Less than six months ahead of the general elections, Viktor Orbán announced an extensive set of benefits for pensioners which the elderly will receive by the beginning of next year. The government has decided to increase pensions for a third time in response to record high inflation. They will also distribute several weeks of payments of the 13th month pension, and a uniform pension bonus of 80,000 forints (EUR 223).
The Orbán administration has recently made a number of announcements, including the promise of generous support for various social groups in Hungary. According to the government, the substantial budgetary expenditure is possible because the Hungarian economy has over-performed in 2021.
The announcements include wage hikes in certain sectors, income-tax rebates for families, waiving income tax for workers under the age of 25, and home renovation grants. Under the current plans, Hungary’s 2.5 million pensioners will also receive considerable sums this year.
Due to climbing consumer prices, and higher than expected inflation, the Orbán administration is set to increase pensions for the third time this year in the next month. Additionally, pensioners will receive an extra two weeks of payments next year as part of the planned reintroduction of the 13th-month pension, which had been introduced and later (in 2009) abolished by the previous leftist government.
Fact The idea of the 13th-month pension was first brought up during the 2002 parliamentary campaign by the then opposition MSZP (Socialist Party). Fidesz, in government at the time, considered the idea completely unjustified and accused the Socialists that their only goal was to get more votes from the elderly. MSZP eventually won the election, and fulfilled their promise, despite the fact that it was clear the proposal would add a huge burden to the budget. However, learning from the Socialists, Fidesz came up with a similar idea for the 2006 campaign: the introduction of the 14th-month pension. This was, of course, called a reckless proposal by MSZP. In the end, Fidesz did not win the election, and the pension system remained unchanged. By 2008, under the Gyurcsány government, due to the global economic crisis and the government’s irresponsible economic policies, it became clear that serious reforms were necessary to avoid state bankruptcy. The measures also included cutting the amount of the 13th-month pension. Finally, in 2009, after the fall of the Gyurcsány administration and after the formation of the Bajnai government, parliament passed the bill that completely abolished the 13th-month pension.
On top of this, last week Viktor Orbán promised a bonus of 80,000 forints (EUR 223) to every Hungarian pensioner.
According to economic news site Portfolio’s calculations, an elderly receiving an average pension could receive up to HUF 100,000 (EUR 279) more by the end of this year than they would without the extra benefits.
Based on Orbán’s latest comments, this might be then followed by the remaining sum of the 13th month pension as early as February, only months ahead of the 2022 general elections.
“We can certainly return two weeks [of the pension bonus] at the beginning of next year. But if we don’t make any mistakes, and if the government’s growth-driving economic policy is successful in the next three months as it has been until now, then I see a chance early next year to return not just two weeks, but a full month of the pension bonus sometime around early February,” Orbán said in an interview last Friday.
“This is not a certainty. I’d ask listeners not to think of this as cash in hand, but I see a chance. We have to work for it, fight for it, but it’s not impossible,” he added.
Although the promise of a pension bonus fits in well with the government’s support plans, the idea of the uniform pension premium did not come from the government party decision-makers, but suggested by opposition party LMP.
While the green party in a statement welcomed Viktor Orbán’s announcement on the pension premium, they added that the government’s adoption of a uniform pension premium was merely a means for the governing parties to „motivate the elderly as effectively as possible to vote for them .”
Featured photo via Viktor Orbán’s Facebook page