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Hungary’s New Budget Aims for Stable Economic Growth

Gábor Sarnyai 2018.07.24.

Hungary’s 2019 budget approved by parliament last Friday increases wages and will boost economic growth, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office told a regular press briefing on Tuesday. Stable economic growth is of key importance in ensuring Hungary’s successful performance in the long term, Gergely Gulyás said.

The aim of the budget, which Gulyas called “a budget of stable growth”, is to contribute to the Visegrad Group’s fast paced economic growth which is rising twice as fast as the EU average.

“The 2019 budget rests on solid foundations,” he said, noting an unprecedented increase of budget reserves by 50 percent, to some 360 billion forints (EUR 110m), to accommodate “international risks”.

The government will tap these reserves only if doing so does not upset the planned budget balance, he said. In terms of tax measures, he noted a reduction to the social contribution tax from 19.5 percent to 17.5 percent and an increase to the tax benefit for families raising two children. In the long run, Hungary’s fiscal policy should remain balanced, stable, conservative and comply with the Maastricht criteria, he said.

Gulyás said the government is yet to decide on wage hikes in the public service sector, adding that he “hoped” that the wages could be raised from January 1, 2019. Managers should be given more freedom in assigning individual wages to avoid the present practice of using “legal loopholes” to pay highly qualified workforce, he said. The minister expressed condolences to the victims of wildfires in Greece, where at least 50 have been killed since Monday afternoon. The Hungarian government is looking into providing swift aid, he said.

Regarding reports that the one-time ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán , businessman Lajos Simicska, is to sell all his business holdings in the construction, farming, media and outdoor advertising and asset management sectors to Zsolt Nyerges, a long-time co-manager, Gulyás said that “he was unaware of Nyerges’s plans” but was enraged by “the state [commercial television] HirTv and Magyar Nemzet are in”.

Commenting on articles questioning programme choices of Gergely Prohle, the director of Budapest’s Petofi Literary Museum, Gulyás said that Prohle was “an excellent director” and that “quality is the only measure of cultural expansion”.
Gergely Gulyás revealed new details regarding Orbán’s visit to Israel and the demonstrations against him. Having ridden in the same vehicle, Gulyás claims the PM was dissatisfied with the number of protesters organized by Amnesty International, allegedly saying, “It would have been respectable had they sent more than just seventeen people.”