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.