Budapest, October 29 (MTI) – The government will propose the introduction of a new tobacco tax on types of tobacco products especially harmful to health, the government office chief said on Thursday. Also he said the state is selling its stake in OTP Bank and the government will look to consult interest groups whose members are involved in the use of EU funds four times a year on how to best spend the funds. Lazar said Hungary will not take back any migrants awaiting deportation in other EU countries.

Government to introduce new tobacco tax

Janos Lazar told a regular press conference that the new tax is expected to be 4 forints (EUR 0.01) per cigarette.

The minister also confirmed press reports that the government is considering ways to make large retailers employ more workers.

The previous system of supermarket oversight fees will have to be restored because of an infringement procedure launched by the European Commission, Lazar said. Restoring the earlier unified minimal fee will result in the central budget losing 23 billion forints (EUR 74m) in revenue, he said.

On another subject, Lazar said that the government will discuss on November 4 a document on how to continue the cuts in retail utility prices and how the cuts could be extended to businesses. The proposed steps would constitute a good response to Brussels, which “has attacked” the utility price cuts, he said. The Hungarian state will soon provide energy to all Hungarian households, he added.

Government to consult interest groups on use of EU funds

Janos Lazar told a regular press conference that the government would consult with representative organisations of social groups, small and medium-sized companies and local governments on EU tenders and the use of the funds.

He said the government will call tenders for 2,000 billion forints (EUR 6.4bn) worth of EU funds in 2016, accounting for 20 to 30 percent of funds available for the 2014-2020 funding period.

Lazar confirms state selling stake in OTP Bank

Janos Lazar said the proceeds would be spent on finance investments, adding that details are expected to be released by the development ministry later in the day.

Trading in OTP shares has been suspended for Thursday due to an auction of little more than 5 percent of OTP Bank shares on the Budapest Stock Exchange.

Equilor brokerage said Wednesday afternoon it will offer 14,091,953 registered OTP Bank shares with face value of 100 forints (EUR 0.32) per share between 12am and 4.30pm on October 29, Thursday, acting on behalf of an unidentified seller.

Equilor retains the right not to make an auction offer in the light of the prices in bids.

Analysts presume the seller could be the National Asset Management Company (MNV), that is to say the state.

The state held 14,091,903 OTP shares or 5.03 percent of the total through MNV on August 31, the latest information available on the stock exchange website shows.

A similar stake, of 5.04 percent, is held by the Lazard group. Other shareholders with a stake in excess of 5 percent are the Russian businessmen Megdet, Timur and Ruszlan Rahimkulov, holding jointly 8.85 percent, oil and gas company MOL (8.57 percent) and the Groupama group (8.22 percent).

Hungary refuses to take back deported migrants

Janos Lazar told a regular government press conference that western European countries have notified Hungary of their intention to return some 40,000 migrants to the country. He insisted that migrants awaiting deportation should be sent back to Greece, since that was where they first entered the EU.

On the topic of US Ambassador Colleen Bell’s remarks at the Budapest Corvinus University on Wednesday, Lazar said Hungary “does not want to take in or allow anyone to pass through the country” even if the ambassador may so request. He said Hungary is a member of the EU and not the United States and “would not tolerate interference by any non-EU member state.”

Land sales fulfill needs of social groups representing farmers

The government’s farmland privatisation programme reflects the needs of social groups representing farmers, the government office chief told a regular press conference on Thursday.
Janos Lazar said that some 8,000 plots out of the plots ranging from 3 to 10 hectares have been put to auctioning, adding that only 26 plots larger than 200 hectares have been put up for sale.

Responding to criticism from the opposition, Lazar said that if the Socialists and radical nationalist Jobbik want to stop the farmland sale, they would have to persuade farmers looking to buy land not to participate in the scheme.

Photo: MTI


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