example, grocery shopping. I also had to buy some gasoline for the lawn mower and am happy to report that the price of a gallon of gasoline was $2.55. Quite a change from a few weeks ago. In Hungary the price of gasoline also went down, but because of the weakening of the forint and the strengthening of the dollar Hungarians will not notice as drastic a drop as we do here.

Népszabadság often asks Medián to conduct polls on various aspects of economic and political life. In October there were three polls that addressed various issues surrounding the world economic crisis. And what were the findings? The adult population is aware of and increasingly worried about the situation. Moreover, they feel the need for cooperation among political and economic leaders to solve the economic difficulties. The majority of the people are convinced that the financial and economic problems associated with the international crisis will last at least a year (26%) or longer (42%). Ninety-five percent of Hungarian adults are certain that the unemployment rolls will grow and 92% are sure that the forint will weaken. Therefore the monthly payments on loans taken out in euros or Swiss francs will be larger than before. For some strange reason they think (74%) that the price of gasoline will also go up. Almost 70% of those who answered the survey think that people's savings will be in danger. A very large majority (71%) are sure that they and their families will be adversely affected by the crisis. None of these results are terribly surprising.

What is more interesting is people's opinion about Gyurcsány's handling of the crisis and Orbán's potential as a crisis manager. We must keep in mind that Orbán is vastly more popular than the prime minister. People still think that Orbán is a more sympathetic person, but when it comes to the handling of a crisis situation the two men are neck to neck. That is, many people who may find Orbán's politics more to their liking think that he would not be the perfect man in a crisis situation.

I may also add that the majority of people perhaps for the first time in recent history feel that society as a whole must be ready for sacrifice. This is a huge difference from earlier times when sacrifice was a dirty word. No one was ready to cough up even $1.50 as a health care co-payment. During earlier strikes the majority of the people sympathized with the strikers even if they themselves were inconvenienced by the strikes. Today the trade unions cannot rely on the sympathy of the population at large.

All in all, the government is handling the situation as well as can be expected, perhaps even brilliantly. A small news items revealed that János Veres, minister of finance, is in China negotiating a big investment deal in Hungary. One attractive feature of Hungary apparently is the rather large Chinese population. (There is even a school for Chinese youngsters or for anyone interested in bilingual education.) Another rumor has it that the Hungarian government is negotiating with the European Union to speed up its entry into the eurozone. If Hungary is able to achieve either, it will be a great boost to the economy as well as to the MSZP government.