The prime minister attributed inflation to several factors, some of which, he said, may affect the government. These include exchange rate movements, economic productivity and public debt.
“If energy were not a matter of Brussels sanctions, Hungary’s rate of inflation would perhaps fall by half,” he said. The prime minister said it is hard to understand how any price cap could generate inflation. He added that bankers had protested every price regulation the government had rolled out over the past ten years. “Price caps were not introduced for bankers, but for people in need,” he added.
Orbán conceded that fluctuations in the forint’s exchange rate form an argument for adopting the euro, but said accession to the euro zone would cause economic growth to slow. “If Hungary’s economy is to grow and there is to be convergence, it’s better to stay outside of the euro zone. If stability is more important than convergence, then it’s better to join,” he explained, adding that he takes the position that convergence is more important.
Orbán said the government does not plan to reduce the value-added tax. The prime minister called it a “key to the success of the Hungarian taxation system that the country has the lowest labour taxes in Europe. The central budget, he said, collects the money it needs through consumption rather than through labour taxes. “This is a tax philosophy and we don’t want to change it,” the prime minister said.
Orbán said the government was not planning to negotiate with the IMF on taking out a loan because the conditions attached to such loans “usually hurt people”. The best money is always the one raised from the money market, he said.
Asked about troubled steel maker Dunaferr, Orbán said the government would try to “save what can be saved”, but added that the situation is “chaotic” as even identifying Dunaferr’s owner is problematic. He added that Dunaferr has about 500 billion forints in liabilities.
Asked about a scarf he had worn at a soccer match, which depicted pre-WW1 “greater Hungary”, Orbán said “Hungary is a 1,100-year-old country, we are surrounded by historical symbols which symbolise national unity as part of our everyday life”.
He said he did not accept any opinion which regards an ethnically homogenous community less valuable than an ethnically mixed one.
The prime minister hailed that Benjamin Netanyahu has been re-elected as Israel’s new prime minister. “Netanyahu was the first Israeli prime minister to pay an official visit to Budapest in 2017 after 30 years,” Orbán said, adding that the visit “opened a whole new chapter in Hungarian-Israeli relations”.
Asked about his future plans, Orbán said he had been in opposition for sixteen years before and now it is his seventeenth year in power as government head. “So, I don’t feel it is time for me to retire [from politics],” the prime minister said.