Here at last is the Fidesz program: Hungary’s future?

The 50-page program entitled "Politics of National Affairs" is available on Fidesz's website. To MSZP's spokeswoman, Bernadette Budai, the program is "a real disappointment because it has even fewer facts than those that leaked out in the last few weeks." According to Budai it is full of generalities and is "simply a collection of political slogans." She couldn't find even one sentence that would refer to the less than popular steps that a "responsible government" must take under the current economic circumstances.

The conservative Hírszerző, which spent considerable time on the document, also finds it wanting. The paper starts its article with this sentence: "If we called MSZP's party program 'a document of zero coherence' then Fidesz's 'Politics of National Affairs' is 'a collection of insipid empty phrases.'" Hírszerző also complains about the lack of any facts; in their place the program keeps repeating such words as "trust," "family," "honor," and "respect."

Well known personalities close to Fidesz add their own thoughts at the beginning of the program, but again they are fairly meaningless generalities. Ferenc Mádl calls the document "a wise and committed political statement." Zsigmond Járai talks about "placing the Hungarian economy on new foundations" when actually in the body of the text there is almost nothing on economics. According to János Martonyi "the politics of national affairs is based on morality but at the same time it is practical." According to Imre Makovecz, an architect, "national affairs means the assertion of national interest in all facets of life." It is hard to say whether these meaningless sentences reflect the intellectual level of the writers or whether the program itself is so meaningless that the men and women asked to contribute couldn't say anything more intelligent.

For me the most interesting part of the document is that Fidesz, despite the utterances of the last few months about settling accounts, wants to stop the "cold civil war" as some people called the relationship between the two sides. My hunch is that Jobbik's very strong showing has something to do with Fidesz's sudden urge to have more peaceful relations with MSZP. Fidesz's strategy in the last eight years has often been often described as a "full court press," but that type of savage nay-saying is hard to maintain when the party is fighting a two-front war.

The most glaring omission is the total lack of detail about the party's planned economic policy. There is not one word about tax cuts or about the importance of the introduction of the euro. Also missing is any mention of reducing government expenses. Instead one can read about the New Széchenyi Plan, assistance to farmers, wellness tourism, infrastructure developments near the borders. As usual, not a word about where the money is coming from for these projects.

The program repeats the promise of one million new jobs in ten years but says almost nothing about the means of achieving that goal. Or rather, the program simply indicates that new enterprises will spring up and provide new job opportunities. What will be the catalyst for this spectacular economic growth? The magic word is "trust." Foreign investors will have complete trust in the new Fidesz government so foreign capital will pour into Hungary. When it comes to Hungarian companies, the Hungarian owners will have trust in the government's policies and therefore will hire more people.

The new job opportunities will target the uneducated masses instead of the well educated–that is, those people who are unemployed because they are underqualified for today's jobs. The hope is that these people will find work in the building industry as well as in agriculture and tourism. (I might mention here that about a month ago I heard a discussion among economists whose expertise is agriculture. They claimed that the larger farms need an educated workforce, not people who lack even an eighth-grade education.) Apparently Fidesz is planning to continue the public works program that the current government began, the only difference being that the new government would use European Union subsidies for that purpose.

A more concrete promise is that "the government would lower interest rates." I had to double check this because it sounded so unbelievable. After all, it is not the government that is in charge of interest rates but the "independent" Hungarian National Bank. The old Fidesz policy of stimulating the domestic market is resurrected in this document although in 2000 that policy led to the beginning of Hungary's financial troubles.

Fidesz is a party of "law and order" but it rejects Jobbik's solutions that would introduce a gendarmerie. Instead it would make the provisions of the criminal code tougher and would introduce the California practice of "three strikes and you're out." Fidesz would increase the size of the police force so there would be a police presence in every hamlet.

According to the document Fidesz will "reestablish the democratic norms" that have been lacking in the last eight years. "Real affluence cannot be without freedom. And the most important guarantee of free life is law and order." (I personally find it difficult to follow the logic here.) Fidesz thinks that "self-reliance is a false political concept" and emphasizes the role of the state.

There is a chapter on health care but instead of focusing on the future the program looks back and criticizes Lajos Molnár and Ágnes Horváth, the two SZDSZ ministers of health. It advocates higher pay for doctors and nurses but nothing specific. (I read just this morning that a 20% salary increase would mean an additional government expense of 100 billion forints.) There is only one item I liked: doctors would no longer be civil servants but independent "businessmen" who would sign contracts with the hospitals. On the other hand, Fidesz wants to reduce the number of pharmacies, protecting the existing pharmacies against potential future competitors.

At the end of the program are some generalities about the new government's social policy. It is easy to talk about "a policy that ensures complete social security for all" but it is practically impossible to introduce such a program. Or at least I have never heard of any country where there is perfect social security for all. More specifically, Fidesz wants to assist families to have more children, wants people to honor the elderly, wants to lessen poverty, wants to help families acquire their own homes, and finally, wants to assist Roma assimilation. The Christian Democratic-inspired suggestions include a demand that employers provide a "family friendly workplace" and the establishment of summer camps.

I must agree with the socialist Bernadette Budai and the conservative Hírszerző that this is no more than a collection of insipid empty phrases. One has the feeling that this program bears no resemblance to what will happen in the future if Fidesz wins the elections.

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John T
Guest

Presumably, there is a huge vault of gold currently lying dormant in Hungary, that will fund all of this. Or perhaps all the geese in Hungary will no longer be used for foie gras, but instead retrained to lay golden eggs.
How depressing that everyone in politics is rushing to spout slogans and (often plagarised) soundbites. Where is the substance. Even more depressing is that people accept all this without a murmer it seems. But it has to be said, many Hungarians are full of noise, but are pussies when it comes to doing anything positive.

GDF
Guest

John T:”How depressing that everyone in politics is rushing to spout slogans and (often plagarised) soundbites. Where is the substance. Even more depressing is that people accept all this without a murmer it seems. But it has to be said, many Hungarians are full of noise, but are pussies when it comes to doing anything positive.”
It is depressing. Unfortunately it seems that this is how politics works, everywhere.

John T
Guest

GDF – “It is depressing. Unfortunately it seems that this is how politics works, everywhere.”
So true – and it contributes to the drift to extremist or more radical parties.

VIDEO
Guest

A good short video for Eva Balogh about the economy policy of the social-liberal government. (only K.S.H data)


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