Budapest, April 26 (MTI) – Hungarian opposition parties slammed the 2017 draft budget submitted on Tuesday by the economy minister.
The opposition Jobbik party said the budget showed the symptoms of “a dried up economy”. Dániel Z Kárpát, the party’s spokesman, told a press conference that the problems of “the previous eight years” should have been corrected over the past six years. Instead, economic policies still depend on foreign capital and multinational companies that fail to serve Hungary’s long-term interests.
He said infrastructure developments were sorely needed as well as more spending on health care, education and job creation. He said the government’s home-building subsidies were only good for helping a privileged few, while Jobbik would introduce state-funded home-leasing programme instead. Jobbik would also lower VAT on basic food, consumption and child-care products to 5 percent or less, he said.
The government’s budget draft seeks to serve the interests of the ruling Fidesz party’s “oligarchs”, Erzsébet Schmuck, deputy group leader of the opposition LMP party said. Noting the government’s recent pledges to balance the chapter of the budget that excludes EU and domestic development funding in 2017, she said “everything is in place for the government to steal as much EU funds as possible”.
Schmuck criticised ruling Fidesz’s economic policy, which she said was not helping to eliminate poverty among workers and was hurting Hungary’s competitiveness. She added that whereas the government had pledged to spend a total 100 billion forints on health care next year, more than two-thirds of that amount will need to go towards settling hospital debt rather than being spent on wage rises in the sector.
Schmuck repeated her party’s criticism of “wasteful” projects such as the construction of sports facilities, the Paks nuclear upgrade and the prime minister’s office relocation to the Buda Castle. She called spending by the National Bank and its foundations “outrageous” and said that the central bank should pay its profits into the central budget.
The opposition Együtt party called next year’s budget bill “self-centred” and “short-sighted”. “There is no other state in the region that spends as much on itself as Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, operating “its apparatus, political propaganda and bureaucracy”, Zsuzsanna Szelenyi said. At the same time, there is no debt reduction, no new investments or real jobs, she insisted.
The opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) said that figures in the budget bill show that the country’s real interests are unimportant as far as the “Orban regime” is concerned. After having “ruined doctors, nurses and patients” over the past six years, the government has only become alert to the needs of the health-care sector belatedly, the managing deputy leader of the party said. The extra allocation for health care will not be enough for facility developments, wage increases or the reduction of waiting lists, and will only cover servicing mounting hospital debts, said Csaba Molnar, adding that the sector would need about an additional 500-600 billion forints in central funding. He said DK would boycott the bill’s parliamentary debate and refuse to submit amendments since it regards the government’s economic and social policies wrongheaded.
Economy Minister Mihály Varga announced yesterday that tax cuts, home-building and growth would be in the focus of the 2017 budget, with targeted economic growth next year of 3.1 percent together with a budget deficit of 2.4 percent of GDP. The budget contains a combined 170 billion forints (EUR 545m) of reserves in the National Protection Fund and for “extraordinary government measures”, Varga said.