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Ruling Fidesz-KDNP-led municipalities have gotten some 470 times more money than opposition-led ones from last (coronavirus-hit) year’s tourism supports, economic investigative site G7 showed. Some of the mayors are angered, the tourism agency, however, denies political aspects in the assessment.

In this last year, the government’s Tourism Agency (MTÜ) distributed some HUF 85 billion (HUF 237 million) starting around March. The first part of the money, due in large part for large hotel and tourist center developments already drew criticism back then for favoring government-ally businessmen and for the lack of transparency. For example, former footballer Tamás Sáfrány (former employee and associate of pro-gov’t billionaire László Szíjj) gained some HUF 8 billion (EUR 22.3 million) for the development of three hotels virtually just days after he had established his very first company. Orbán’s childhood friend Lőrinc Mészáros was also on the receiving end once again. His hotel-chain Hunguest Hotels received some HUF 17.7 billion (EUR 49.3 million) while laying off nearly 1,000 employees.

G7’s analysis is now focused on the second half of the money due for the local governments. Out of HUF 38 billion (EUR 106 million), HUF 32 billion (EUR 89 million) went to Fidesz-led municipalities, and opposition-led ones (only three of them have gotten any support at all) only received some HUF 68 million (EUR 189,400- with the rest going to independent-led municipalities). Moreover, G7 additionally notes that had the local-government-owned companies been taken into account, this gap would be even larger.

In addition, ten of the nine municipalities heading the list are led by Fidesz, with tiny Tokaj-Hegyalja village Hercegkút, the list’s 8th, being the only one exception (led by an independent mayor). Balatonfüred heads the list while ‘Lake Balaton’s capital’ (and opp-led) Siófok hasn’t received any. Fidesz-stronghold Debrecen has also made it to the podium, while nearby (opposition-led) Miskolc only received HUF 8 million (EUR 22,300).

Another interesting comparison has been drawn between two Danube Bend towns with more or less the same size and attractiveness in terms of tourism. But while Fidesz-led Esztergom received HUF 5 billion (EUR 14 million), opposition-led Szentendre only received HUF 30 million (EUR 83,600).

The Prime Minister’s hometown was also on the receiving end once again and made it to the top ten. Felcsút received some HUF 1.5 billion (EUR 4.2 million) “for development of the reduction of the reservoir in a peak-flood area for tourism purposes.”

In response to G7, the tourism agency denied that support would have been awarded on a political basis and insisted that it has only been made “on the basis of the content of the application.”

Somewhat less surprisingly, the Budapest mayor raised his voice on the matter. Gergely Karácsony (of left-liberal Párbeszéd party) said the government’s clear intention is to disable the opposition-led cities. “While entire industries are dying, tens of thousands are losing their jobs, families are going bankrupt, the government is distributing billions on a political party basis,” he argued.

Little Is Being Done to Help Hungary's Struggling Catering Businesses
Little Is Being Done to Help Hungary's Struggling Catering Businesses

It is well known at this point that Hungary’s catering businesses have been struggling ever since dining in was forbidden three months ago in accordance with lockdown restrictions. Since then, companies have laid off many employees and shifted to a focus on delivery and take-out. Some have simply gone out of business after the depletion […]Continue reading

Besides voicing his anger, Hódmezővásárhely’s independent (but opposition-backed) mayor (who is up for the PM candidacy too) Péter Márki-Zay, called attention to another feature. In December, some of the municipalities have gotten some HUF 1.38 billion (EUR 3.8 million) with no strings after the government cut the business tax (that makes up a large part of the local governments’ income, and which was even criticized by certain Fidesz mayors). Márki-Zay’s quick poll, however, confirmed that only Fidesz-led municipalities were among the recipients of this one-off ‘compensation.’

featured image illustration via Csaba Jászai/MTVA