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Opposition parties called the 2023 draft budget “the Orbán austerity package” and a “budget of tax hikes and austerity” in Parliament on Wednesday.
Democratic Coalition (DK) deputy leader László Varju called the government’s “rhetoric” of a work-based society “a dead end”. The much-praised investment successes are in reality exposing legally vulnerable, low-earning employees to multinational companies, he said. At the same time, no other European currency weakened as much as the forint did in the last period, and inflation of food prices is at 25%, he said. The state debt has reached 76% of GDP and has risen by 2,000 billion forints (EUR 5.0bn) in the first quarter of 2022 alone, he said. He insisted that EU resources were not available because the government had “turned the country into a corrupt banana republic”. While the draft budget earmarked 11% more for “bureaucracy” than last year and the budget of public media foundation MTVA would grow by 10%, the “government wants to have the people pay the price of their botched economic policy”. Varju called on the government to scrap VAT on food stuffs until the end of the year and reintroduce a 5% tax in 2023, to ease the burden on families. He noted that according to the draft budget, health-care spending would be reduced to 4% of GDP, and spending on public education to 3.4%.
Jobbik lawmaker Dániel Z Kárpát said the budget calculated with a lot of additional revenues, showing that the government “was preparing to levy a lot of taxes on the Hungarian people”. He called on the government to rework the budget into a “budget building the future” by allocating more for “real family and child protection”. “The government should let go of the hand of multinational corporations and banks, and take the side of families, he said.
Momentum lawmaker András Fekete-Győr said Momentum MPs will not vote for the budget. After years of talking against austerity and tax hikes, the government “tabled an enormous austerity package now, at a time when we have real difficulties,” he said. Fekete-Győr called for “investment into people”, saying that Momentum would raise teachers’ wages. “The problem is not wanting to save money” but that it would hit sectors like public education, health care and social work, he said.
The Socialist Party called the bill the “budget of uncertainty”, saying the geopolitical situation, the outcome of the rule-of-law procedure launched against Hungary and the country’s access to cohesion funds were all uncertain, making the numbers in the budget uncertain as well. Bertalan Tóth, the party’s keynote speaker, said that inflation and the “austerity measures” he said had been imposed by the Fidesz-led government, were, on the other hand, certain. Pensioners, “underpaid teachers”, social-sector workers and families “all live in uncertainty”, he insisted. Tóth said the Orbán government had added “one of the highest inflation rates in Europe” to Hungary’s “high public debt and deficit”. The public debt is higher now than it was in 2010 and the 13th month pension and tax rebates paid out at the beginning of the year have been offset by inflation, he said. He said ruling Fidesz had “gradually dismantled the rule of law and democracy” and had “turned its back on EU values”.
Bence Tordai of the Párbeszéd party said the Orbán government “must be in despair now that it sees that the house of cards it has built in the past several years has come crumbling down on it”. He accused the government of implementing an austerity package amounting to 7% of GDP, cutting 4,000 billion forints from the budget. He said the prime minister had “put together a brutal package that will hurt all Hungarians except oligarchs tied to Fidesz”.
Green LMP said the budget aimed to “keep Hungary in the past” at a time when the country should be reacting quickly to the new situation. Lawmaker Antal Csárdi said the 2023 budget was in many ways more important than any other budget of the last 12 years, arguing that “we’re living in a time of crisis after which nothing will be what it once was”. “We are on the verge of a new era and the budget should prove that the government has recognised this and prepared for it,” he said. But he insisted that the government was denying these changes and was “looking to the past”.
The radical Mi Hazánk (Our Homeland) party called the draft budget “the budget of multinational corporations”. László Toroczkai, the party’s group leader, said the government had no intention of building Hungary’s national economy, and was opening up the country to cheap foreign labour. He said the government “doesn’t even try to tax tech giants” and deliberately calculated with an optimistic inflation rate. Toroczkai said the government should levy special taxes on casinos and that the public sector would soon be incapable of functioning due to low wages.