Corruption in Hungary is on the rise

A few days ago Ernst & Young made public its latest survey on corruption in Europe and came up with the startling result that Hungary is the most corrupt country within the European Union. It can be compared only to Russia. Transparency International last October released its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2010, and it turned out that Hungary instead of improving its standing on the corruption scale is actually sliding backward. The drop is substantial: 4.7 points. With this change for the first time since surveys have been conducted Poland and Latvia are doing better than Hungary.

Of course, it is possible that Gyula Budai's steadfast witch hunt against political opponents may have helped to give the impression that Hungary is a corruption-ridden country, and in that respect the Fidesz government's zealous search for corrupt officials may have backfired. Fidesz, which portrayed itself as the guardian of honesty and the greatest enemy of corruption, ended up in the inglorious situation that in the first year of the new government corruption grew in Hungary.

In today's Galamus there is a very interesting article by Ferenc Krémer about the causes of corruption. He reminds his readers that in the last few years the socialist-liberal governments set up all sorts of committees that were supposed to battle corruption but there were no tangible results of their activities. Thus, Fidesz came to the conclusion that the government shouldn't bother with committees but "following the Bolshevik tradition" should attack the problem by "launching a total war" against corruption. They tightened the criminal code, they use entrapment methods to uncover corruption in the police force. They believe that fear will put an end to corruption among individuals.

But, Krémer continues, Fidesz politicians are dead wrong. Corruption is not necessarily the result of human failing. The most dangerous form of corruption crops up as a result of rigid, overly regulated relations between public and private institutions. In simple language, the more difficult it is to conduct business because of a burdensome, complicated, over-regulated bureaucracy the more likely is widepsread corruption. Centralization within the public sector further feeds corruption. When a decision depends on very few people the tendency toward corrupt business practices grow. Thus, the Orbán government that swore to stamp out corruption will most likely fail in this endeavor. In fact, it is possible that corruption will grow because of Fidesz's belief in centralization. As Krémer puts it: "Fidesz wants to fight corruption with the institutionalization of corruption."

Centralization is certainly one of the chief aims of the new administration. Everywhere one looks the central government's power is expanded. There was a telling interview with one of the new undersecretaries who is in charge of local governments. As far as one can see, the independence of the local governments is in jeopardy and there is the likelihood of the nationalization of schools currently under the jurisdiction of the cities and towns. The reporter expressed her doubt that by nationalizing schools one can save money. Our undersecretary couldn't convince either the reporter or me that indeed running schools from Budapest would be a money saver, but his answer which was beside the point was telling. He used to be the mayor of a smaller city and then he had to deal with six or seven school principals. One wanted this, the other that, the third something else. It was a cumbersome and irritating affair. But once there will be only one person in charge, everything will go smoothly. Brave new world or back to the Kádár regime.

Thus it will be impossible to handle business locally and most likely for every little thing one will have to go to Budapest and all the way to the minister. A friend of mine whose family was originally from Transylvania was telling me about the infamous corruption in interwar Romania. Her older sister and her family remained in Romania; the rest of the family in Budapest visited them during the summer. The Romanian authorities gave a visa only for a short period of time and if one wanted to renew the visa one had to go all the way to the minister of the interior in Bucharest. And pay him for the privilege.

The Hungarian situation soon might be even worse than that. The trade unions of the firemen, policemen, and army have been negotiating with the minister of interior for at least two weeks. Until it became clear to the trade union leaders that the minister has no decisionmaking power. Eventually, they demanded to speak with the only man who can decide: Viktor Orbán.

A couple of days ago a man tried to hang himself in front of the parliament building. They cut him down and he is fine. He has been battling in court for something or other for over a decade. At the end he had enough. Things are not bad enough yet that he could pay off the judges. But let's just wait.



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Can anybody explain to me briefly, how corruption is measured? What is the exact definition of corruption?
I would really like to know because the term “corruption is rising” is rather vague to me (not that I don’t believe the intuitive meaning)


Janio, direct from the Transparency International’s website:
Transparency International(TI) defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. This definition encompasses corrupt practices in both the public and private sectors. The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks countries according to the perception of corruption in the public sector. The CPI is an aggregate indicator that combines different sources of information about corruption, making it possible to compare countries.
The 2010 CPI draws on different assessments and business opinion surveys carried out by independent and reputable institutions. It captures information about the administrative and political aspects of corruption. Broadly speaking, the surveys and assessments used to compile the index include questions relating to bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds, and questions that probe the strength and effectiveness of public sector anti-corruption efforts.

Odin's lost eye

The Supreme and Beloved Leader (Orban Victor) could quite easily put an end to all corruption in Hungary.
How? You ask.
Simple he legalises all demands for ‘dropsy’ (bribes, kickbacks, embezzelment etc) by calling them ‘Consultancy Fees’.
Hungary is now corruption free!


Jano, I would have said (certainly no official definition of corruption) it is when the rules governing some decision-making are not or cannot be enforced so that informal processes dominate, which makes corruption easy (but in some cases also necessary because the “official” way of coordination and decision making cannot be enforced. And this “cannot” means that the society is not strong enough to enforce it through the controls not general moral inferiority of all people in that society as typically understood, and “corruption” is then the alternative – and functioning – coordination mechanism. Very technical but perhaps comprehensible.). But there is an academic literature about it, which even knows of different types of corruption (Asian style, Southern European style and so on). I read some texts on it once but seem to have forgotten it all. If I find some suitable reference I add it here.

John T

Interesting to see on that the Economics ministry is cutting 10% of its current staff, but then replacing them with new ones in a “quality exchange”. Anyone recruited since the last election is OK though. Wonder if the new recruits will be posted through open and fair competition or through political affiliation.
There should be a simple principle here – the ability to do the job. If you are a poor performer, then fine, you’ll get the sack. But if they are sacked solely because their (political) faces don’t fit, then it beggars belief – no actually it doesn’t in the current mess that is modern day Hungary. I have to say, it makes me feel lucky I have British as well as Hungarian heritage. For all the problems we have in Britain(and we have a fair few), we don’t sink to this level of pettiness and discrimination.

John T

Also on, I’m interested in todays story about the EU telling Hungary not to tell the truth about its economy, as it might add to the sovereign default problems in the block. As Greece is currently in dire straits and due to hold talks with the EU later this week, the timing of this announcement is hardly helpful. It seems to me Matolcsy is saying the EU told Hungary to cover up (or lie) about its economic situation, whereas the government had wanted to come clean on it all along. Wonder how this one will run?


John T: “the Economics ministry is cutting 10% of its current staff, but then replacing them with new ones in a “quality exchange”
Maybe the Chinese exchange program will replace them. (Sorry, I know it is not funny for those who are loosing their jobs, but I just could not resist. )
So, it is an interesting turn: “When Hungary’s Prime Minister asked EU leaders to let Hungary come clean about the truth, their response was that “we cannot admit that”, because there are some member states whose open financial meltdown pose serious risks and the bloc’s budget should not be burdened by the problems of yet another country, Matolcsy said.
This was when the government switched to an economic policy communication by which they started to reveal the actual situation gradually.
He said it is the duty of any PM in Hungary to admit the truth, adding that it was the right decision by Viktor Orbán to go up to EU leaders and try this. ”
So Orban and Matolcsy are admitting that they have lied to the Hungarian people. Matolcsy really is saying ““We lied morning, noon, and night” So, who has to go now?


John T, any such situation as now with Greece can have a number of outcomes, so “the truth” and what follows of this “truth” is a matter of what is being done or not by the many involved parties. Communication can make a difference. But why Hungary should add to the Greek problem as it is not a country using the euro, I have not yet figured out. For me the words of Matolcsy are story-telling for the public in Hungary. It’s hard to believe that this can be done over and over.