Two “exciting” days in Hungarian politics

Well, that’s not exactly the best way of describing it. Perhaps it would be better to say that they were days full of surprises. Already yesterday some eagle-eyed politicians noticed that in an omnibus bill the government managed to squeeze in an increase in social security contributions. Until now, the employee had to pay 9.5% of his salary. In the bill it is 10%. Of course, Fidesz didn’t say a word about the increase, and I’ll bet government policy makers would have been mighty happy if no one had noticed it. But they did. Some explanation had to be given and Péter Szijjártó, Viktor Orbán’s personal spokesman, explained that this increase was necessary in order for Fidesz to fulfill a campaign promise. “The ladies” will be able to retire, regardless of age, after forty years of “work.”

Well, let me start with the “ladies.” Only God knows why in Hungarian one cannot simply say “women.” But one can’t. Then comes the campaign promise. I don’t remember any campaign promise concerning the ladies’ special status. To the best of my knowledge Fidesz’s “expert” on pensioners, a professor of gerontology and as far as I’m concerned an old fool, came up with the idea after the elections. According to him the “ladies” have to retire early in order to attend to the needs of their grandchildren! Outrageous.

Now, every normal person would object to this provision on several grounds. First, it breaks the rule of equal treatment of men and women. Second, from a more practical point of view: men die earlier, so why would we give preference to women in this respect? Third, when everywhere in the world the retirement age is going up because otherwise the whole system will collapse in no time, Hungary is swimming against the tide. (But what’s new about that lately?)

So, now Szijjártó tried to explain that the half a percentage point increase in social security contributions is necessary for the sole purpose of fulfilling this campaign promise. But there is something wrong with the math here. Apparently, this extra half a percentage point amounts to an increase of 40-50 billion forints of revenue per annum while the estimate is that no more than about 10,000 “ladies” would be eligible for early retirement.

In any case, thanks to this increase in social security contributions the “drastic” taxcut for most people will be only 0.5 percent. Just wait until 90% of the employed people get their first checks in January. Great will be their surprise because I suspect that most of them don’t quite realize that the substantial tax cuts mentioned so often are only for the top 10% of the actively employed or well-heeled entrepreneurs.

But that wasn’t all. This morning it became known that the extra taxes on banks and on selected businesses (mostly foreign-owned) will not end in 2013 as promised. That was discovered by György Kopits, head of a new body in charge of keeping an eye on the budget. Kopits until recently was in the Fidesz camp, but he is a good enough scholar that he finds György Matolcsy’s voodoo economics too much to tolerate. He has expressed his misgivings a lot recently. So, anyway, Kopits found in an addendum in very small print the provision that the drastic extra taxes on banks and businesses will continue even in 2014. Of course, in 2014 there will be elections again. I assume I don’t have to spell out the significance of four years of extra taxes that would allow the Fidesz government to boost its revenue, honor the deficit provisions, and spend and spend so the electorate will happily reelect them.

Well, the markets really didn’t like that piece of news. The Budapest Stock Exchange fell 4.71%. The forint began to slide by noon and kept sliding. I really wonder how long the government can keep up this game. I have the feeling not for long.

That wasn’t all. The government steamroller failed today. Or rather, almost failed. János Lázár, leader of the Fidesz delegation, sponsored another bill concerning the status of the constitutional court that was supposed to be more generous than the earlier proposal but would still greatly restrict the competence of the court. And it almost didn’t pass. An unheard-of event in the history of the frantic parliamentary history of the Orbán government! The bill needed a two-thirds majority and it was one vote short! Take a look at those faces: Viktor Orbán, Tibor Navracsics, and Róbert Répássy.

 

But never fear. Everything can be fixed in the Fidesz world. Although the voting machines had a successful test run just before the vote, once the bill fell short four Fidesz members of parliament announced that their electronic voting machines had failed and that had caused the problem. This explanation was accepted by the presiding speaker of the house. The MSZP people first claimed that one of the four, the inimitable Tamás Meggyes of Esztergom, wasn’t even in the chamber during the vote but at the end they gave up and accepted the verdict.

And finally, László Sólyom spoke for a second time. A week ago or so, Ferenc Gyurcány in his blog complained about Sólyom’s silence while the government is trampling on the constitutional edifice of the country. He reminded Sólyom that he had been such a zealous guardian of the constitution when Gyurcsány was prime minister where the sanctity of the constitution was in no way injured. Why is he silent now?

Well, I don’t think that Sólyom decided to express his objections because of Gyurcsány’s urging but he did. And rather forcefully. One cannot really be surprised. After all, the present constitution was pretty much his handiwork. A couple of days ago he announced that it is unlikely that the government can come up with a better constitution than the one Hungary currently has. Today, he was even more explicit. He announced that the road the government chose will be “a slippery slope on which it will be practically impossible to stop.” This road will lead to the death of the constitutional court. Because of the new regulations the constitutional court will have to follow unconstitutional  laws.

He said that in the absence of a really effective constitutional court the president’s political veto will be the only possible way to reintroduce some semblance of checks and balances in the system. I might not like László Sólyom very much, but I don’t think that he is so naive that he is actually hoping that Pál Schmitt will be able to fulfill that role. Or even wants to. Sólyom announced that “from this afternoon on [when the bill passed in parliament] our only hope is the future constitution.”

However, I’m almost sure that Sólyom has no great hopes concerning that future constitution. It is enough to read some of the suggestions, including those of Pál Schmitt, to know that that constitution will not be worth the paper it’s written on.

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Paul
Guest
An interesting article, Éva, and the first time for ages that I’ve felt a little bit positive about the situation in Hungary. People are starting to realise that this bunch of buffons don’t know what they’re doing. And, hopefully, when people start to find less money in their pay packets, rather than the increase they thought they’d been promised, some real opposition will start to develop. And it only needs a few Fidesz MPs to defect or abstain, and Orbán starts to need Jobbik votes to secure his 2/3rds. And anyone who thinks this isn’t going to happen once the rumbles of discontent start, doesn’t know their political history. We had an interesting day here as well, with the first real demo against the government cuts (students protesting against the cuts in university funding and the consequent increase in their tuition fees). There was even a bit of violence. So far most people haven’t been hit by the cuts and are accepting the ‘cuts are necessary, we must reduce the defecit’ propaganda. But in the next 6-12 months almost everyone is going to start hurting, and then we’ll start to see some real activity on the street. The Tories are… Read more »
Kevin Moore
Guest

The one-vote-short situation was actually no more than a small slip of chairman Zoltán Balczó, who is not an experienced session leader yet. It is not an uncommon situation that some voting machines fail, and chairmen habitually check any objections (read: raised hands) among the MPs before announcing the results.
This time he didn’t look up from his monitors before announcing the result so he couldn’t notice the 3 Fidesz MPs’ hands in the air. That’s it.
By the way, Tamás Meggyes was in the chamber during the vote, as opposed to what the socialists claim. This has been proven by checking the video recording of the session, as well as the Fidesz MPs who were signalling on time that their machines were failing.
No big deal, really, and you shouldn’t sweat to make this issue one of those that belong to the “Fidesz world”.
And yes, retirement of women after 40 years work when men are denied of it is idiotism.
(They say “women” (nők), not “ladies” (hölgyek), I don’t know where you are taking it from, every news source I found reported “nők”.)

Kevin Moore
Guest

Oh, and I think it’s rather you who are an old fool, not psychiatrist and gerontologist Professor Emeritus László Iván, whom you were referring to.
I added this just to maintain your writing standard.

An
Guest

“According to him the “ladies” have to retire early in order to attend to the needs of their grandchildren! ”
Well, I guess if Orban wants people to have 1 million more children without expanding daycare facilities, he’ll need those grandmothers. There is logic in here, can’t you see? 🙂

Paul
Guest

“Oh, and I think it’s rather you who are an old fool, not psychiatrist and gerontologist Professor Emeritus László Iván, whom you were referring to.
I added this just to maintain your writing standard.”
So much anger.
Are you so afraid of an elderly lady and her blog? Of a few old lefties chatting to each other?
Is your faith in Fidesz and Orbán so fragile, and do you feel yourself so under attack, that you have to be rude and abusive to everyone? Even people who have never done you any harm, never called you names, whose only ‘crime’ is to disagree with you?
You should feel thoroughly ashamed of yourself. But I suspect that level of self awareness is beyond you.
If you have any decency at all, you will make your last post on this blog an apology to Éva.

latefor
Guest

I do not see anything wrong with women calling it quits after 40 years of employment.
I would also like to see the re-introduction of hand kisses.
Women need to enjoy higher social status than what was dished out to them since the powerful feminists forced them into impossible hardships over the last 30 years.

whoever
Guest

Looking at the posts of latefor and Kevin Moore on this blog, one is left in no doubt as to the 19th century mentality of the Right-wing in Hungary, and one wonders if this will lead to a repeat of the nastiest parts of the 20th.

latefor
Guest

whoever- I do not believe that the re-introduction of hand kissing would bring out the worst in man.
I believe in L O V E, “Everybody knows”…..who knows me!

Odin's lost eye
Guest

Oh Me, Oh My, Again Fidesz will again run slap bang into Article 21 Non-discrimination
1. Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.
2. Within the scope of application of the Treaties and without prejudice to any of their specific provisions, any discrimination on grounds of nationality shall be prohibited.
If women can (or must) retire after 40 years work so must men!
I wonder how much this little lot will cost them?

latefor
Guest

Odin’s lost eye- I agree, man also should retire after 40 years.
WORK, REST and PLAY!

whoever
Guest

latefor – what if a ‘laydee’ is doing manual work, with manure, or coal, or wearing radioactive protective clothing? Is it still kiss-yer-hand time? Or does ‘kiss-yer-hand’ only apply to office girls and the landed gentry? And anyway, don’t acquainted women & men still greet each other with kisses? Why are you trying to tell people how to behave? Do you have psychological issues?

latefor
Guest

Whoever- I was only trying to be funny. Do I have psychological issues?….hm..don’t we all????
(Psychologists are making a very good living these days but I am one of those people who does not allow anyone to mess with my mind.)
I make my own decisions and do not really get intimidated by arrogant bloggers.
I am capable of a good argument without personally attacking my opponents. Hallelujah!

Kevin Moore
Guest

whoever: could you please elaborate how any of my posts lead to Nazism?
It seems that madness doesn’t know limits.

whoever
Guest

You just talk a lot of old clichéd nonsense anyway, latefor. So I can’t tell when you’re joking or not!
As for Kevin Moore, well if people are trying to switch the clock back to 19th century norms, then it might have unexpected results… such as national bankruptcy, hyper-inflation for a start. But to be fair, if Hungary is on that path anyway, your blog postings won’t do a lot other than reflecting the malaise.

Kevin Moore
Guest

whoever: in what aspect is “time” or “age” related to the validity of economic relations?
It is again the empty leftist phrase about being “modern”, something you could never define, and you user “modernity” in aspects totally unviable for describing reality.

whoever
Guest

In what aspect is “time” or “age” related to the validity of economic relations? Discuss.
Hint 1: industrialisation. The factory system.
Hint 2: computerisation and globalised networks
Hint 3: transportation and logistics

Kevin Moore
Guest

Yeh, and which one is at risk of getting destroyed because of the government ‘turning back the clock’?
Jesus.

whoever
Guest
Suffice to say that much of Hungary is lacking aspects of the social and physical infrastructure that we would consider a part of a developed economy. It doesn’t have the factories, without dangling large subsidies to foreign companies, it doesn’t have the trust on which a modern e-commerce system can be built, and the trains travel at a top speed of around 100km an hour. Worse than this, the social psychology is insular and chauvinistic, people are constantly aiming for a ‘quick hit’ and the investment in the regions just isn’t there. What is there, is a kind of ongoing exploitation of human and physical resources, and a lax approach to the most basic of measures, the most blatant example being the Ajka mud spill, which governments of all shades turn a blind eye to. And yes, there is money in Hungary – a lot of money in Budapest – but the people with the money, Fidesz backers or not – honestly don’t give a damn about the less fortunate Hungarians. Homelessness is therefore seen as a law and order problem, not a social problem. Have a think about these problems, and then decide – is the current government addressing… Read more »
Kevin Moore
Guest

What do you mean by saying the government turned a blind eye to the mud spill? Were you within reach of news during the last month?
What you write in declarative sentences simply doesn’t stand its ground.
Homelessness is primarily seen as a social issue, at the end of which there is the law. Homeless people will be offered the possibility to retreat from the streets, and those who refuse will be removed by the law. Were you within reach of news lately? What you write here again doesn’t stand its ground.
The government is doing everything in its power, even some beyond that, to avoid introducing austerity measures. So far they succeeded. How exactly would you address the social crisis?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kevin: “Homeless people will be offered the possibility to retreat from the streets”
Just a simple question: where are they going to retreat?

whoever
Guest
The Fidesz government won in April. Technically, the authorities responsible for inspecting such facilities as MAL transferred to their leadership soon afterwards. It happened on their watch. Would it have been different, if a different party had won the election? No. What does this mean? That Hungary is fundamentally ungovernable. And this is a shared responsibility. Define ‘success’. Is it making the wealthy wealthier by cutting taxes for the richest? In what way is this success? Where is the social investment enabling the homeless to ‘retreat’ from the streets? If you can show me the evidence of the new public housing for the homeless, the new mental health institutes, the new rehabilitation centres, I want to see it. As regards to what can be done, I agreed with Mark 95% of the time. Kevin – at least you and I would perhaps agree that there is a social crisis, unlike many others on this blog. It will be painful whatever happens, as the social and financial realities are very harsh. I think Hungary will need to undertake a devaluation of its currency, combined with an active programme of investment aimed at the most disadvantaged, combined with serious investment and a… Read more »
GW
Guest
Whoever wrote: “I think Hungary will need to undertake a devaluation of its currency, combined with an active programme of investment aimed at the most disadvantaged, combined with serious investment and a change in approach to education.” Well, the Fidesz government is giving the Forint a devaluation in fits and starts which will, in principle, help exports. But beyond the agricultural sector, the only meaningful export sector is manufactured goods from international firms, whose interests in local reinvestment have just been radically curtailed. And for the average Hungarian, the increase in the costs of products on the world market, for example oil and gas, will be painful. Serious investment? That requires capital, and the potential private sources have been told that they will be taxed to the gills on their profits. If the scheme is direct government investment funded by those taxes, then someone has to show us some specifics about where and how much and for how long the government plans to invest, plus make a plausible case that a government-organized scheme will be more effective in creating competitive exports, well-paid jobs, and increasing tax revenues in the long run. Such a case has not been made and if… Read more »
Kevin Moore
Guest

“Just a simple question: where are they going to retreat?”
Read and learn: http://www.hirextra.hu/2010/09/16/tarlos-a-hajlektalanok-kerdeset-embersegesen-kell-megoldani/
I have no illusion of you managing to understand anything that is written there though.

Kevin Moore
Guest
whoever: I mainly agree with you about the current state of Hungary. But let’s not forget that: 1. the past 8 years’ governments did an excellent job on worsening matters as much as possible; 2. there is noone else than Fidesz in sight who has a chance of improving the situation. How on Earth can you call ‘wealthy’ the beneficiaries of the tax cuts? Those (we) are an extreme minority called the ‘working class’ who have been suppressed all the time. Do you know what burdens the budget? That in Hungary there are 800.000 on disability pension, most of whom are crooks (mainly Gypsies living off state aid, but that’s another topic), and there are an estimated 1.5 million people in the shadow economy. This is what must be changed, not more austerity measures on those whom you can control. We’re rightfully fed up with having been burdened because we are not hiding from taxes. This is an entirely different view on economy that focuses on increasing the income side instead of cutting expenses and braking money transfer in the economy, as the clueless ‘there is no alternative’ left-liberals did and failed miserably. Give the new government some time! OVi… Read more »
whoever
Guest
It’s a mess, and I broadly agree with GW, but with serious reservations. The taxes are not a bad idea in themselves. I don’t think that many of the firms taxed – either banks or hypermarkets – have much to offer in terms of profitable exports or, for that matter, in capital which is seriously available to Hungarian businesses. The upshot is that a clear alternative to the course pursued in the last 8 years is lacking. However, where we may disagree, is that the orthodoxy which Fidesz has rejected – the path that Ireland is following so closely – appears also to be the road to disaster, social division and a reduction in the long-run potential for growth. It’s a bit of a joke to talk of well-paid jobs in much of Hungary, as they simply don’t really exist, and have never done. I can say this again, and again, but whatever the reasons, the plain evidence is there: Hungary has become largely ungovernable. Orbán’s trying to pull the levers one way or another, and no-one really knows how the beast will respond. By the way, I would call mass local government redundancies austerity measures, especially as it hits… Read more »
whoever
Guest

Actually, most of the people I know dodging their taxes are middle-class Fidesz supporters. This tends not to be an option for the nurses (who rely on gratitude) and the teachers, who mainly stand to lose from the tax changes.
Perhaps we should mention society’s priorities. In today’s Hungary, a senior manager in a multinational or the head of a quango, or someone in a non-job, can easily receive up to ten times more salary than a nurse who can save the lives of children, for example. This is old-fashioned thinking, perhaps, for it is not the language of ‘wealth creation’ – I prefer to think of it as the language of human life. It’s only the constant dodging of taxes – in some cases, a kind of passive resistance – which prevents these massive differentials being exposed by the statistics.
I support reform in education, but what kind of reform? Too often, this was simply equated with private investment, private capital and moves to make people pay twice.

GDF
Guest

Kevin Moore:
‘”Just a simple question: where are they going to retreat?”
Read and learn: http://www.hirextra.hu/2010/09/16/tarlos-a-hajlektalanok-kerdeset-embersegesen-kell-megoldani/
I have no illusion of you managing to understand anything that is written there though.’
I find it to be quite clear. The mayor of Budapest will do everything he is advised to do by the Order of Malta. Back to the future, this whole thing reminds me the newsreels of Hungary between the two world wars. Everything moved around this or that Catholic organization. Horthy or Gombos or both and all the other members of the ruling group marched on all Catholic marching events and the inhabitants of the Catholic orphanages or the users of the Catholic soup kitchens happily said their prayers for their care/food.
What Tarlos is not speaking about is what exactly the local government is going to do for the homeless.
But there is reason for optimism: since he spent some of his life in an apartment building, he knows exactly what to do…

Kevin Moore
Guest

whoever: “I support reform in education, but what kind of reform? Too often, this was simply equated with private investment, private capital and moves to make people pay twice.”
You perfectly described the “reforms” that started to happen in the past 8 years. Now we’re witnessing a full reversal of these harmful effects.
GDF: “The mayor of Budapest will do everything he is advised to do by the Order of Malta. Back to the future, this whole thing reminds me the newsreels of Hungary between the two world wars.”
You are producing serious symptoms. How pathological must one be to depict Hungary’s leading charity organization as a Nazi remnant?
One thing shines through your ignorance: your hatred towards the Church. Accept it or not, charities have always been linked closely to the Church and since Hungary is basically Catholic, this is the way it is.
It’s ridiculous what nonsense you come up with if you can’t have any meaningful argument against Tarlós.

GDF
Guest

Kevin Moore:
‘GDF: “The mayor of Budapest will do everything he is advised to do by the Order of Malta. Back to the future, this whole thing reminds me the newsreels of Hungary between the two world wars.”
You are producing serious symptoms. How pathological must one be to depict Hungary’s leading charity organization as a Nazi remnant?
One thing shines through your ignorance: your hatred towards the Church. Accept it or not, charities have always been linked closely to the Church and since Hungary is basically Catholic, this is the way it is.
It’s ridiculous what nonsense you come up with if you can’t have any meaningful argument against Tarlós.’
This is not a topic about charities. It is about how a city should handle its homeless. Tarlos’ reaction: leave it to the Church. This has nothing to do with my love or hate of any church or with Nazi remnants. Instead of putting words in my mouth, argue with what I wrote.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kevin, I’m warning you. Stop accusing everybody of ignorance, patholotical symptoms, lying and hatred. GDF simply pointed out that Tarlós is leaving everything to the churches instead of the city doing something about the problem.

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