Postscript to “The party of Erika Szűcs: MSZP”

Since yesterday I received some additional information on the work Erika Szűcs performed for the Ministry of Social Services and Labor. I should have mentioned yesterday that her case is part and parcel of a serious effort on the part of the Fidesz government not only to discredit socialist politicians but “prove” that they actually committed criminal acts. A three-headed cerberus was designated to do the dirty work: István Balsai, Ferenc Papcsák, and Gyula Budai. It is hard to separate their “fields of expertise,” but it looks as if Balsai is in charge of “investigating” the background of the 2006 disturbances that broke out after Ferenc Gyurcsány’s leaked speech at Balatonőszöd, Budai is in charge of “dubious” land transactions, while Papcsák “studies” corruption cases in general and government contracts which, according to him, were vehicles to pass public funds to offshore companies. I found a fantastic picture of a three-headed cerberus which I thought was appropriate to show the viciousness of these three men. It is quite clear that the three got the job to prepare the ground for the possible arrest of former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány who, after all, beat Viktor Orbán to a pulp during their debate in the spring of 2006. And that cannot go unpunished.

So, the Szűcs case is part of this dirty little game which may end up in a spectacular show trial of Ferenc Gyurcsány and other leading socialist politicians. In charge of Erika Szűcs’s case is Ferenc Papcsák, who just recently sent out a list of eighty-five companies to the different ministries in order to investigate any financial transactions between them and the ministries. Index, the online daily, concluded that Papcsák’s investigation is based on preconceived notions. These eighty-five companies, mostly connected in one way or another to leading politicians, are the only ones Papcsák and therefore Fidesz are interested in. For example, Deloitte, the former workplace of András Simor, chairman of the Hungarian National Bank, and Péter Oszkó, former minister of finance. The list also contains a number of companies that in one way or the other can be connected, however indirectly, to Ferenc Gyurcsány or his associates.

The three accusers don’t care much about legal niceties. Details also leave them cold. After all, they feel that they can come up with accusations that will stir public sentiment; they don’t care whether they are true or not or whether they will stand up in court. Extreme sloppiness is characteristic of all the investigators. And Papcsák is no exception.

I mentioned yesterday that I heard Papcsák claim in an interview that Erika Szűcs received one million forints a month for nine months and that her work consisted only of reading newspaper articles. And here I must correct both Ferenc Papcsák and my post of yesterday because I believed Hungarian newspaper reports on the actual salary. First of all, officially the ministry remunerated Erika Szűcs at 900,000 a month and not one million. Moreover, her salary, once established by the ministry (even though she found it too high and protested), couldn’t be changed until January 1 when it was reduced by 50 percent.

Some of my non-Hungarian readers will undoubtedly say, “Give me another one! What do you mean it couldn’t be changed?” I’m not joking. Once a salary is set in Hungary it is illegal to change it. I was confronted with this bizarre practice at the time that Gordon Bajnai announced, after taking office, that he would work for the sum of one forint a month. Most likely he had the American practice in mind where well-off people perform certain public duties for the sum of $1.00 a year. Believe it or not, it couldn’t be done! Illegal! This is crazy of course for those of us who didn’t get socialized in Hungary, but even ordinary Hungarians felt that it would be out of the question for Bajnai not to take his salary or to take one forint (a coin that no longer exists, by the way). Where would such a step lead? Everybody must be paid, I was told. What about volunteer work? That’s illegal too, I was told by my informer. If such an outrageous thing as working for nothing was introduced, soon enough employers might demand work without salary. At that point I gave up.

As for what she did or didn’t do, Papcsák obviously didn’t look at Szűcs’s final report, which is available on line. Just the summary of her five-volume work is thirty-four pages long. The fact is that Erika Szűcs is an expert on the question of how to get unemployed people back to work. Of course, it is very possible that all that work will end up in the wastepaper basket as a result of a possible decision by the Orbán government to scrap the whole program. I wouldn’t be surprised. In Hungary this is the custom. Turn everything upside down. Throw everything out of the window. Start everything anew. While society is being dragged along this way or that way and the country doesn’t get anywhere.

As I’m writing these lines it seems that while the Orbán government is working hard to destroy the opposition, the economic negotiating team is ruining everything its predecessors managed to achieve. To my greatest surprise I read this morning that György Matolcsy is daydreaming about Hungarian tourism that in the future should employ twice as many people as it does now and that this tourism should be connected to health care. To Hungarian health care which is in ruins? People from all over the world will flock to Hungary to get well? Is this man normal? Meanwhile the forint is falling and falling because people are afraid that the stubborn and incompetent Orbán government will not be able to come to an understanding with the IMF and the EU.

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OneTwoThree testing
Guest

As an academic in a European country I was asked by a head of department to teach his courses for nothing so he could go and do research. I was glad I could tell him this was illegal. That meant I did not have to tell him he was blackmailing me.

Passing Stranger
Guest

Orban went to the final because the Dutch were playing in orange…Seriously I think the demand for 3 % is absurd considering many other Eurozone countries will not be able to fulfill their Stabilty and Growthpact obligations.

Mark
Guest

“To my greatest surprise I read this morning that György Matolcsy is daydreaming about Hungarian tourism that in the future should employ twice as many people as it does now and that this tourism should be connected to health care. To Hungarian health care which is in ruins? People from all over the world will flock to Hungary to get well? Is this man normal?”
I think you might being a little bit unfair. While I’m not sure that an Economics Minister, or economists despite their penchant for doing so, are the best people to decide in which sectors Hungary should specialise (this is generally best left to businesses and entrepreneurs, and their customers and clients), Hungary already has a track record in this area. Dentistry is one area where there is already significant health toursim within the EU, and Hungary is already a market leader. It isn’t alone going to guarantee Hungary a prosperous future, but it isn’t as if Hungary is a market leader in many areas.

Mark
Guest

Passing Stranger: “Seriously I think the demand for 3 % is absurd considering many other Eurozone countries will not be able to fulfill their Stabilty and Growthpact obligations.”
It is completely absurd, especially as the 3% figure was one plucked out of the air when the Maastricht Treaty was negotiated in 1991 to satisfy the German Bundesbank’s concerns about the Euro, and to force the other, then, 11 member states to pursue orthodox budgetary policies. The only reason I suspect it remains is because Brussels doesn’t know what to do in the face of the broader crisis of the Eurozone.
If we accept that the most serious and pressing economic problem facing Hungary is its employment rate, then to depress economic activity, and undermine further chances of recovery, through the pursuit of a festish like this would be criminal.

Hank
Guest

Passing Stranger: “Seriously I think the demand for 3 % is absurd considering many other Eurozone countries will not be able to fulfill their Stabilty and Growthpact obligations.”
Mark: “It is completely absurd,..”
O common guys, it might sound absurd theoretically, but we all know it is not in Hungarian practice(or Greek, or Italian etc. practice). As soon as the international community would say that a higher budget deficit is fine, too, Matolcsy and Orbán would start spending money on crazy projects that would probably fill the coffers of many of their cronies but not or hardly create employment. See what ánd Orbán and Medgyessi did in 2001-2004.
It is a question of trust and Hungarian governments have shown they cannot be trusted (as have the Greeks, the Italians, the Romanians etc.). Who is footing the bill? Those who pay ,more into EU budgets than they are getting out. Guess what, those are not the Hungarians, Italians etc., but the Germans, the Dutch and such countries.

Mark
Guest
Hank: “It is a question of trust and Hungarian governments have shown they cannot be trusted (as have the Greeks, the Italians, the Romanians etc.). Who is footing the bill? Those who pay ,more into EU budgets than they are getting out. Guess what, those are not the Hungarians, Italians etc., but the Germans, the Dutch and such countries.” Rather than repeat unfounded quasi-racist prejudices about the apparent financial profligacy of southern and eastern Europeans we ought to actually look at some facts about the development of government spending, revenue and debt across the EU27. Eurostat has prepared the most recent information for us in convenient and easy to read form: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/2-22042010-BP/EN/2-22042010-BP-EN.PDF You’ll note that Hungary’s public debt to GDP ratio is the SAME as for the Eurozone as a whole, though higher than that of the EU27, and its deficit is substantially LOWER than the average of both the Eurozone countries and the EU27 as a whole. I might respectfully suggest that if Brussels wishes its professions to support solidarity between member states to be taken seriously it might do better to focus on fiscal consolidation in its richer states (where indeed its failures directly threaten the future of… Read more »
Sandor
Guest
Fascinating comments Mark. Also, mostly convincing. However, when it comes to the system of revolving-door governance of Hungary, you neglected to “price in” the cost of the change over. Looking from here, wherever that “here” may be, this present right-wing government is willing to invest a large portion of the nation’s capital in projects of appearances, regardless of their economic viability. The same stupid mistake was made by the Medgyessy government, although that at least increased the money supply and thus elevated consumption. For the moment, in the Fidesz government’s program there is no project in view that would produce any return. All expenditure seems to be directed to establish the party’s stranglehold and electoral standing, without any prospects of producing returns in employment or in monetary terms. In fact, the effects are going much deeper by virtue of the fact that since true increase in additional wealth creation can only be accomplished by increased productivity, the actual needs of the country are counter-indicative to massive job creation. I need only offer as proof to this the fact that the industrial output is steeply rising while there is no change in employment figures. If the fidesz government were as “conservative”… Read more »
Mark
Guest
Sándor: “However, when it comes to the system of revolving-door governance of Hungary, you neglected to “price in” the cost of the change over. Looking from here, wherever that “here” may be, this present right-wing government is willing to invest a large portion of the nation’s capital in projects of appearances, regardless of their economic viability.” Strangely enough I don’t think this is relevant to the level of the budget deficit. After all, if the EU/IMF agrees to advance them money – at whatever level of deficit – then the government is subjected is to the monitoring procedures (and sanctions) of the IMF. If NWO is right and the market will tolerate a deficit higher than the 3%, then they can tell the IMF/EU to get lost, and be subject to very little scrutiny until things go horribly wrong. In some ways if you are concerned about FIDESZ acting responsibly it is better for the IMF/EU to appear to be laxer, in order that they can be more effectively constrained. Sándor: “In fact, the effects are going much deeper by virtue of the fact that since true increase in additional wealth creation can only be accomplished by increased productivity, the… Read more »
Odin's Lost Eye
Guest
Sandor you make an interesting point. Some years ago a ‘Geordie’ (a person from Newcastle on Tyne) remarked that the Hungarian was all “Fur coat, ne knickers” a Geordie expression which means “All show no substance”. There is one point that every one has missed by talking about the financial situation. A bit ‘tongue in cheek’ :- The All Highest of Hungary (Orban Viktor\) has appointed the ‘Three Stooges’ to prepare a ‘Great Show Trial’, which will star the Great (but yet un-named) Prosecutor. It will feature ‘Ferenc Gyurcsány’ and all the other leading socialist politicians. Its objective will be to financially ruin and imprison all those who dared to oppose Him and Fidesz in 2006. To utterly destroy MZSP and any other party who dares to opposed to His rule. He is not in the least worried about what the Europeans would say, why should he be? Did He not go to Brussels and tell Senhor Jose Manuel Barroso (a little Portuguese Commie) and the President of the European Commission where the Comission could ‘push themselves’ -somewhere where the Sun does not shine-? In his and his party’s eyes Orban Victor is the ‘Mighty One’ of Europe. Both Europe… Read more »