Weekly press briefing about Paks, economy, Horthy statue and other topics

Budapest (MTI) – Concerning the planned upgrade of the Paks nuclear plant, the government office chief said on Thursday said that the Hungarian Debt Management Agency (AKK) would evaluate financing options every time it is presented with bills for the project.

The agency has been given the option to decide whether to settle outstanding charges related to the upgrade project using loans from the open market, funds from the budget or by drawing on a 10 billion euro credit line provided by the Russian state, János Lázár told a weekly press briefing.

Lázár noted that Hungary’s position on the financial market had improved since signing the loan agreement with Russia in June 2014.

The government’s economic cabinet asked for the opinion of AKK, the economy ministry and the Rothschild Group on replacing the Russian loan with financing from the market but decided to stick with the original contract as even an international consortium would struggle to provide 10 billion euros of financing with a 30 years maturity, Lázár said.

Up until March 6 this year, work costing around 100 million euros was completed. The Russian credit line has been available since April 29, and in the next twelve months around 600-900 million euros of work is expected to be carried out, Lázár added.

On the subject of next year’s budget, Lázár said that the bill would be on the agenda of the cabinet’s meeting on May 24, and parliament is expected to pass it into law before June 15. He said next year’s budget deficit was seen at 2.4 percent. “Hungary’s public finances are in order and this is a proof against allegations of corruption: if the funds had been stolen the budget would be empty,” he said.

District nurses will receive a monthly wage supplement of 33,000 forints from November and this will be paid throughout 2018, he said. Concurrently, preparations will be made for developing a national network of district maternity nurses, and the government wants the service to operate along common standards by 2018. He said that maternity nurses now employed by municipalities should be organised into a national service, and together with family doctors, should form “a pillar” of national health care.

He confirmed that wages of ambulance workers will increase by 10 percent from next year as part of the new career model in the sector. He added that while in 2010 the government had spent 22.5 billion forints on the ambulance service; next year’s spending will reach 39.7 billion forints.

Lázár noted Hungary’s growing construction sector. While 5,000 home construction permits were issued in the first quarter of last year, twice as many were issued in the same period in 2017, he said.

Concerning an investigation into recent allegations of child abuse at a home for the disabled in Göd, near Budapest, Lázár said that “the government must help the parents”. He insisted that parents are “not interested” in the views of politicians but “do care about the circumstances of their child”.

On another subject, Lázár said he had filed a criminal complaint in connection with company Welt 2000, which he said had illegally privatised a software used in connection with European Union tenders and the distribution of EU funds in the 2003-2009 period. Referring to former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, he also suggested that people implicated in the case had occupied senior positions in Altus, a company “belonging to the Gyurcsány family”.

Lázár said that a deputy state secretary of the foreign ministry was in talks with officials of Thailand, Malaysia, and China, concerning the operation of foreign universities in Hungary. These countries “consider the matter a technical issue and have assured the government of their cooperation”. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will sign a relevant agreement during his current visit to China, he added.

Orbán is leaving for Beijing on Thursday and will stay until next Tuesday, participating in the One Belt, One Road Forum.

Meanwhile, Lázár said the government was not planning to buy an aircraft for the prime minister. He added that military planes used by the government had been withdrawn, but once the army has new aircraft, the government would make use of them.

On the subject of plans to erect a monument to Miklós Horthy, Hungary’s regent in the interbellum era, in Perkáta, in central Hungary, Lázár said that the government would not pay tribute to Horthy for his role during Hungary’s German occupation, but it “cannot strip a community of the right to erect such a monument”.

Photo: atomeromu.hu