Most people can't understand what happened to the famous Fidesz communication skills. What happened to the "parrot commando"? How is it possible that the well-oiled communication machinery of the party has practically ground to a halt? Some commentators are convinced that "the communication confusion" is actually planned. Well, if it is, the strategy is more successful internally than abroad; the financial markets didn't appreciate the cacophony emanating from Budapest.
The interesting thing is that in spite of the very serious consequences of "bad communication," Fidesz leaders don't seem to learn from their mistakes. Most likely they don't even think that they were mistakes. Take Lajos Kósa, for example. He refuses to admit that his reference to the country's dire financial situation that may result in bankruptcy was a dreadful mistake with very serious ramifications. An international panic ensued, but in the last three months Kósa repeated several times that he was "just telling the truth."
I was astonished to hear this morning that Kósa still persists with this fable. Because I can't imagine that he would without authorization stick to his story, I suspect that this babel of voices coming from leading Fidesz politicians is not just communication gone wrong. I am more and more convinced that Viktor Orbán has some plan which is just not clear to us. Of course, I might overestimate the Fidesz strategy that worked like clockwork in the past. It is very possible that governing is a different cup of tea. One thing is sure. The messages are all over the place. György Matolcsy talked about a tight budget and bowing to the demands of the European Union while László Kövér claimed that austerity was the wrong answer to the country's ills.
It was only a few days ago that György Matolcsy at last uttered the words that investors were waiting for–that Hungary will do everything in its power to keep the deficit under 3% in 2011. This morning Lajos Kósa came out swinging against the international financial markets, maintaining that they are built on lies. As for the exchange rate, it is no more than "one gigantic game." According to Kósa the strengthening of the Swiss franc against the euro is not the fault of the Hungarian politicians. Of course, this is true, but Kósa neglected to mention the weakening of the forint against the euro. Viktor Orbán also claimed that the forint's exchange rate is not affected by internal developments. Anyone who would like to read a cogent explanation of what has happened to the forint since Viktor Orbán became prime minister should visit Ferenc Gyurcsány's first article of a series in galamus.hu.
The prime minister gave a speech in parliament in which he seemed on the surface to back up Matolcsy. Analysts in London had written that it was all well and good that Matolcsy promised a tight budget for this year and the next, but they really didn't believe him because he had said so many different things at different times. They wanted to hear these words from Viktor Orbán himself. To tell you the truth, I didn't think that Viktor Orbán would ever reaffirm Matolcsy's words, but today in parliament he did. Or did he? Here he is on his way to the podium today to deliver his spin on the government's economic policy.
Let's recap what he said. He was very firm on this year's 3.8% deficit, but when it came to 2011 he simply said that "he would suggest no more than 3%." Knowing the very sloppy Hungarian media reporting, I suspect that few people will notice this interesting choice of words. I already checked Népszabadság's article on Orbán's speech and the word "suggest/javasol" couldn't be found. The same thing happened after Matolcsy's announcement about the government's decision to stick with the promised numbers. Most of the reports, including the foreign language ones, forgot to mention that Matolcsy set "conditions" to such a low deficit for next year. I was my usual critical self in this blog: I not only mentioned all five conditions but emphasized their possible significance for the future.
Today Orbán may have uttered the critical numbers, but he did not backpedal on his basic economic message. Yes, there will be a very tight budget in the next two years, but his "economic policy will not be based on speculation, indebtedness, and austerity." It will spawn an economy that will create jobs.
Orbán knows that the government will have to introduce an austerity program although naturally it will never be called that. So he has to explain why Hungary will face a couple of difficult years. Allegedly it is not because of the inherent problems in the Hungarian economy but because "we have no reason to believe that the world economic crisis is over." That's why, he said, "we must count on further fluctuation in the value of the forint." This is an attempt to blame outside forces for the austerity program that must come if Hungary wants to remain solvent.
He continued: "Adjusting our steps to the movements of the international markets is important, but the last 100 days proved that this is not the number one solution and especially it cannot be the final goal. Adjustment, compliance is necessary but the world economy is just 'one of the important' conditions. That's why we will attempt to improve the competitiveness of the Hungarian economy through our own resources." I might ask why, if Hungary is so self-reliant, it is accepting EU funding to improve the competitiveness of the Hungarian economy through the Széchenyi plan.
In any event, it seems to me that Orbán's "on the one hand on the other hand, them against us" speech lends credence to the hypothesis that the verbal confusion is all planned and that double talk is still the order of the day.