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Asked in an interview if Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would vote in favour of extending the sanctions imposed on Russia at the EU summit scheduled for February, the head of the prime minister’s office said that if Hungary got the exemptions it had been granted so far, then its interests lay in upholding European unity. Concerning energy prices, Gergely Gulyás told commercial news site that if the price of gas or electricity fell significantly on the European energy exchange, then market prices — meaning the price exceeding the utility bill cap — could be reduced instead of having to modify the threshold for average consumption.
As regards next year’s state budget, Gulyás noted that the government had been forced to raise the target deficit to 3.9% of GDP in the interest of keeping the energy price caps in place. Gulyás said local councils were set to receive 80 billion forints (EUR 200,000) in the first round of a government utility support scheme. Budapest district councils that have engaged in talks with the government irrespective of party affiliation will receive state support to finance their increased energy costs, he added.
Concerning inflation, Gulyás said rising demand generated by the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic had driven prices up, which was then aggravated by the effects of the war and the related sanctions, including “brutal energy prices” and the weakening of the forint’s exchange rate. Ensuring price stability and achieving the inflation target of less than 3% is the responsibility of, “but does not depend solely on” the central bank, Gulyás said. “The aim is to bring inflation down into the single digits by the end of next year, and I think this is a realistic goal,” he added. He said this was the aim of the price caps introduced by the government. This, along with the strengthening of the forint in the past month have helped curb inflation, he said. But because of increased freight costs, high import volumes and increased consumption, it is important to keep the prices of certain basic products capped at last year’s levels, he added. Meanwhile, Gulyás said no meetings between the Hungarian prime minister and either the Ukrainian or Russian president were on the agenda.
On another topic, Gulyás said he was in agreement with the prime minister and Interior Minister Sándor Pintér that teachers who neglect their duty citing civil disobedience despite receiving multiple warnings should be terminated. “No employer is going to tolerate having their employee no show three times in a row,” he argued.