On October 18 József Dancsó, a Fidesz member of the parliamentary committee on the budget, seemingly out of the blue suggested that another point be added to the already set agenda. The committee was supposed to discuss next year’s budget. Instead Dancsó demanded that András Simor, governor of the Hungarian National Bank, should produce proof that he in fact sold his company, which had been registered in Cyprus. Also, Simor should show proof that he repatriated the 900 million forints that, according to Dancsó, the company was worth and that he paid taxes on this amount. The committee vote on the proposal was 19 yeas and 7 nays. All opposition members, including Jobbik, voted against the proposal.
The opposition claimed that the Fidesz and Christian Democratic members of the committee dragged the topic of Simor’s business affairs into the work of the committee in order to divert attention from the 2012 budget that has tremendous problems. For starters, that the numbers don’t add up. Péter Szijjártó, the deputy chairman of the committee, was perhaps the loudest in his demand that Simor show the documents to the committee. In turn, Simor claimed that because of his position he has immunity rights and therefore the committee is not entitled to demand information on his financial affairs. In any case, he said, he had already given details of his financial situation in 2009 and 2010 when he made all available information public.
Almost a month went by when the same committee brought up Simor’s case again. Péter Szijjártó insisted on November 7 that Simor should produce the proof within two days or else. He accused Simor of “threatening the Speaker of the House.” Originally, he was supposed to produce the documents by October 30 and nothing happened. Never mind that the press department of the Hungarian National Bank made the documents available on the premises and informed the committee that Simor had sent the documents to László Kövér. But Simor still insisted that the committee had no right to investigate his financial affairs.
The inimitable Péter Szijjártó
Szijjártó was furious and wrote a letter to the committee on immunity urging them to investigate Simor’s right to parliamentary immunity. László Kövér provided this second parliamentary committee with the documents Simor had sent him. The committee members began to read the documents but, according to the chairman of the committee, György Rubovszky, a lawyer, “they couldn’t figure them out although there were five of them trying to find their way among the documents.” So, Simor must appear before the committee on December 20th and explain the details.
György Rubovszky didn’t understand the financial statement
By now, it is becoming evident that way back in October the main goal of the Fidesz-Christian Democratic MPs was not to divert attention from the state of the budget but to prepare the ground for negotiations with the Hungarian Central Bank’s governor concerning the use of “money lying around there,” as Viktor Orbán put it last Friday.
I’m coming to the conclusion that Matolcsy’s growth plan has been in the making from at least the middle of October. Yes, it is basically a useless document, but it still takes time to put together 177 pages of text and several graphs, even if they are about “intercontinental turntables” and “red bananas.” And surely it must have been obvious to Viktor Orbán and György Matolcsy that for a stimulus package money must be found and that the money could come only from the central bank. The problem, however, is that it is unlikely that András Simor would gamble on Matolcsy’s terribly vague and unrealistic plan.
András Simor who still hanging in there
Therefore, Fidesz forces began to harrass him and “wage total war,” as Népszava called the attack on Simor, in order to make the national bank a willing partner in the Matolcsy-Orbán duo’s cockeyed plan. However, as long as Simor is at the head of the bank it is very unlikely that they will succeed.
Right after he won the elections Viktor Orbán made it clear that “Simor must go.” But Simor turned out to be a hard nut to crack. Even taking away about 75% of his very high salary, a salary approved by the way by the Fidesz government when their man, Zsigmond Járai, became the governor, didn’t do the trick. He refused to budge. Orbán desperately wants to get rid of him, but Simor stubbornly refuses to step down. The next best thing is to try to blackmail him or at least make him look like a crook.
Interestingly enough, simultaneously with this attack on Simor, Matolcsy has been in constant touch with him about making the forint assets of the Hungarian National Bank available to Hungarian banks. There is no word on whether Matolcsy is making any headway with Simor. If Matolcsy’s search for extra funds is in any way tied up with his crazy growth plan and is not simply a request for a backstop for the country’s banks, I doubt that he will get very far. Moreover, I doubt that any such decision would meet with the approval of the IMF and the EU. Although I’m sure that Orbán would like to have this deal between the government and the central bank a fait-à-complis before negotiations begin.
András Simor and Ferenc Karvalits, one of his deputies, will be part of the negotiating team and I can’t see them as advocates for the Hungarian demand for a “precautionary credit line,” which still seems to be the government’s goal. That is, in my opinion, a non-starter. The IMF wouldn’t approve the kind of stimulus package that is outlined–or rather isn’t outlined–in Matolcsy’s growth plan. Especially if they have the opportunity to read it, though I’m sure that Matolcsy’s ministry is not in any hurry to translate it.
So, this is where things stand now. Meanwhile, the Hungarian government doesn’t seem to be eager to start negotiations with the IMF. I wonder why.