The Budapest municipality owns HUF 135 billion (EUR 377.2 million) in bonds and more than HUF 27 billion (EUR 75.4 million) in cash, the Hungarian State Treasury (MÁK) said on Monday. Reacting to this, Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony once again insisted that partly due to the government’s austerity measures, their budget is already in the red for the upcoming two years’ period.
This comes on the heels of a recent verbal skirmish between the Prime Minister and the Budapest mayor. In his regular radio interview, Viktor Orbán stated that thanks to previous (Fidesz-backed) mayor István Tarlós, the capital had enough money, around HUF 100 billion, and this amount should be enough to help out local (mostly tourism and taxi) businesses hit by the pandemic.
Karácsony then rejected Orbán’s words claiming that the capital did not have enough money to “take over the responsibilities of the government.” He insisted that the city was already “150 billion forints in the red,” and that alongside the contraction caused by the pandemic, the government’s austerity measures had eroded the municipality’s resources.
Although he hasn’t specifically mentioned the State Treasury in the post, Karácsony soon reacted to MÁK as well and repeated the same arguments. In his view, the capital will be hit three times between 2020 and 2022: by the epidemic itself, by the government (through its austerity measures), and by the economic downturn. All these together will take away HUF 150 billion from Budapest. He first named a HUF 100 billion loss in business tax income. Secondly, he claimed
“the Hungarian government is the only one in the world that instead of supporting local governments during the crisis, swindles them and takes away HUF 32 billion from Budapest.
He also cited the Budapest public transport company having lost many passengers and revenue due to the coronavirus epidemic and changed traveling habits.
Karácsony highlighted that the Hungarian government has HUF 12,713 billion (EUR 35.5 billion) in its account, “still it doesn’t take on mass [coronavirus] testing for free.” “I don’t want to ask for anything else, just what the Prime Minister asked for: seriousness. And instead of childish number games, taking responsibility,” he said.
featured image: illustration; via Márton Mónus/MTI