György Matolcsy’s fantasy land

One problem with György Matolcsy, among many others, is that he talks too much. I very much doubt that it is necessary to repeat ad nauseum that Hungary is not planning to sign another loan agreement with the IMF. Yet every time he opens his mouth he volunteers this information. Wouldn't it simply be better not to talk about the subject or, if someone asks, to give an evasive answer? Because what will happen if after all Hungary is in need of help? I'll tell you what will happen. Matolcsy will fall on his face.

He is also prone to talk big. I'm sure many of you are familiar with the tale of János Háry, a hussar veteran from the Austrian army who sits in the village inn and tells fantastic tales of his heroism. How he won the heart of the Empress Marie Louise, the wife of Napoleon, and how he singlehandedly defeated Napoleon and his armies. Matolcsy reminds me of this Hungarian tale-spinner who was made world famous by Zoltán Kodály's Háry János Suite. Kodály's piece starts with a huge musical sneeze because "according to Hungarian superstition, if a statement is followed by a sneeze of one of the hearers, it is regarded as confirmation of its truth…. One of Háry's faithful listeners sneezes at the wildest assertions of the old tale-spinner." I already have an itchy nose.

Way back in July when introducing the New Széchenyi Plan Matolcsy said that "according to plans Hungary's economic development and the country's living standard must supersede the European Union average by 2030!" Yes, you heard it right: by 2030. This is the plan. "This will be a historical success … because in the last 150 years Hungary has never managed to reach such levels." It seems that this plan is so well developed that everything is already worked out for the next twenty years and this is… what do you think? The New Széchenyi Plan!

By September he drew a much darker picture. The inherited problems are almost insurmountable. Hungary must navigate a veritable minefield. The economic downturn will definitely last until 2012. Yes, the future is bleak but "we must retrace our steps from the future toward the present instead of trying to crawl from the present inch by inch toward the future." An interesting idea! A few days later in a lecture, "New government, new economic ideas, plans and opportunities in the economy," he said that "Hungary must be re-industrialized." Whatever that means.

Hungary will not only supersede the EU's economic development and living standards by 2030 but "there is a real possibility that Budapest might become a regional center of a Budapest-Vienna-Bratislava triangle." What Budapest-Vienna-Bratislava economic triangle? Did anyone ever hear of such a thing? It is certainly new to me. And if that weren't enough he added to this triangle the Czech Brno. Budapest will be a center of research and development and a hub of innovation. He didn't let us know what kind of innovation he had in mind.

But now comes the real surprise. All this depends on the excellence of Hungarian universities. Hungary will have to create "one of the 200 best universities in the world." Oh my! Wouldn't it be wonderful? At the moment no Hungarian university can be found in the first four hundred best universities in the world. Moreover, one cannot create a top-notch university overnight. Not even in a decade. If Budapest's future as a center of research and development of the Budapest-Vienna-Bratislava triangle depends on the creation of a university that belongs to the prestigious list of the top two hundred, I'm afraid the Hungarian capital must wait a long time to reach the heights envisaged by György Matolcsy.

So, on the one hand, Hungary must be re-industrialized because high living standards can be achieved only in countries with a strong industrial base. On the other hand hand, Matolcsy emphasizes elsewhere the development of tourism and agriculture that would employ many unskilled workers. His other hobby horse is medical tourism which again is a pipe dream at the moment because Hungary simply is not equipped to provide first-rate medical care for people from all over the world seeking treatment for relatively little money. Hungarian hospitals cannot even take care of the country's own population properly.

Matolcsy cannot come up with anything more imaginative than more and more spas while apparently there are many underutilized ones already.  These were built or renovated with government assistance in the original Széchenyi Plan. Another pipe dream is sport tourism. The best drawing card is soccer but Hungarian soccer is in terrible shape although Viktor Orbán is spending billions on soccer academies. However, there are no modern arenas and the soccer games usually end up in brawls. Respectable people rarely attend them. However, I was happy to hear that the town of Debrecen is getting a huge arena with government help. I hope you haven't forgotten who the mayor of Debrecen is. None other than Lajos Kósa who played such a major role in creating the financial crisis in June that cost Hungary and the Hungarian people billions of forints. I guess this new arena is payment for a job well done.

Even I was astonished when I put together this short survey of Matolcsy's utterances in the last few months. So much nonsense on one page: hard to fathom. But what will happen to a country's economy in the hands of a man who lives in fantasy land?

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GW
Guest

Hungary does have one world-class research University, Central European University, whose faculty have an impressive record of international refereed publication.
Of course, it’s pre-programmed that a FIDESZ-led government will disregard this institution.

Mark
Guest

“Matolcsy cannot come up with anything more imaginative than more and more spas while apparently there are many underutilized ones already.”
What is it about spas? Given the huge expansion in Wellness and spa tourism over the border in Austria it is hard to see why anyone would venture too far over the border in sufficient numbers to earn Hungary any more foreign exchange than it has been getting from Heviz.
“Hungary will have to create “one of the 200 best universities in the world.””
Because of my professional experience I have an idea of what this might mean and it would require a revolution in outlook on the part of the government and the academic profession, and considerable ammounts of new money for staff salaries, buildings, teaching facilities and research. They would need to internationalize their Faculty, revolutionize their customer services practices for students, work much more on research collaboration with the private sector and internationally, and introduce competitive and open selection for academic positions (which alone would be quite a revolution, as in the twenty years I’ve been looking around, I’ve never known a Hungarian public university fill a position through an open competitive selection process).

Paul Haynes
Guest
Eva – you’re a bit out of date with regard to HUngarian football. I’ve attended several Loki (Debrecen) games over the last few years and the football experience is not as you describe at all. The atmosphere is very much of a family event (much less macho than it is in the UK) and the crowd are friendly and well behaved – with plenty of ‘respectable’ people attending. True, there is an ‘ultra’ section behind one of the goals, with banners, organised chanting, flares, etc, but these fans are segregated from the other fans, and anyway pose absolutely no threat to anyone (they would be laughed at by the fans of most UK clubs). And the standard of football isn’t bad either. The size of the crowd and the size and state of the ground makes it feel like a lower division game in the UK, but the skill on show from some of the (regrettably) foreign imports is way above that level. This may not be true of all football clubs and supporters in Hungary, one or two of the Budapest clubs seem to have a well earned reputation, but I think my experiences in Debrecen are far more… Read more »
John T
Guest

Eva – I’d agree with Paul. If I’m in Szombathely during the football season, I try to catch a Haladás game and it is decent enough entertainment and cheap compared to a ticket at Fulham. And Haladás already operate a good academy, so the government could do no worse than follow their example. I did go to the Fradi v Millwall match a few years ago, which was an altogether different experience. Makes you realise that its easy to regress to primitive tribalism.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

GW: “Hungary does have one world-class research University, Central European University, whose faculty have an impressive record of international refereed publication.”
Aha, but it is not accredited as a full-fledged university because it doesn’t have an undergraduate division. Moreover, it is not a Hungarian university per se. It serves the whole Central European region. The language of instruction is English.

Alias3T
Guest

Hungarian football can be as good or as bad as it likes. The irritating thing about the stadium – Index has a good report on it – is the useless extravagance of building a Premiere League-sized stadium for a team that rarely gets more than 10,000 spectators. It’s adolescent. It makes you feel like you’re living in a particularly unimaginative teenager’s fantasy world.
“I’m PM now! I’m going to build a huuuuuuge stadium!!!”
Pathetic.

Alias3T
Guest

“What is it about spas?”
I think you answered that question with yesterday’s post about the Right’s maladaption to a Hungary that has changed – arguably as much between 1990 and now as between 1945 and 1990. They’re not thinking of paddling pools and wellness centres with gyms, they’ve got an image of the dzsentri turning up in trouser bathing suits, and possibly the odd effete intellectual with horn-rimmed glasses spending a month there to cure his tuberculosis before going home to write Der Zauberberg.
If your aesthetics are trapped in Püspökladány in 1924 then that’s the best you’ll come up with.

Paul Haynes
Guest

“Fradi v Millwall”
My blood runs cold!

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

GW: you name the CEU, financed by the notorious George Soros, as a world class university? Come on… It’s one of the lowest standards universities in Hungary, whereas no unis of Hungary are in the world elite unfortunately, based on global rankings.
The CEU is the only politically oriented university in Hungary and you manage to put it as “world class”. Why am I not surprised?
About Matolcsy: yes he talks too much, he exaggerates and this attitude is prone to causing problems. This is on the negative side of the balance. On the positive side, however, there is his work as a minister in the first Orbán government – and he did a splendid job.

Paul Haynes
Guest

My experience of Hungarian universities is limited to two summer schools at Debreceni Egyetem. But, if what I experienced at one lecture – on recent Hugarian history – was typical, I’m not impressed.
The ‘lecture’ was little more than Fidesz propaganda, particularly with reference to the Socialists’ conduct at the time of the change of regime. There was no attempt at balance, or even presenting opposing views, let alone discussing them. And this ‘lecture’ was presented by two professors of the university.
Mind you, it wasn’t as bad as my first summer school history lecture – on Trianon. The lecturer in this case was a rather elderly visiting professor who clearly hadn’t encountered any ‘new’ thinking on Hungarian partition since the 1950s.
Unfortunately there were some Romanian students in the audience and things got a little heated. By the time I had decided it was best to leave and was making my way to the door, a fight had actually broken out!

Alias3T
Guest

Well, the Debrecen Summer School is run by Fidesz local politicians, of course, not that it’s any the less fun for it…
Szilard, the CEU has problems, but its problems, such as they are, are the Hungarian problems of corruption, political influence and favouritism in its staffing. It shares all those problems with other Hungarian universities, except, by virtue of having a lot more money, it is less crippled by them. And you can’t argue with its library, which is the only proper university library in the country.
Soros is “notorious”? “Annoying” I’d give you, and “self-important” would do fine, but I’m not quite sure why he’s notorious. I wish he’d just let his pet university get on with its own thing, rather than turning up all the time to use it as a platform.

cba
Guest
Why do these plans always seem to be in multiples of TEN? ONE MILLION jobs in TEN years. The EU average standard of living by 2030. They just strike me as arbitrary figures, plucked out of the air, and certainly not the rigorously formulated ones that could even hope to support such bold predictions. Or are Fidesz just making this stuff up as they go along? Or perhaps using the same calculator with which Medgyessy worked out in 2002 that every civil servant deserved a FIFTY per cent pay rise, as part of his programme of (wait for it) ONE HUNDRED days. As for the Debrecen stadium project… bah, that is simply ridiculous. I now remember Orbán turning up on RTL about two minutes after Debrecen qualified for the CL to promise this if Fidesz won the election. And Szijjártó said yesterday that Debrecen needs a stadium capable of hosting Champions League matches… they have qualified for this competition once, ever! And how can this be justified in the current economic environment? Again, another Fidesz policy that has, plain and simple, just not been thought through. They clearly don’t even know their football! Eva, on the other hand, is showing… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest

@Pásztor Szilárd@ writes about
the “notorious George Soros”.
Probably P.Sz. is angry with George Soros, for the fact that Orbán received a law degree from the University of Budapest in 1987. The following year he gained a fellowship appointment at a central and eastern European research group sponsored by the Soros Foundation, a pro-democracy organization created by the financier George Soros.
source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1103850/Viktor-Orban

Passing Stranger
Guest

@Alias 3T
Ironically considering the last thread, the only other library that can compete with CEU in terms of mordern service offered is the Szabo Ervin library. The Szechenyi is nbetter for books, but using it is a bore.
Good to see Szilard is back. I was afraid he might be ill.

Gábor
Guest

Paul: “Debrecen could certainly do with a new stadium, but a ‘huge arena’ would be rather empty at most games.”
So, you haven’t heard the reasoning of the owner of the team. He argued there is empirical evidence that every time a new stadium is built the number of visitors to the games double. (No kidding, he told this nonsense. I wonder how he managed to get the money for the club with such extarordinary knowledge of the business?)

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

@Passing Stranger@
I hope Pásztor Szilárd will explain why he qualifies George Soros as notorious = disreputable, dishonorable, tarnished.

Gábor
Guest

Szilárd, it would be posturing to pretend being surprised by your evaluation of CEU after calling the lunatics of the “National Conservative Foundation for Historical Research” respectable historians. Probably you have very limited knowledge of the world outside your own profession (and I would guess it is not some social science as CEU is certainly the best in this fields as a university in Hungary. Well, as far as I know they don’t have engineering and many of the natural sciences on their offer, so you can discount it on this basis but it wouldn’t be too fair.
As far as your antipathy, maybe you missed the fact that for example the pruger of the rotten, post-communist structures of the state’s environmental administration and nature preservation system, Zoltán Illés was a professor of CEU for years. And the whip of the economic policies of the socialist-liberal governments, László Csaba professor is also a mercenary of Soros.(Ok, you are right, retrospectively, given Illés’ action it was certainly a political decision, he is a maniac, no sane university management would have employed him. 😀 )

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

cba: “Eva, on the other hand, is showing a previously unseen talent for football punditry”
How kind! Actually I don’t know a thing about the game, but one can’t help reading about this or that game which was lost although everybody in Hungary thought that they would win it. Lost against Slovenia, Romania, Sweden. And one could go on. If I recall they did win against Moldavia!

Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

@Gábor: so you think it is fair if you call those historians lunatics (simply because you disagree with their political views, and that immediately means at you that they can’t be good in their profession), but I can’t call Soros notorious. How nice.
Ironically, Alias3T pointed an important thing out: Soros finances the CEU to use it as a platform for his pursuits, which are primarily about protecting his own political and financial interests.
And, apparently, no dishonouring opinion on his pursuits is acceptable here. Soros must be some kind of a “holy cow” among you, about which I’m not surprised at all.
Speaking of standards, the Andrássy university (German language) is light years above the CEU. “Too bad” it’s not “yours” politically, eh?
As for Soros being notorious, I am maybe allowed to call him that after he speculated against OTP, earlier against the British Pound, and is banned from a number of countries (maybe Britain, France, Norway for example, if my memory serves well) for a reason.
But continue to worship him if you like.

Alias3T
Guest
@Szilard. How ironic that I should make an important point! The poignancy! Indeed, that is the biggest problem with Soros: he creates impressive institutions, with the potential to make an enormous contribution to the world – and then he won’t let them go. I regret that, because if he would endow it and let it go then you wouldn’t be able to dismiss Hungary’s best university on the basis that it’s “just Soros’s platform.” (Notice that I’ve just criticised Soros for the second time. Some holy cow). CEU has had at least some world-famous scholars and attracts students from every continent. Ut has Marxist scholars, liberal scholars, and scholars right wing enough to take jobs in a Fidesz government. Some of its teachers are from Turkey, some from the US, some from Korea, some from India, some from Kazakhstan. Andrassy has barely any well-known researchers and a couple of hundred Hungarian students, and maybe one or two Bavarians. It’s utterly provincial. Soros is probably not welcome in Saudi Arabia, but he’s welcome in Britain, France and Norway. As for the pound: it was overvalued. It was going to depreciate anyway. He made money out of the depreciation. If he’d been… Read more »
Gábor
Guest

Szilárd: No, I call those historians lunatics beacuse
a, I know one of them personally
b, because if they think everyone is marxist except themselves it is lunacy. (Maybe you missed it but one of the circle’s “flagship historians” accused even Balázs Ablonczy being a mercenary of leftists, what is a very convincing proof of lunacy, isn’t it? Or would you agree with this opinion? I think the discussion regarding the article on their website is telling in this sense: http://tortenelemportal.hu/2010/06/trianon-es-a-magyar-tudomany-ujragondolo-konferencia-szegeden/)
As for Soros using CEU for his self-elevation, I used to judge the universities on the basis of their production and output, according to the academic personnel they has etc. I cannot find any reason to reject reading Rogers Brubaker or Will KIymlicka just beacuse Soros makse appearances on a University they also attend as its professors. Moreover, I think you haven’t receieved the latest brochure from your intimates at high politics, as Orbán repeats everywhere Soros’ latest verdict on the end of the old economic world order. The last time Soros appeared at CEU he was doing something very similar. 😀

GW
Guest
Szilárd, I suppose that it was inevitable that you would try to turn any statement about the quality of scholarship at CEU around into the standard talking points against Soros. Soros did indeed come up with the money that made CEU possible, as a graduate-level research institution focusing on Central Europe and the devlopment of politically open, market-oriented economies, hence the focus on the social sciences, but he was an unusually open benefactor. (He also provided breakfasts to every Hungarian child for years, but I guess that makes their stomaches suspect as well…) There are a number of ways in which Soros could have narrowed the political and economic focus more to his own interests(for example, mandating a concentration in Austrian or Chicago-style economics or strictly forbidding the hiring of marxists or nationalists), but he certainly did not choose such a path, favoring instead a dynamic academic culture of serious research, lively debate, and a guarantee of academic freedom. That Soros appears, from time to time, as a guest speaker at CEU should not be a surprise, as, above and beyond any loyalty to an old benefactor, any University with a respectable business school would be sorely mistaken not to… Read more »
Pásztor Szilárd
Guest

According to the QS World University Rankings, the CEU is not even listed in the 500+ category – that is, not even on ranking standard at all – whereas ELTE and Szeged University are at about the 450th place.
(For the sake of correctness, I must add that I don’t necessarily agree with this ranking as I see universities ranked above for example the Technical University of Budapest that provide, according to my experiences, significantly lower quality education.)

Alias3T
Guest

Pure postgraduate universities are unranked.

John T
Guest

“Speaking of standards, the Andrássy university (German language) is light years above the CEU. “Too bad” it’s not “yours” politically, eh?” Szilard – There should be no political interference in education, (whether schools or universities) apart from ensuring that there is a full curriculum and that the establishment meet high academic standards. And people have to be given access to differing viewpoints to make informed judgements. I loved history at school, but it is clear that much of what we know is written by the “victors” (no pun intended, but kind of humourous reading it back), and differs markedly from the reality. I have in mind the Roman portrayal of their enemies as barbarians, when in fact these groups were highly organised and quite sophisticated.

Paul Haynes
Guest

GW: “Hungary does have one world-class research University, Central European University, whose faculty have an impressive record of international refereed publication.”
Aha, but it is not accredited as a full-fledged university because it doesn’t have an undergraduate division. Moreover, it is not a Hungarian university per se. It serves the whole Central European region. The language of instruction is English.
Posted by: Eva S. Balogh | September 22, 2010 at 05:50 PM
Read before you post, eh, Szil?

Paul Haynes
Guest

“Eva, on the other hand, is showing a previously unseen talent for football punditry. I was at the three CL games at the Puskás Ferenc stadium last year, and if that team are Hungary’s top club side then I wouldn’t put any money on the national eleven making an EC or WC any time soon. (Sorry Paul!)”
Sorry too, cba, but (as I posted earlier) the reason the Hungarian national side is improving so much of late is that most of their players now play outside Hungary. So you wouldn’t have seen too many of them at a CL game.
As I also wrote, I fully expect Hungary to qualify for the World or European cup (or both) in the very near future.
Or at least I did, before the Orbán bewitched the country. But, I still have some hopes, as OV’s one redeeming quality is his love of football, so maybe that will one bit of Hungary that WILL succeed.

GW
Guest

Pásztor Szilárd – The QS Rankings do not include graduate-only research institutions like CEU. The Rockefeller University, by any measure a prestigious institution, is also not included in the QS rankings.

Mark
Guest

Gábor:” I think you haven’t receieved the latest brochure from your intimates at high politics, as Orbán repeats everywhere Soros’ latest verdict on the end of the old economic world order.”
I wouldn’t read too much into this. There is a FIDESZ member of parliament for Pest county somewhere who quoted approvingly my own criticisms of Bajnai’s economic policies in his election literature. And it wasn’t the first time my view have been quoted approvingly by FIDESZ politicians when it suits them. But then, you see I’m a filthy, rotten Communist, as well, as far they’re concerned!

Gábor
Guest

Mark: you were plagiarized or at least there was a proper reference?

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