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At an event marking the day of public administration, state secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office Balázs Orbán said recent government measures and the 2021 budget bill were signs of the government’s willingness to work together with local councils, while Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony highlighted government measures that he said would hobble their operations.
Orbán said central budget funds for cities, towns and villages next year will increase by 16%, or 857 billion forints (EUR 2.4m). Karácsony said the economic crisis could not be handled successfully without the involvement of local municipalities, especially not if measures are taken against them. He said Hungary had the most tight-fisted and short-term support system in Europe for the hundreds of thousands who had lost their jobs as a result of the novel coronavirus epidemic. The government supports well-financed companies and multinationals while drawing away resources from municipalities that could offer direct help to local businesses, he added.
The disputes of recent weeks over the imposition of “punitive payments” on municipalities and “the Budapest tax” were really about whether the government would let local municipalities offer direct help or not, he insisted. Budapest has agreed with trade unions to offer training, expanded job centres, allowances to firms that signed contracts with the metropolitan council and its companies, and paid 10,000 forints each to 10,000 children for summer camps, he said. But a budget that punishes local municipalities makes humane-centred crisis management impossible, he added.
The state secretary countered that the government has announced a job-protection scheme amounting to 18-20% of GDP “unique in Europe”. Thanks to the government’s efforts, so far more than one million jobs have been rescued and next year’s budget will be approved with the same objective. This involves phasing in 13th month pensions, strengthened family support, a wage support scheme and measures to cut taxes and red tape, as well as an investment scheme potentially benefitting “tens of thousands of companies”, he said. Orbán said cooperation was needed to handle the fallout of the epidemic and it was unacceptable to engage in party political battles instead of focusing on working together. He said the government regarded local municipalities as partners, adding that the epidemic could not be successfully overcome without their cooperation.