Lázár struggles to rationalize axing civil servants

Yesterday I wrote briefly about the changes the government is planning to introduce in the structure of the government bureaucracy by either eliminating or amalgamating 73 ancillary institutions that have served the ministries. I suspect that in this case the real reason for streamlining is not so much saving money or making the system more efficient but rather depriving these think tanks of their independence.

There has, however, been talk lately about large-scale dismissals of government employees. At the end of January Nándor Csepreghy, deputy to János Lázár in the prime minister’s office, threw out some wild numbers. In an interview on ATV he put forth the possibility of letting go 150,000 public employees when the time is ripe for such scaling down of the government bureaucracy. This is no more than irresponsible talk. Given the present centralized nature of the Hungarian labor force it is impossible to imagine a situation in which the state institutions can let 150,000 public employees go and still keep functioning.

Today János Lázár, during his usual Thursday press conference nicknamed “government info,” was less draconian. He talked about the dismissal of 6,000 civil servants. I don’t know who is being targeted. Only a week ago we heard that the “rationalization” of the ancillary institutions would involve 6,000 government officials. Does this mean that between now and the beginning of July 6,000 or 12,000 people will lose their jobs? The latter seems to be the case. Lázár talked about civil servants who currently work in the ministries and in the offices of the 175 “járás[ok],” smaller territorial units within the counties. He claimed that these government institutions employ altogether 30,000 people. If the government gets rid of 6,000 of them, this would mean a 20% personnel reduction. Considering that before 2013 there were neither “járások” nor “járási hivatalok” and that three years later serious job cuts have to take place, one wonders about the wisdom of setting up such offices in the first place.

kicked out

Before we try to make sense of Lázár’s figures we must distinguish among civil servants (köztisztviselők), public employees (közalkalmazottak), and government officials (kormánytisztviselők). I must admit that the distinction between civil servants and government officials is not very clear to me. But, judging from the official numbers provided by the Hungarian Central Statistical Office and the numbers mentioned by Lázár, I assume that he was talking about the civil service corps that last year had almost 35,000 members. The number of government officials is much larger than that. According to the last official statistics (September 2015) they numbered 78,600. So, if they axe 12,000 (and here I assume that employees of the ancillary institutions are considered to be government officials), this would be about a 10% reduction in the number of government officials and civil servants.

When Lázár tried to explain why it was necessary to reduce the number of civil servants and government officials and compared Hungarian figures to those of other countries in Europe, he managed to confuse matters–most likely intentionally. He spoke not about civil servants and government officials but about public employees. The largest group of people who receive their salaries from the government are the public employees, most of whom work in education and healthcare. They numbered 854,100 at the end of 2014. Healthcare and social services employed 302,000 people, and 227,400 people worked in educational institutions.

Lázár’s misleading explanation went as follows. The number of public employees is far too high in Hungary. They constitute 20% of the total workforce whereas, according to him, the European average is only 10%. That is too high a number, and the resultant bureaucracy decreases competitiveness. Every month the government pays the salaries of about 1 million people out of the 4.2 million wage earners.  According to him, there is a direct connection between these figures and Hungary’s lagging competitiveness.

Here Lázár was talking about public employees, who include doctors, nurses, social workers, schoolteachers, and university faculty members. Their ranks are not bloated. In fact, there are too few doctors and nurses in Hungary. Lázár was trying to justify the dismissal of civil servants and government officials by pointing to the number of public employees, some of whom only recently became state employees by government fiat.

But that’s not the only problem. Lázár’s claim that the percentage of public employees in the workforce is much higher in Hungary than in other European countries is simply not true, and the assertion that the European average is 10% is outright laughable. Here are some figures from the International Labor Organization: Belgium 21.9%, Bulgaria 24.5%, Croatia 31.7%, Czech Republic 34.0%, Denmark, 31.1%, Estonia 20.5%, Finland 24.4%, France 20.0%, Sweden 28.9%, Netherlands, 21.4%. Should I continue? Ten percent on average? Only according to the math of the prime minister’s office.

Lázár claimed this afternoon that there is a direct correlation between the size of the public workforce and the country’s competitiveness. Again, the Orbán government is making decisions based on faulty data and mistaken notions. It is worth taking a look at a short piece on the Becker-Posner blog from 2011. Gary Becker is a Nobel laureate in economics and Richard Posner, a judge and professor of law and economics, both at the University of Chicago. The article, written by Posner, was titled “Too many government workers?” After examining the size of the public sector in relation to GDP per capita, he came to the conclusion that there “does not appear to be a relation between a country’s prosperity and the number of public employees it has.”  So, if the Orbán government thinks that reducing the number of civil servants (not the number of public employees) will boost the productivity and competitiveness of the country, producing higher GDP figures, it is sadly mistaken. Yet another hasty decision without a firm grasp of facts and figures. And without the benefit of the most elementary logic.

February 4, 2016
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
tappanch
Guest

In the meantime, Orban’s son-in-law has started to axe the protected trees around the Schossberger castle in Tura.

http://nol.hu/belfold/kivagjak-a-fakat-a-turai-kastelyparkban-1599991

bimbi
Guest
It is unpleasant to observe it but it seems that János Lázár’s use of lying as a communication tool is simply part of his stock-in-trade. He claimed that when he and his “family” (is that a Mafia term?) bought $ 2.6 million in land belonging to the people of Hungary that he had paid over the market price (by the way, which part of the public gave permission for this rigged sale?). He has protested repeatedly about the guilt of the civil organizations and now comes the turn of the Oktatáskutató és Fejlesztő Intézet (Educational Research and Development Institute / OFI) which has dared to tell the truth about the educational disaster that Jancsi and his friends have foisted on the Hungarian public. OFI will be closed down. The Mafia comes to mind again – we are not just going to wipe you (the authors) out, we are going to wipe out your whole institute. Hey, don’t mess with the capo, we know how to hurt you. Hungarian education, primary, secondary, tertiary continues to bleed, health care continues under the rule of Fidesz strangulation, Hungary’s young (Hungary’s future!) continue to leave the economic disaster area on the Danube and Fidesz… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Quaestor case:

prosecutors are not willing to investigate the ties of the suspects to the Fidesz. (There was inside trading by government agencies, by Orban’s own admission, just days before the Quaestor bankruptcy was declared)

This and other details:

http://index.hu/gazdasag/2016/02/05/az_ugyfelek_penze_nem_pihent_mivel_azonnal_elloptak/

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
Guest

The irreplaceable Chief Prosecutor and the Prime Minister:

comment image

tappanch
Guest

The Chief Prosecutor’s daughter and the Chief Suspect’s personal secretary live(d) together as a couple.

http://www.blikk.hu/aktualis/tarsoly-titkara-polt-lanyaval-jar/kh99xnd

tappanch
Guest

The Chief Suspect and the Prime Minister:

comment image

Guest
OT @weber Re our little dispute a few days back when you claimed that according to medical ethics a doctor would have to continue to supply a patient with drugs regardless of being aware that the patient refuses to put a stop to selling half those drugs on the black market. I decided not to respond to your tirade at the time, but having been out socially today with a group that included a GP and two well known medical specialists, I decided to fact-check your claim with them. They were unanimous in that they would immediately stop supplying the drugs to a patient the moment they found out that the patient refused to put an immediate stop to selling half the drugs on the black market. The doctors advanced three reasons for this: (1) ethical, (2) common sense and (3) legal. The fact is that in such circumstance not only would medical ethics require them to immediately discontinue the supply of those drugs, as would sheer common sense, but they would be legally required to report the matter to the authorities here in Australia. They said furthermore that they would be most surprised if that was not so in… Read more »
Guest

But Hungary is a commocratic state and only follows corrupt authoritarian values, Mike.

While studying for a nursing degree in England my partner is required to know, and follow, the Nursing and Midwifery Code (NMC).

It has been a fascinating read for me!

NMC Code 21 is headlined:

Uphold your position as a registered nurse or midwife.

To achieve this you must:

21.1 refuse all but the most trivial gifts, favours or hospitality as accepting them could be interpreted as an attempt to gain preferential treatment.

21.3 act with honesty and integrity in any financial dealings with everyone you have a professional relationship with including people in your care.

If doctors and nurses blatantly ignore these sensible rules in Hungary, which go to the very root of their integrity and honesty what would stop them themselves selling drugs on to the blackmarket?

They already ‘harvest’ spondooliks with their blackmail envelopes – where does their evil stop?

Guest
What should they do? A lot of work, minimal pay … What\’s even worse in my opinion is: You just don\’t get treated by a specialist if you don\’t go there as a private patient – you\’d have to wait months for an appointment! A bit OT: The situation in Germany is similar to the UK – there are rather strict rules, the limits however are different: Sometimes it\’s 5€, sometimes 10, sometimes nothing – only calendars, pens or similar trinkets are allowed (less than 1€). On the lighter side: We always bring stuff like \”Piros Arany\” , \”Erös Pista\” and get some \”homemade\” paprika spice from Hungary to Germany and use this stuff for tipping – whether it\’s a barmaid in our favourite pub or the guy that changes the tires of my car. Also our family doctor and the nurses. This January one of the nurses asked if I had more of the stuff for her family – but of course she wanted to pay for it, ok it was less than 10€ … And each time we sell around a hundred eggs from our neighbour\’s hens – people tell me they\’re best eggs they\’ve ever had! And… Read more »
Guest
Call me old fashioned but they should never have accepted the system in the first place. If it was unchangeable they should have worked with integrity – yes accepting the low pay and refused to blackmail or accept bribes. And try to change it from within. However I understand this was how things evolved in the Kadar era – but it still doesn’t make it right. What you have now is a hierarchy of time-served health professionals with those at the top of the tree having first – and most lucrative – dibs from the blackmail money. Those at the top want to perpetuate the system at the expense of those down below. That’s no wonder. And they know it’s wrong from every aspect – it conflicts with the very essence of the Hippocratic oath. Those who have accepted monies and who perpetuate the system should be sacked – I believe it’s underpinning the ethics – or lack of them – which allow them to treat patients like they do – with many actually assaulting patients according to the English NMC code. They are criminals. Yes criminal assault with the tethering and drugging of patients without consent – informed consent.… Read more »
Guest

@wolfi7777
today 2:57 pm

I avoid using inverted commas (apostrophes), quotation marks and the slash mark to prevent WordPress going crazy on me, and that seems to work OK.

Guest

@charliecharlie
Today 2:14 pm

Whilst I agree completely with your sentiments, you seem to have missed the point of my post above.

The issue was not the doctor selling (medical) drugs on the black market, but the patient, and that what ought to be the ethical response and legal position of the doctor in that situation.

webber insisted that according to medical ethics the doctor should continue to supply the drugs regardless, whilst I begged to disagree.

The three Aussie doctors that I met socially yesterday fully confirmed my position.

webber
Guest

I maintain the patient is the guilty party.
Perhaps this is an American view: authorities are not responsible for the bad choices made by individuals. Adults are fully responsible for their own lives. Authorities are not nannies.
But again, drugs are NOT development aid.
The EU gave Greece a pile of money over a long period of time, the Greek government embezzled it and the Greek economy collapsed. That is the responsibility of Greek politicians above all.
If the Hungarian government chooses to follow the Greek model…

webber
Guest

Can Aussie doctors be prosecuted for drugs on the black market if all they did was supply prescription drugs to patients at the dosage and in the amounts actually required by the patient?
American doctors clearly cannot. Patients who sell those drugs on the black market, however, can.

Guest
@webber Today 5:21 am You are twisting and distorting the point under discussion to wriggle out of an, inconvenient conclusion. I never ever claimed that the patient was not guilty, and neither did the Aussie doctors I consulted. The point under discussion was whether a doctor should continue to supply drugs to a patient AFTER finding out that the patient is selling half those drugs on the black market, and what were the ethical and legal obligations of the doctor under those circumstances, not to mention the common sense aspect of such a situation. The position of the Aussie doctors was unanimous and unequivocal on this, and they expressed surprise that similar considerations would not apply in the States as well. But you are right, the original issue was development aid, where ethical and legal considerations do not appear to be relevant in the least, only lofty considerations of “humanitarianism” and socialist “equalization” in the political interests of what seems barefaced looting to a stick-in-the-capitalist-mud, tinfoil hat, malevolent libertarian like myself. So yes indeed, common sense considerations should most certainly apply, at least to my lights. Because to my lights it is a dreadfully foolish and irresponsible big government waste… Read more »
Guest

I was just adding to your point!

However I think the NHS in England is untypical.

The person who signs the prescription – usually the doctor – is legally responsible for the effects of the drug, including its destination.

If the doctor finds out the drugs are ending up on the black market they must immediately desist from prescribing any more – as an illegal act within their knowledge they must cease it immediately. They will be liable for prosecution if not – and will be ‘struck off’ the BMA practising register.

Knowing they have acted correctly and in good faith they will normally proceed by dismissing the patient from their practice as the patient has abused the trust relationship.

The patient will have great diffulty joining another practice for continuing treatment for their condition.

This used to be a problem with methadone – a maintenance drug for drug addicts to come off other Class A drugs.

The patient now has to take the ‘dose’ in front of the doctor or pharmacist – or prescriber ( sometimes a nurse with prescriber training) to stop it being sold on.

Guest

But who would expect doctors in Hungary to act ethically? They have already betrayed the doctor patient trust.

It is but a small step to peddle drugs within the profession – where does their illegality stop?

webber
Guest

Okee, dokee –
I still maintain that the comparison between international aid and drug dealers and users is a false one.

webber
Guest

P.S. American doctors – quite a lot of them – supply drugs that go onto the black market all the time, whether they know it or not.
I would be very surprised if this were not the case in Australia.

webber
Guest

This article is good on widespread prescription drug abuse in one of America’s poorest regions:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/21/us/50-years-into-the-war-on-poverty-hardship-hits-back.html?_r=0

tappanch
Guest

Matolcsy [chairman of the National Bank] has also set up his special body guard unit.

Its strength is 150 people, 112 guns, 200 thousand bullets, uniforms and cars.

http://444.hu/2016/02/05/200-ezer-eles-loszert-rendelt-a-matolcsy-garda

petofi
Guest

These special body guard units–Viktor’s, Kover’s, Matolcsy’s etc.–are simply a warning to the traditional forces of the state (police, army, secret service) that any move against the government will also have to contend with them. It’s like….spy vs. spy…

petofi
Guest

Matolcsy’s gang of 120–isn’t it wonderful how much money the government has to spend…?

Guest

The existence of the EU subsidies was the moving cause of the creation of the Fidesz mafia. Matolcsy’s racket, however, is his own creation, and he means to defend it. The National Bank, not the government, pays the goons.

Guest

The proliferation of guards in unbelieveable. There is a high probability that they will end up shooting at each other.

Guest

He needs a helicopter too to avoid the Caucescu-type day of reckoning. His magic wand and fairy wings won’t protect against reality.

Very few fairytales end with guns, bullets and armed guards.

Guest

Wow! Unbelievable. What are they afraid of?

This really is typical mafiosi behavior. The personal guard of the godfather. The armed to the teeth Praetorian Guard of the Chairman of the Hungarian Reserve Bank. I suppose just in case they have to go mattresses against some of the other gangs.

What a joke! The stuff of comic operetta. :-)))

Like the dress uniforms of the Hungarian army, or for that matter the new Hungarian national gendarmerie, as they prance up and down Budapest promenades in pairs with submachine guns slung over the shoulders, to protect the good burghers from terrorists.

Hungary has a comic operetta army that in reality could not defend Hungary against a platoon of Mickey Mouses, though it must be admitted that it, together with the new national gendarmerie, were able to make a heroic stand last year in blocking the attempted invasion by hordes of unarmed brown people from the South.

And thereby no doubt prevented a second Mohács catastrophe befalling on ever suffering, sainted Hungary.

The mouse that roared . . . . .

:-)))

tappanch
Guest

I can’t [help] but observe that the Hungarian Treasury has failed to disclose the weekly debt data in the last 6 weeks.

I hope Matolcsy or Orban did not bet long on the US stock market with the international reserves or with the state assets since January 1st 🙂

wpDiscuz