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Finance Minister Mihály Varga has called for establishing new Hungarian brands. Addressing a panel discussion on competitiveness at the “Tusványos” Summer University in Băile Tușnad (Tusnádfürdő), in central Romania, on Thursday, Varga said that once these brands were built up, suppliers would be able to allocate competitive Hungarian technologies to them. “Competitiveness doesn’t start abroad,” the minister said. “First we have to establish ourselves at home so that we are competitive when we enter foreign markets.”
Varga urged letting go of the idea that competitiveness based on cheap labour can be lasting. “We’re gradually on our way out of this era.” Hungary must now transition to the small and medium-series production of quality goods, he said, arguing that “this has a future from the point of view of the Carpathian Basin.” The minister also touched on the need to be able to adapt to swift market changes, pointing out that products currently in demand may no longer have a market 6 months to a year from now. Varga said the era of manufacturing technologies considered obsolete in Germany being used in central Europe was also at an end. Today, Hungary has access to the latest technologies being used in Germany and Austria but is still behind in terms of sales productivity, he added.
Hungary’s task now is to reach German levels of productivity, the minister said, adding that this required a move towards robotisation. The workforce replaced by robotisation will be able to find work in the fields of programming, logistics and quality management, he added. Varga said Hungary should concentrate on improving its competitiveness in areas that involve new technologies where no one has gained a significant advantage yet. He named the production of electric and autonomous vehicles, the green economy and renewable energy as examples of sectors Hungary should focus on.
The minister noted the National Competitiveness Council set up in 2016 to give policy recommendations to the government on how to improve competitiveness. Over the past year-and-a-half, the government has focused on improving the country’s business environment and the competitiveness of companies, Varga said. It also “fixed” the budget, he said, adding that public debt was declining and the unemployment rate had fallen to 3.4%.