To remind everyone: in advance of the somewhat unexpected visit of Dominique Strauss-Kahn to Budapest the liberal press had little to say while the right-wing media, initially quoting anonymous financial experts, spent quite a bit of time predicting the worst consequences of the impending visit. Surely, they argued, the IMF is so dissatisfied with the performance of the Hungarian government that Hungary will either have to return the money already received or, under the best of circumstances, will not receive the remainder of the sum promised. The couple of economists who gave their names, unlike the anonymous experts of earlier analyses, didn't go that far but nonetheless accepted the premise that there were strained relations between the Hungarian government and the IMF.
And then came the famous date: January 13. Strauss-Kahn spent the morning with Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, Finance Minister János Veres, and the head of the National Bank, András Simor. Then there was an official luncheon after which Strauss-Kahn met the members of the Finance Committee whose chairman is Mihály Varga (Fidesz). Immediately after the meeting Varga gave a press conference during which, answering a question from a reporter, he announced that even "the head of the IMF realizes by now that the deal between the IMF and the Hungarian government will not be a success story. On the contrary, it will be a failure. Neither the country nor the IMF will come out well from this affair." He added, answering another question, that he had the distinct feeling that the "IMF itself no longer has any illusions" about the Hungarian government's resolve to put its house in order. He further elaborated that the IMF didn't demand that any particular steps be taken and, therefore, continued Varga, the Hungarian government did nothing.
There was only one problem with all this. Not a word of it was true. Varga was too hasty when he gave his press conference before the joint press conference of Strauss-Kahn and Gyurcsány. It turned out that the IMF is totally satisfied with the Hungarian government. A couple of hours after the joint press conference Stop, another internet newspaper, headlined its coverage: "The Visit of the Director of the IMF Is a Huge Fiasco for Fidesz." But even Portfolio that had been certain only two days before that the IMF would punish Hungary for its bad behavior had to report Strauss-Kahn's words: "I would like to emphasize that everything is going the best possible way in Hungary." It's true that the headline of the article in which this sentence appeared said that according to Strauss-Kahn "Hungary's Future Is at Stake." For the sake of accuracy let me quote the official statement of Strauss-Kahn about the results of his visit: "I welcomed the authorities' efforts to advance policies that are bringing about a rapid reduction of financial market stress in Hungary and will contribute to create the conditions necessary to facilitate appropriate reforms in government finances and in the banking sector. . . . The 2009 budget is consistent with the size of the fiscal adjustment envisaged under the program. It will be important that budget execution delivers the programmed expenditure restraint." (See homepage of the IMF.)
Strauss-Kahn further elaborated on this in an interview given to Népszabadság. To the question whether his visit was prompted by "unexpected difficulties to overcome with the Hungarian government," Strauss-Kahn answered: "On the contray, since the announcement of the government's economic program in October, financial market conditions in Hungary have improved more quickly than we expected." He continued that "the IMF and the ECB are coordinating closely in supporting Hungary's economic program." Strauss-Kahn pretty well repeated the same on MTV (Az Este) last night. That was not good news for Fidesz and especially for Mihály Varga who was caught red handed. He tried to explain himself away on ATV (Egyenes beszéd with Olga Kálmán). He blamed sloppy journalists who forgot an important word while transcribing his predictions about the failure of the cooperation between the IMF and the Hungarian government. They left out an important word "perhaps" or in Hungarian "lehet." Unfortunately in today's technically advanced world it is easy to check the video of the press conference and Mr. Varga didn't tell the truth. He used "lesz" (it will be) instead of "lehet" (perhaps it will be).
So today the papers supporting Fidesz somehow had to explain the whole thing away. One way to get out of hot water is simply ignore everything Strauss-Kahn said. According to Tamás Nánási (Magyar Nemzet) "despite the optimism and broad smiles the director's visit was not a polite protocol visit." So Strauss-Kahn is actually lying. He says all sorts of nice things but actually he came to tell the Hungarians off. But the most outrageous part of this opinion piece is the claim that the "credit from the IMF doesn't seem to have any practical advantage." No practical advantage? After all, according to most people Hungary would have faced bankruptcy without it. As for the forthcoming changes that must be made in the budget estimates due to the changing economic climate, the author simply can't accept the fact that there is a world economic crisis that also affects Hungary. He ends the article by warning that bankruptcy remains in the offing because the government is still not telling the truth to the Hungarian people and to prospective investors.
Fidesz decided to turn away from the IMF credit and Strauss-Kahn's positive assessment of the Hungarian government's handling of the crisis so far. They decided to emphasize the changes that must be made in the budget due to the changing economic climate. László Kövér announced that the country has neither a budget nor a government. And of course, if there is no Hungarian government one cannot praise it either. Therefore, Strauss-Kahn's words are meaningless.