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Gergely Gulyás, the prime minister’s chief of staff, told a press briefing on Thursday that the amended budget for this year and the 2022 budget would focus on relaunching the economy. Proposed changes to the 2021 budget have been tabled in parliament, while planned changes for next year will be submitted in a few weeks’ time, he said. A fund equal to 12% of Hungary’s GDP, or 6,000 billion forints (EUR 16.5bn), will be established within this year’s budget to restart the economy once the pandemic has abated and the country is close to achieving herd immunity, Gulyás said. A similar fund of 7,000 billion will be created in the 2022 budget, he added. If parliament approves the two budgets, it will have ensured a “lifeline” for the economy and possibly spurred a vigorous growth as early as this year, he said. The number of job holders grew by 66,000 in March compared to February, Gulyás said. The government’s pledge to restore all jobs lost to the pandemic will be met once a further 10,000 jobs are created, he said.
Restaurants will be eligible for wage subsidies regardless of whether they opened their terraces or not, he added. Gulyás said the payment of subsidies was “fast and effective,” and the government has already disbursed 71.7 billion forints of the 72.2 billion requested. Gulyás insisted that the decision to reopen schools and kindergartens had been a good one, with 60% of kindergarteners and 75% of 1-4 grade pupils back in school at the first week of in-person teaching, Gulyás said. Their numbers are continuing to grow, he added. At the same time, Gulyás slammed opposition political forces and “trade unions embroiled in opposition party politics”, accusing them of “doing their utmost to sow uncertainty and fear regarding the reopening of kindergartens and the elementary schools.”
Regarding the proposal now before lawmakers to extend the special legal order in Hungary, Gulyás said it was designed to ensure that the country retains its ability to take fast action to ensure protections against the coronavirus pandemic. Gulyás said Hungary was implementing “the most successful vaccination programme of the EU”, with the number of vaccinated Hungarians increasing and new infections shrinking, but he warned that “the epidemic is not over”, necessitating an extension of the current order. Under the proposal, the special legal order would be extended until fifteen days after the start of parliament’s autumn season and the government may terminate the special legal order at any time when its powers applicable under such conditions were no longer necessary, he noted. Terminating the special powers would be “in our joint interest”, he said, as this would signal the end of the epidemic. But the government must be able to make swift and effective decisions while the virus is still around, he added. Gulyás lamented the lack of political unity on the issue and he called on the opposition to reconsider their combative stance. “Trying to discredit the health-care system with fake news and videos during the protection effort is hardly a political feat,” Gulyás said. He insisted the opposition continued to attack the vaccines, and still had a draft proposal tabled in parliament which attempted to ban the “most effective vaccines,” he added. Gulyás called on the opposition to abandon its anti-vaccination stance.