The government will submit the 2024 draft budget to parliament on May 30, with a vote scheduled for July 7, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office said on Thursday.
Despite the challenges surrounding the drafting of the budget such as the ongoing war in Ukraine, the government is keeping to its practice of submitting the budget bill during parliament’s spring session, Gergely Gulyás told a regular press briefing. This ensures predictability and sets the government’s economic policy goals for next year, he added.
The budget aims to guarantee the country’s security, protect families, pensions and jobs, as well as the cap on household utility bills, Gulyás said. It must calculate with the possibility of a protracted war, but it is important that the government’s goals are maintained and that the budget deficit and the public debt are reduced, he said, adding that the draft budget will target a deficit of 2.9 percent of GDP.
The government plans to submit the draft budget to the Fiscal Council on around May 20, he said.
The bill was drafted with the war in mind, Gulyás said, adding that peace and a phasing out of sanctions would greatly increase the budget’s room for manoeuvre, making the country’s situation much easier.
During times of war, the defence budget has to be increased, he said. Amid these circumstances inflation is higher, too, he said, adding that the government continued to urge an immediate ceasefire and peace talks.
Meanwhile, Gulyás said the government is renewing frozen interest rates for retail borrowers and small and medium-sized businesses, and will keep the policy in place until the base rate drops to below 10 percent.
He noted that the interest rate freeze on retail loans was introduced in January 2022 and expanded to SMEs in November.
The rate of inflation and, consequently, the base rate make it impossible to scrap the measure, he said.
As soon as the central bank base rate drops to below 10 percent, the government will phase out the freeze on interest on loans. The government expects inflation to fall into single digits by the end of the year, he noted.
Phasing out the rate freeze now would place too great a burden an many families and SMEs, Gulyás said. The extension of the rate freeze directly helps more than 300,000 families with over 1,360 billion forints (EUR 3.7bn) in credit, he said. The freeze saved them 80 billion forints in 2022 and 60 billion in the first half of 2023, he added.
The measure also affects more than 28,000 SMEs, with close to 1,000 billion forints in loans, and has saved them 80-85 billion forints since its introduction in November 2022, he added.
As regards the war in Ukraine, Gulyás said Pope Francis’s apostolic visit to Hungary late last month reaffirmed the government’s position that urges an immediate ceasefire and peace as “the only morally right one”.
With the pope being pro-peace, “we can say that Hungary’s stance received the strongest possible moral support,” he said.
If the Vatican is preparing a peace plan, as the pope indicated, Hungary will support that peace mission, Gulyás said.
The extent of the destruction, he said, was “already unfathomable”. “Hundreds of thousands have died, and only a ceasefire can save lives,” he added.
Meanwhile, Gulyás said the amendment of the law on the judiciary ensured that Hungary would comply with all requirements for the disbursement of European Union cohesion funds “within weeks”.
He insisted that although the “demands were baseless”, Hungary had complied and often exceeded EU demands. “In about a month’s time, we hope to be able to send invoices to Brussels and get payments in return,” he added.
The funding would flow from sections of the EU’s budget for the 2021-2027 financial cycle that do not fall under the rule-of-law conditionality procedure but from its Resilience and Recovery Facility set up against the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, Gulyas said.
The government aims to ensure access to all resources, he added. “There is serious opposition to that in Brussels and among Hungary’s leftist opposition, but we ask them to stand on the side of Hungarian teachers, health care and the economy,” he said.
Keep on going your own way Hungary 👍👍