The April 3 general election will decide whether or not “Hungary retains its new economy or we go back to the old one”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told a conference of the Hungarian Chamber of Trade and Industry on Saturday.
Orbán said the government had completely overhauled the economy after 2010. “Our economy today is not the same” as the old one, he added.
The opposition, he said, “rejects the link between work and benefits; yet one of the greatest innovations has been to link all the money we made available to people from the economy to work.”
“We completely oppose any communist, socialist approach to economic policymaking,” he added.
Orbán stressed the importance of private property as the basis for prosperity and on which the nation could build its future. The Fidesz government “wants people to have their own homes, savings, and their own land,” he added.
He said when people owned their assets they managed them, thereby creating a different kind of culture and behaviour. “You cannot just live from hand to mouth.”
Orbán pledged that after the election “we will firmly support private property out of a philosophical conviction”.
He also vowed to sign a strategic agreement with the trade and industry chamber. “The government needs allies to ensure a social background for its policies aimed at building a stronger Hungary,” he said.
Concerning the economy, Orbán noted that a similar economic expansion to last year’s 7.1 percent had last been seen in 1977, while the rate of foreign investments in Hungary in 2021 was the second highest in the EU.
The pandemic has been a major stress test for the new economic model, Orbán said. The government’s crisis management helped the country pass that test with a “fast and strong recovery”, he said, adding it helped that the crisis had hit the country when the economy was strong enough to withstand the headwinds. With its high diversity, Hungary’s economy is the 10th most competitive country in the world, he said.
Meanwhile, he said Hungary was a “transit country” but this advantage hadn’t been sufficiently exploited over the past 20-30 years, and more economic benefits could be tapped from its geographical location. The more goods that transit the country the better, he said.
Orbán said Hungary’s motorway kilometres per capita were the highest in the Visegrád Group but railway and air traffic capacities should be further developed.
“Critics of such projects as the Belgrade-Budapest rail upgrade wish the worst,” he said, adding that such critics “would see somebody else exploit the opportunity”.
Concerning Hungary’s foreign debt, the prime minister said it “cannot go above 80 percent even in times of crisis” or else “nobody will save us from fiscal alcoholism”. Noting that the debt ratio had been over 80 percent in 2010, he said it was a “moral obligation” not to cross that line unless absolutely necessary.
Orbán praised his government’s crisis management strategy for not compromising the budget and keeping the labour market stable. He noted that the number of the employed, 4.7 million people, had not been as high since 1990.