Hungary’s budget deficit, excluding local councils, reached 539.7 billion forints (EUR 1.5bn) at the end of February, the Finance Ministry confirmed. The ministry attributed the deficit to pandemic spending. “The resources necessary for [pandemic] defence, such as the procurement of vaccines and for restarting the economy continue to be available in the budget,” the ministry added. The central budget had a 505.5 billion forint deficit and the social insurance funds were 47.6 billion in the red, but separate state funds had a 13.4 billion surplus at the end of February. The deficit swelled after running a 198.8 billion forint surplus at the end of January. The ministry noted that payouts for European Union funded projects came close to 481 billion forints in January-February, while transfers from Brussels reached just 128.8 billion. Hungary’s government has been pre-financing EU-supported investments for years, a practice that impacts the cash flow-based deficit, but not the accrual-based deficit calculated according to EU accounting rules.