When on April 9, 2009 I wrote a post entitled “Raising chickens in times of trouble” we on Hungarian Spectrum were laughing our heads off. It was about a bizarre conversation between Gábor Náray-Szabó, a professor of chemistry and member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and József Orosz, a journalist who had a program on politics at Klubrádió in those days. If you want to have a good laugh, read the summary of that conversation. It is worth it.
At the time I thought that the professor of chemistry was simply ignorant of economic realities when he suggested getting rid of foreign investors or at least forbidding them from taking their profits out of the country. I also thought that it was some kind of aberration on the part of the good old professor that he recommended solving the problem of poverty in Hungarian villages by having folks raise chickens and grow some vegetables. However, I now think that these ideas must have been floating around in Fidesz circles for a long time as a solution to the economic woes of the Hungarian countryside.
A few months ago the Ministry of Agriculture, nowadays known as Vidékfejlesztési Minisztérium (Development of the Countryside), announced a new program called “Egy porta, egy koca” or “One sow, one household.” If the program takes hold between 600,000 and 800,000 pigs could be added to the current numbers. Did anybody think that a pig needs housing (a pigsty), food, and reasonably informed nurturing? Moreover, one needs an expert butcher. The method illustrated below might not be the ideal way to kill a pig.
One cannot just give a piglet to some poor village folks and rest assured that they will be able to raise that piglet to maturity.
Then there is an “adviser” to Viktor Orbán who hands out chicks and seeds to poor families in the hope of better nutrition for children and adults alike. Nice idea, but those chicks are delicate little creatures. The mortality rate among them is high, especially when the new owners don’t have any idea about how to raise them.
Case in point: my own family’s sad experience. In the spring of 1944, the very same day that the Germans occupied Hungary, my mother and her sister took me and my younger cousin to the family’s fairly new vacation home in the Mecsek mountains. There was a large garden and vineyard. Given the uncertainties of the food supply my mother and aunt–both city folk with no book “for dummies” to guide them–decided to raise chickens. The result? My cousin and I buried one dead chick after the other with all due reverence, marking their graves with crosses made out of twigs. I don’t think we had one live chicken by the end.
Naturally, the chickens also need feed and some kind of enclosure such as a chicken coop and a fenced-in area, and the adviser (a sociologist who lived in Paris for many years, not exactly a farm hand) is giving chicks to people who don’t have enough to eat themselves.
Lately there has been a lot of discussion about whether a family of four can live on 47,000 forints a month (about $200.00), the amount the government will offer those who do manual work on state projects. Of course, they can’t, but György Matolcsy remarked that it is still better than the 23,000 forints these people received on government assistance. He insisted that receiving this meager monthly salary will help these people move into the middle class. Of those Fidesz members of parliament who were asked whether 47,000 forints was enough to live on, only one, János Lázár, dared to say that “of course, it wasn’t.” The others followed the lead of the “important person.” They either refused to answer or, in the case of one young man, insisted that the amount was enough to survive on.
In a discussion with a Jobbik politician at Corvinus University Sándor Pintér cautiously proposed that perhaps the amount was enough if the family also had a goat. He added that “apparently families would like to have a goat that would at least supply milk.” But naturally goats have to eat too. Hay, for example. Or at least have a large pasture to graze on. What will happen during the winter? And, oh yes, they have to be fenced. But they can be milked. That is, if you know how to.
Women milking goats in Mongolia
The newest idea for finding work for the unemployed comes from László Parragh, head of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. For years he has been such an ardent supporter of Fidesz that Olga Kálmán of “Egyenes beszéd” (ATV) asked him point blank a couple of days ago whether he represents the interests of his constituents or those of the government.
Parragh was unable to answer Kálmán’s question. Instead, he came out with something that is now the latest topic of conversation in Budapest. The reporter kept telling Parragh that there are no jobs available. Most people want to work but they cannot find a job. According to Parragh, one can always find a job. For example? Picking mushrooms! Picking mushrooms?
Yes, he himself often goes with his family to pick mushrooms. They love mushrooms. There are times when their meals are comprised exclusively of mushrooms. And he went on and on with all seriousness, sticking with his asinine idea. Once the person picks a lot of mushrooms he can freeze them and sell them. Even that is not so simple as I found out. It needs money, equipment, and know-how.
Such suggestions show the intellectual poverty of this lot. It is really pitiful. Moreover, the more they talk the more obvious their cynicism becomes. All these ridiculous ideas float around while Viktor Orbán is now talking not about 1 million but about 1.7 million jobs. The job opportunities, as we can see, are vast.