It is hard to determine exactly what the Orbán government is up to. Saturday afternoon it seemed clear that Mihály Varga had made a total about-face and that the Hungarian government had realized that the EU and the IMF would not allow them to ratchet up the budget deficit. But since then there has been more Fidesz double talk in the Hungarian parliament. Perhaps the guys think they are among themselves. Oh, I'm not kidding. There is a tendency in certain Hungarian circles to think that as long as they are at home and they speak Hungarian they are safe. The problem comes when liberals who, according to the right wingers, don't love their country tell untrue stories to foreigners and these foreigners tell the world in English, German, or French what they learned in Budapest. Of course, we know that this is not the case. Reuters and Bloomberg, for example, employ local reporters whose mother tongue is Hungarian who report in English every newsworthy utterance in parliament or at press conferences.
The misconception that Hungarians "among themselves" can say anything without any consequence seemed to reach the highest levels of the new Hungarian government today. Zoltán Cséfalvy, the new undersecretary of György Matolcsy's Ministry of National Economy, in answering the MSZP criticism of Lajos Kósa's blunder in the Hungarian parliament announced that surely the market doesn't really care what "a guy in Debrecen" says! And this fellow is an economist who at one point was on the faculty of the University of Cardiff. I don't know whether he is just pretending to be stupid or he really is a moron.
The other thing that adds to the chaos is that the new Hungarian government in the middle of a real financial crisis announced that it needs 72 hours to announce its economic policy. Fidesz should have known for at least a year that the party would win the 2010 elections. Who would think that they would put all their eggs in one basket: to convince the IMF and the EU to allow them to raise the deficit again? Didn't they look around in the world? Have they never heard of the Greek crisis? I must admit that I'm baffled. I'm afraid one must come to the conclusion that these guys really don't know what they are doing.
Mind you, as soon as I heard that the new minister in charge of the economy would be Matolcsy I started to be worried. I couldn't understand why Viktor Orbán would again rely on his expertise. He was the one who started Hungary on an economic slippery slope in 2000. But at least during his first tenure as minister in charge of the economy the times were less turbulent. The results of his activities then were only lower economic growth and a higher budget deficit. But now, it seems, it took only two weeks for his program to fail. It was only about two weeks ago that in front of the parliamentary committee that had to vote on his appointment he outlined his program that had to be scrapped on Saturday. This morning I saw him briefly on CNBC where in one or two short sentences he said exactly the opposite of what he said in front of the parliamentary committee.
To summarize briefly the events of the day. Lajos Kósa didn't back down when the opposition questioned his summary of Hungary's economic situation on June 3. In fact, he asserted that he is the one who told the truth and someone who tells the truth shouldn't be punished instead of those who led the country into this terrible situation. Kósa received help from Peter Harrach, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party's parliamentary delegation. He expressed his surprise that "the student [meaning the socialists] who failed in school wants to teach others." Zoltán Cséfalvy, who already showed his ignorance of the market earlier, blamed the former government for the nervousness of the market. Mihály Varga repeated that the Bajnai government gave false figures which had been discovered by his committee after studying the books. So, it seems that Orbán's government is going on with the charade that everything is the former government's fault.
But as János Avar said in tonight's "Journalist Club" on ATV, no one gives a damn whose fault the current situation is. The Greek prime minister can repeat till doomsday that it is not his fault that his predecessors lied about the state of the Greek economy. The responsibility is still his government's. Perhaps again, Orbán & Co. are thinking in terms of internal as opposed to external consumption of news, but I would advise them to give up their belief in this distinction. It will simply not work. It didn't even work in the past from opposition. But now that they are in power it is a totally different ball game. And they have been failing miserably.