Crowds, the IMF, and the Hungarian budget: a follow-up

Yesterday when I decided to bring up the question of the size of the crowds on October 23 I didn’t realize that in the meantime it had become a hot topic in Hungary. The newly appointed undersecretary for international communications, Ferenc Kumin, was infuriated by all the lies foreign journalists were spreading about the size of the pro-government crowd that marched through the streets of Buda and Pest and ended up on Kossuth tér listening to Viktor Orbán’s speech.

First, let me call your attention to a very old post of mine from September 2007. I vented my frustration over the so-called “political scientists” in Hungary who often end up advising political parties, hiring themselves out as political spokesmen, or becoming high government officials with no pretense of being independent. I brought up as examples three “political scientists”: Tamás Fricz, Ferenc Kumin, and István Stumpf. Fricz is still parading as a political scientist while organizing pro-government demonstrations. Ferenc Kumin switched careers several times in the interim. First, from an “independent political scientist” he became a high official in the president’s office of László Sólyom. When his position was terminated with the departure of Sólyom, he became an analyst with Századvég, a pro-government political think tank, only to be chosen a few months ago for another high level government job, this time in the prime minister’s office. István Stumpf, after the fall of the Orbán government, became a political scientist again and then was appointed to the enlarged Constitutional Court. Stumpf has no judicial experience, only a law degree; he taught political science at the Budapest Law School.

Anyway, Ferenc Kumin is outraged about the foreign press’s distortion of the size of the pro-government crowd. He was especially furious at the Österreichischer Rundfunk, the Austrian public television station, that said that “zehntausende Menschen” (tens of thousands of people)  followed the Milla demonstration while ORF’s Budapest correspondent spoke about only “tausende,” meaning thousands, who were present at the pro-government demonstration. Kumin admitted that eventually ORF corrected its figures and announced that 100,000 people listened to Viktor Orbán’s speech.

But the Austrians were not the only ones guilty of distortion, said Kumin. AFP’s stringer is a Hungarian national, and hence the distortion in the French news agency’s report was most likely due to the political views of the reporter. AFP was called on the carpet, most likely by Kumin himself. The French spokesman informed Kumin that in the absence of official estimates the AFP stringer relied on the estimate of Klubrádió. Now that really sent Kumin into a rage. How can anyone call Klubrádió an independent source? Another black mark against Klubrádió.

Finally, I would like to give a link to an English-language article that discusses modern scientific methods of assessing the size of crowds. One of the readers of Hungarian Spectrum mentioned it in a comment, but I think I should make it available to those who don’t always follow the comments. It is worth reading.

It wasn’t only the size of the crowd that excited the government and the media in the last twenty-four hours. The considerably more important event is that the IMF, which initially refused to comment on rumors of a halt in negotiations with Hungary, decided to speak.

Yesterday at the time I sat down to write my post I knew that both Reuters and HVG had tried to find out more from Iryna Ivaschenko, the Budapest representative of the IMF, about the true story, but she refused to divulge anything. At that time her answer was that the IMF doesn’t comment on “media rumors.” However, by this morning the decision was made, most likely in Washington, that it would be better to provide more information. So, Reuters received a written note from Ivaschenko in which she stated that there is no set date for the continuation of the negotiations. Mihály Varga may have been correct when he told reporters yesterday afternoon that he hadn’t received a letter from the IMF informing the Hungarian government about a break in negotiations. But whatever the case, there seems to be no prospect of continuing the negotiations in the near future. Ivaschenko even outlined the reason for this postponement of talks: as the IMF “explained earlier, the Hungarian government should concentrate on steps toward balanced consolidation of the budget” but instead “they propose ad hoc one-time tax adjustments.”

The Hungarian government doesn’t seem to be terribly shaken by this announcement.  Yesterday afternoon Mihály Varga emphasized that it is not only the IMF that has conditions but Hungary as well. The fate of the negotiations depends on “whether people in Washington and Brussels will understand that this government has its own concepts, its own program…. If they don’t recognize this, the negotiations will drag on and at the end they will not be successful.” Well, I think that settles the question. Just as so many commentators have suspected, Hungary is setting  “conditions” that preclude the possibility of ever signing a loan agreement.

This morning Magyar Nemzet claimed to know that, although the excessive deficit procedure will not be lifted against Hungary on November 7, it is unlikely that the cohesion funds will be reduced. The newspaper learned that Germany already indicated that it would not support monetary sanctions against Hungary. Magyar Nemzet added that Brussels has only a few minor objections to the latest Hungarian budget proposals while Greece, Portugal, and Spain are being treated much more generously. If Hungary were punished, the accusation that the European Union uses double standards would be justified. Or at least this is what Magyar Nemzet thinks.

However, if Árpád Kovács’s calculation that Matolcsy’s tax revenue of 764 billion is in fact no more than 453 billion, that might mean more than small adjustments. And this morning Viktor Orbán announced that the government will take over 612 billion forints of municipal debt. That’s not chicken feed. We will see what Ecofin, the joint session of the Union’s finance ministers, will think, especially after learning about the IMF’s explicit disapproval of the Orbán government’s unorthodox economic remedies.

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LwiiH
Guest

I’ll repeat this link http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/the-curious-science-of-counting-a-crowd which I posted yesterday but for some reason never showed up.

spectator
Guest

All this vigorous denial and fierce commenting by government aided sourced a clear sign – to me – that they alarmed by the events of Monday, and rightfully so!

Now we can count on attacks in any way and every level possible, the mud-casting and discrediting stepping up, guaranteed, shortly, the reason of intensifying the ‘freedom fight’ just have been presented.

Hungary heating up for winter?

Breki
Guest
The thing with IMF is that they also need projects in the pipeline to justify their continued existence/employment. Until the particular officers can report to their superiors that they have a deal on which they are working they are safe. From the moment a deal is dead, they are under pressure to find a new assignment, which may or may not be possible. Not because there aren’t enough countries vying for an IMF loan, but there may be to many other colleagues competing for those assignments. At the same time, a continued employment at IMF is an extremely valued asset, so employees tend to do anything to keep their jobs. The history of development economics is full of tales when receiving countries promised something that was a very strict condition to the loan (like Kenya promised to privatize the state railroad system) and then received the loan regardless of keeping the promise (Kenya promised the privatization not less than eight times, which is still state-owned and still received the next installments). Orbán has been basing his play partly on this consideration. Arguably, IMF is tougher the the World Bank, but you get my drift. On the other hand, he probably… Read more »
bernard de raadt
Guest

He had the best socialist teachers ja ja Viktor you are great give them their own medicine

bernard de raadt
Guest

maybe it wil heal them in some 10 generation more ja ja

Member

@ bernard: I do not mean to offend the mentally disabled anywhere, but based on your comments, I must ask, are you mentally stable, ja ja?

Paul
Guest

Jar Jar Berns?

(If you’ve never watched Star Wars and aren’t familiar with the English ‘j’, this will seem even less funny…)

Bernard De Raadt
Guest

paul I dont watch star wars I just have fun with your reply like some 1 who hides his brain so far under

Paul
Guest
As a veteran of marches and demos, my rule of thumb for estimating a crowd is to take the mid-point between the organisers” estimate and the police one. In the UK the police estimate the size of a crowd, or people on a march, by physically counting heads in “representative” sections and multiplying this up. This sounds like it would come up with a fairly accurate number, but in my experience it always seems to underestimate the numbers (see LwiiH’s link for reasons why this might happen). How would I know this? Well of course I don’t, but I’ve been on enough demos to get a good feel for the relative size of a crowd compared to my previous experiences, and on unexpectedly large turnouts (e.g. the Stop The War demo in London in 2003) the police estimate is always far lower than my guess based on what I’ve seen and felt on the ground. I’m also a veteran of many football matches, so I have a pretty good idea of what crowds of 20/30/40/50 thousand look and feel like. Not just what they look like all seated in a stadium, but how it looks/feels in the roads afterwards as… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :

Bernard De Raadt :
paul I dont watch star wars I just have fun with your reply like some 1 who hides his brain so far under

Well, I must admit you don’t make a lot of sense.

He is the funniest troll we’ve had for some time though!

I wonder if he has the faintest idea of how bizarre and baffling his posts appear?

Member

Bernard De Raadt :
paul I dont watch star wars I just have fun with your reply like some 1 who hides his brain so far under

Examples please! I am glad although that we are able to entertain you. It is proven that is so little substance required fir little minds to be amused. DId you ever watched a little child cracking up over and over again in laughter for the same nonsense? Well, you already on that level. ja ja (Did that make you laugh, little baby?)

Member
OT: As few of you are aware by now, I am very closely following anything that is art related (film, theatre, dance, applied, etc.) I somehow missed a very important happening in Hungary, a country with a great traditions regarding dance (Honved Tanceggyuttes, Gyori Ballet, Pecsi Ballet, Nemzeti Ballet, etc.) The Hungarian government (just like any government) each year distribute operating grants to various art groups or art activities. WIthout such support non-commercial art would surely disappear, leaving us with projects and products that are provenly entertaining to the masses, many of them contains no real art value. (Now I leave to define the value of art for your own interpretation.) It just happened that the Hungarian Festival Ballet received EUR 461,000 from the Fidesz Government while the almost fifty other companies that include the Ballet Gyor, Ballet Pecs, Honved Dance Company, National Balle, Central European Dance Theatre, Duna Art Company received a total of EUR 751,000. So 1/3 (30%) of all the support went to one company while the other fifty received 2/3 or less then 2% of available funding each group. Yes, the quality of projects of some of the groups are questionable, but some of the others… Read more »
Louis Kovach
Guest

Breki: “Orbán has at least twice broken his written promise to phase out the banking taxes. The “sárga csekk adó” (monetary transfer tax) will also reach proportions (about 700bn) which make it one of the most important taxes, so it simply could not be phased out by any new government (so it will continue to act as a terrible drag on financing activities). ”

Oct 23 BBC:
“The European Commission has backed plans from 10 countries to launch a financial transactions tax to help raise funds to tackle the debt crisis.”

Is Orban forcing those taxes on Germany, France, Spain, etc.? There is inconsistency between your writing and the facts.

Guest

Louis you have just proved that you are either a total idiot or …

One look at wiki would have shown you that the EU transaction tax is something totally different: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_financial_transaction_tax

“The tax would impact financial transactions between financial institutions charging 0.1% against the exchange of shares and bonds and 0.01% across derivative contracts.”

“It would cover 85% of the transactions between financial institutions (banks, investment firms, insurance companies, pension funds, hedge funds and others), but not affect citizens and businesses. House mortgages, bank loans to small and medium enterprises, contributions to insurance contracts, as well as spot currency exchange transactions and the raising of capital by enterprises or public bodies through the issuance of bonds and shares on the primary market would not be taxed, with the exception of trading bonds on secondary markets.”

It is typical for you Göbbels types to use a word in a completely different context!

Very nice of you to show this here …

bernard de raadt
Guest

yes nonsens ja ja

Louis Kovach
Guest

wolfi: “The proposed EU financial transaction tax would be separate from a bank levy, or a resolution levy, which some governments are also proposing to impose on banks to insure them against the costs of any future bailouts. The tax that could raise 57 billion Euros per year[1] remains controversial among EU member states.[2] In October 2012 a group of eleven states began pursuing the idea of utilizing enhanced co-operation to implement the tax in states which wish to participate.[3]”

From your wikipedia bible. There are many forms of transaction tax and I was writing about the Oct 2012 proposal and its variations and not the original EU proposal.

Regardlees of which method is used, what is relevant that the faction collected from individual accounts is vaiable in relation to the other forms of transaction and can be significantly less. Sometimes, it is worth to go past the wikipediac knowledge.

Your name calling reflects on you not on me.

Guest

Again, Louis:

The proposed EU tax is almost the opposite of the Hungarian tax – it explicitly is not relevant for people who pay their bills etc.

Is this so difficult for you to understand or don’t you know how the Hungarian tax is supposed to work ?

Again:

“The real economy could be protected by ensuring the tax is levied only on secondary financial products, thus not affecting transactions such as salary payments, corporate and household loans.”

Please show where any proposal is similar to the Hungarian or rather Fidesz “unorthodox” tax proposal

spectator
Guest
Eva S. Balogh : Markó might be a great choreographer but a little bit touched. See his interview on HirTV http://szinhaz.hu/szinhazi-hirek/48844-kain-levette-alarcat-marko-a-hir-tv-ben-jart According to him the chairman of some kind of ballet association wrote him a letter. He did mention the letter in this interview in this manner: “X.Y. didn’t send a letter to me or to Viktor Orbán. He sent it to God and God is not democratic.” As on Facebook László Majtényi, former ombudsman said, there are quite a few madmen around Viktor Orbán. There is also Kerényi of National Library fame. Or this nut! Eva, I couldn’t get your earlier piece out of my mind – the one dealing with the ‘liberal arts’ in the education of the present government – Orban in particular – or rather as it turns out, the lack of it. Somehow his illiterate ‘bully’ characteristic leave a clear mark behind – not entirely unlike of the slime what a slug drags along – whenever he touches parts of the culture, immediately something sticky, rotten and stinky feeling creeps forward, the mouldering, moth eaten way of forcing certain, so called ‘aesthetic values’ upon the society… Just look at the Opera, the theaters, the frightening… Read more »
Breki
Guest

Dear Louis, I kindly refer to this exhaustive and useful article (though it is in Hungarian) on the differences between the EU tax and the Hungarian ‘sárga csekk adó’.

Apples and oranges, I am afraid.

http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20121025_Tranzakcios_ado

Louis Kovach
Guest

wolfi: There are many variations of the so called Financial Transaction Tax. For a fairly good review, see :http://internationalbudget.org/wp-content/uploads/Taxing-Financial-Activity.pdf

They vary mostly by what finacial activity is involved. The 10 countries that came up with a new proposal are not fully based on the original EU 2010 proposed FTT.

Yes there is a variation between the Hungarian FTT and that proposed by the 10 countries as there is between that proposed by the EU two years ago and what is being proposed by the 10 countries now.
Dr Balogh: I thought those wordplays came from Schwabian……Somebody always has to be the “kontras” here.

Paul
Guest

OT, but insanely so:

Ministry drafting bill to ban private weather forecasts

http://www.politics.hu/20121026/ministry-drafting-bill-to-ban-private-weather-forecasts/

Member
Eva S. Balogh : Markó might be a great choreographer but a little bit touched. See his interview on HirTV http://szinhaz.hu/szinhazi-hirek/48844-kain-levette-alarcat-marko-a-hir-tv-ben-jart According to him the chairman of some kind of ballet association wrote him a letter. He did mention the letter in this interview in this manner: “X.Y. didn’t send a letter to me or to Viktor Orbán. He sent it to God and God is not democratic.” As on Facebook László Majtényi, former ombudsman said, there are quite a few madmen around Viktor Orbán. There is also Kerényi of National Library fame. Or this nut! Wow Last time I had the chance to talk to Ivan Marko he still had all his marbles. Yes, there was some friction at the time at Ballet Gyor, but beside his artist excentricities he was still grounded. THe interview is indeed shocking. He accuses Internet portals getting taxpayers money (I am not sure where he thinks the money Orban just gave him is coming from). He accuses dance professionals are being mad at God because they do not get the talent, so they will not receive such funding. Inadvertently he suggests that Orban and him just deliveries God’s will. I am not angry… Read more »
spectator
Guest

@Louis
I don’t know, if you were around during the last elections in Hungary, or – at least, as myself – followed the campaign, but I think, you may have heard the slogans:

“Our life is worse than four years ago” – Rosszabbul élünk mint négy éve

– or the reference, regarding the:

“Folk-flaying government” – Népnyúzó Kormány

I wonder, if you ever considered just how appropriate they slogans – say – today..?
And If you dare to look at the facts – more or less – objectively, as I do, what are your assessment of these, in the light of recent developments?

Just curious, how dedicated you are, Louis.

At the main time, you may refresh memories from the times bygone:

http://www.szabadeuropa.shp.hu/hpc/web.php?a=szabadeuropa&o=heti_tema_2010_09_20__KGbR

As things developing, she’s going to be a very busy person in the coming years, the evergreen slogan of Fidesz still going strong, don’t you think?

Actually, I thought first that the lady here is the same, and going to get some award too, however, she is quite similar…:

http://index.hu/belfold/2012/10/23/orban_nem_fogadjuk_el_az_idegen_kormanyzast#gallery_3451972|3451972

– If I was someone the opposition, I certainly would jump on the opportunity, worth every penny/nickel/forint, whatever!

Member

Tomorrow night, the Fidesz will restrict the right to vote and will place the new rules into its constitution substitute called “Basic Law”. This step will try to prevent the Constitutional Court, stuffed with Fidesz appointees, to examine the constitutionality of the measures.

People living in Hungary will not have the right to register by mail, they will have to stand in line to register. Ethnic Hungarians abroad who received citizenship from Fidesz will be able to register by mail.

Member

Paul :
OT, but insanely so:
Ministry drafting bill to ban private weather forecasts
http://www.politics.hu/20121026/ministry-drafting-bill-to-ban-private-weather-forecasts/

Look at the bright side, as real scientists, like Shamans and alike are still welcomed. Do not forget the warm reception the Tuva shaman performance of a cleansing ceremony before the Holy Crown in the Hungarian Parliament received.

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