Economy protection will determine 2021, due to a potential second wave of the novel coronavirus epidemic and the fight to eliminate its economic effects, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public Kossuth Radio on Friday.
Next year’s budget will therefore also allocate funds to the epidemiological and economy protection funds, Orbán said. He suggested that in the next 18 months “there could be an even closer connection between the state of the economy and the performance of the government than before”. “If we do it well… the results could be fantastic.”
He added that all economic players, including local governments, will have to pull their weight in the protection efforts, saying “we cry and laugh together,” adding that “local governments are a part of life in Hungary”.
Orbán said that “if the government overlooks somebody staying away from contributing to the efforts, everybody will try and follow suit.” He added that the municipalities will benefit from “significantly” larger budgets next year. “There is no reason for using the tone we have heard,” referring to criticism of the burden placed on local governments.
Regarding the new National Consultation survey, Orbán said the government is expecting a second wave of the epidemic in the autumn.
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In the coming months, the government will work to establish “points of agreement” as the pillars of protection efforts, he said.
The current coronavirus situation does no longer necessitate a state of emergency, but an epidemic alert must be maintained, Orbán said, adding that the operative board coordinating prevention will stay in place, hospitals will continue operating under the new command system and the chief medical officer will have increased powers. He also said that some regulations aimed at protecting seniors will be maintained.
Orbán noted the central European countries’ successful handling of the pandemic, and said that “fast government action, committed doctors and nurses may often be worth more than money.”
Concerning the government’s economic measures, Orbán said protective measures had helped save “well over one million” jobs.
A moratorium on debt payments has “left over 2,000 billion forints with the people”, typically helping poor debtors, he said. He noted that negotiations with banks, which are “not enthusiastic about interest moratoriums”, had yielded a solution which the banks also found acceptable. Suspending debt payments will not result in increased interest payments. “If the government is strong, they can strike sensible deals even with the great financiers of the world,” he said.
Orbán slammed the European Union’s economic reconstruction concept as “totally contrary to Hungary’s philosophy” and argued that “money should be first earned and spent later”. “Loans should be taken out at one’s own risk, rather than involving others who should then pay the price of a bad decision,” he said.
Orbán said, however, that some states outside central Europe are “in great trouble” and “something must be done”. He said he had reservations against the EU’s idea of taking out a joint loan, but added that “now, exceptionally, we have to resort to that mechanism”. The money taken out “must not be used unfairly” benefitting certain countries only. “They cannot pull a fast one on countries in central Europe; we cannot be taken for losers,” the prime minister insisted.
On another subject, Orbán said that Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic was scheduled to visit Budapest later in the day for talks on strengthening bilateral ties. He called his counterpart “a supporter of Slovakia Hungarians, a good man with a heart”.
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Answering a question concerning recent commemorations of the Trianon peace treaty, Orbán said that Hungary was striving to build “fair ties” with Slovakia. That treaty’s “unprecedented injustice cannot be remedied through any apology,” Orbán said, adding that his talks would not be aimed at “making wound-licking remarks to each other”. He said that the past cannot be changed and “hints to the past may be nice gestures but nothing will come from them”.
The future should be in the focus, Orbán said: “we lost the 20th century but Hungarians will win the 21st”. “We are a rising, strengthening, and victorious country and will be in the future”.
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The Prime Minister said: “My interest is in finding points of cooperation with Slovakia; we are a strong nation seeking partners in building a successful future.”
featured photo: Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI