Budapest, February 4 (MTI) – A unified position of the Visegrad Four is needed in connection with the UK’s reform package put forward to the European Union, government office chief Janos Lázár said. The government is prepared to hold talks with school leaders on Hungary’s public education system, he said. Lázár has said he will propose to the government that the 2017 budget take into account a 15 percent staff cut in public administration in an effort to scale back red tape.
V4 must unify positions on British EU proposal
The grouping of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia must discuss issues in connection with the British reform plans, including the rights and responsibilities of Hungarians taking jobs in the UK, Lázár told his weekly press conference on Thursday. He said a meeting of the V4 in Prague on February 15. will address the issue.
Lázár said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would hold talks in Moscow on Feb. 17 and attend a meeting of the European Council in Brussels on Feb. 18-19.
Government ready to hold talks on public education
Lázár said school district officials are constantly in talks with school leaders on the state of public education and noted that further talks will be held on February 9 when the newly-formed public education roundtable meets for the first time.
The government office chief said the pre-2010 public education system had “failed” and therefore could not be restored. Talks between schools and the government can only be meaningful if they are about the future, Lázár said.
In international, and European comparison, Hungary has a lower teacher-per-student ratio than other countries, and Hungarian students have fewer classes in their curriculum than their peers in other similar countries, Lázár said. The concept of a nine-grade elementary school has not been taken off the agenda, he said, adding that the main question being considered is the actual content of the curriculum children need to learn.
Concerning the running of schools, Lázár said a professional management system cannot be set up from one day to the next, and he said the state had lacked related experience over the past 30 years.
Addressing investment policy, Lázár said the government is setting up an investment development and an economic cabinet, and will also approve construction of the Abony-M0 section of the M4 highway.
Regarding international affairs, Lazar said that the prime minister will hold talks in Moscow on Feb. 17 as part of regular consultations between Hungary and Russia, he said, adding that topics will cover primarily bilateral issues. The migrant crisis as well as the conflict in Ukraine were “unavoidable” topics, added.
He said the Paks nuclear power plant investment was proceeding apace.
Lázár said Hungary has always supported United States initiatives to help the region, and Hungary is ready to accede to any requests if they are made through NATO, he said, adding that Hungary has not received any such request so far.
Commenting on an impending visit to Austria, Lázár said that there had been differences of opinion between the Austrian and Hungarian governments on several issues in the recent past, and he felt that he should therefore accept an invitation to attend the Vienna Opera Ball made by the Austrian Peoples’ Party (OVP).
Government proposes 15 pc staff cut in public administration
Lázár told a weekly government press briefing on Thursday that in order to implement a 50 percent pay raise for employees of government district offices, the number of employees working there will have to be cut from 36,000 to 30,000 by the end of the year.
Lázár said that he will also propose creating a scheme to compensate public administration workers who volunteer redundancy. The programme would involve awarding a 5-10 million forint (EUR 16,000-32,000) bonus to staff who volunteer redundancy between July 1, 2016 and January 1, 2017 and do not apply for a job in the public sector for 10-15 years, he added.
He said the government is planning to relaunch the so-called “career bridge” scheme to award government grants to employers who hire workers leaving the public sector. He said anyone who reaches retirement age must leave the public sector and there will be no one taking their place.
He said streamlining 73 state-run institutions will help to boost competitiveness. The government has already amended 110 laws and 158 statutory instruments in order to cut red tape.
Lázár said he would propose to the government that winning bidders in EU tenders should be allowed to immediately receive upfront 50 percent of the amount they had been awarded.
He added that tax administration is currently too slow. It takes an average Hungarian business 277 hours to complete tax administration each year.
He said that an expansion of the regional network of single-window government offices will be completed by May and this will require a 50 billion forint IT upgrade.
On the subject of the government’s home subsidy programme, Lázár said 40 billion forints have been laid aside in the 2016 budget for the purpose and this amount could be raised without limit if there is demand. In the coming weeks the government will publish two decrees unifying the regulations on subsidised home purchases, he said. Fully 80-90 percent of the population agrees with the idea of the government supporting families with children with the measures, he said.