'Green' vehicles rethink

The government will revamp its subsidy system for all-electric vehicles to favour smaller, cheaper cars, state secretary for energy and climate policy Péter Kaderják has said. In the latest tender for electric vehicle (EV) subsidies, which closed on February 24, the state subsidy covered 21 percent of the purchase price of new EVs but was capped at HUF 1.5 million per vehicle. Vehicles with price tags up to HUF 20 million were eligible for the subsidies. Kaderják said subsidies of some HUF 3 billion had supported the purchase of 2800 EVs since the support began in 2016 and more than 16,000 "green" number plates were issued. These plates, which confer tax preferences and other benefits, are available for all-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids that can travel at least 25 kilometres on a single charge, hybrids that can travel at least 50 kilometres using electric power and other zero-emission vehicles. The government is also working on changes to that system, Kaderják said. Support for EVs is one of the points of a climate protection plan unveiled by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in February.


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# Underground half-marathon in district X's tunnel system


Kidney transplant milestone

Budapest's Semmelweis University says it has conducted its 5000th kidney transplant, on a 52-year-old man suffering hypertrophy. The university conducted 130 kidney transplants in 2019, placing it second on the list of Eurotransplant, an international organisation coordinating transplants between eight countries, the university said.


Wages up 13.1pc

The average gross wage for full-time workers grew by an annual 13.1 percent to a monthly HUF 406,388 in December 2019, the Central Statistical Office has said. Net wages grew at the same pace, to HUF 270,248. Calculating with a 3.4 percent inflation rate in 2019, real wages rose 7.7 percent over the year. K&H Bank head analyst Dávid Németh said wage growth was likely to be in single digits in 2020 and growth in real wages would slow even further due to inflation effects. Wages may rise by around 9-10 percent this year, while real wages may grow by 6 percent, he said. Takarékbank chief analyst András Horváth said labour market conditions remained tight, so wages could continue to rise at an "intensive" pace as there has been a shortage of skilled labour in every segment of the economy since 2016. He said wages are expected to rise by around 10 percent in 2020, while real wages may increase by around 5.5 percent.


# Exhibition on nobel laureate Imre Kertész' early life opens in Ervin Szabó Library


Ryanair delay 'scandalous'

The municipal government office has been instructed to investigate a Ryanair flight that was delayed on the tarmac for six hours at Budapest's Liszt Ferenc International Airport. Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister's Office, and István Gyorgy, state secretary for regional public administration, have tasked the municipal government office to determine if Ryanair handled the delay in line with its legal obligations. The Prime Minister's Office slammed Ryanair's action as "scandalous", saying passengers had a right to receive information about flight schedules and that airlines are expected to do all they can to minimise inconveniences.


Blowing hot and cold

Financing to air-condition the revamped Metro 3 line is available but a technical solution is missing, Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony has said. After a meeting of the Metropolitan Public Development Council. Karácsony complained of "fake news" about his administration allegedly quashing plans to fit air-conditioning due to a lack of funding. He blamed his predecessor for the "bad decision" to renovate Russian trains while excluding from the public procurement tender an Estonian contractor that had solved the air-conditioning problem. "Funding and the political will is there," he said. "It's the technical solution that is missing."


# Mály Bird Rescue Organisation saves baby chipmunk weighing just below 30 grams


Director refuses award

István Szabó, Hungary's first director to win an Oscar, has refused the Hungarian Film Academy Association lifetime achievement award. "The association takes note of, and respects, Szabó's decision," it said. Szabó, whose “Mephisto” won an Academy Award in 1982, has been criticised for his role as a secret police informant during communist rule.


HEV tenders called

The renovation and expansion of Budapest's HEV rapid suburban railway line network has been launched with the invitation of European Union tenders. Dávid Vitézy, who heads the Budapest Development Centre that is implementing the project in a consortium with MAV-HEV, said the tenders involve planning for the renovation of the H6 and H7 HEV lines in the south of the capital and extension of the H7 line. The plan is to connect H6 and H7 as they approach the inner districts and extend the joined line, underground, to Kalvin Square, where the number 3 and number 4 metro lines intersect, he said. The H5 HEV line in the north of the city would also get an upgrade. A feasibility study would examine construction of a tunnel under the Danube connecting the H6 and H7 with the H5 line. Vitézy said this all could double rail commuters from the suburbs into the capital.


# Truck spills its load on a highway ramp near Budapest


Jail for kickbacks

The Budapest court of appeals has imprisoned two generals of the Hungarian military for two and three years, respectively, on charges of bribery in a binding ruling. The court stipulated seizure of the defendants' assets worth HUF 27 million and HUF 50 million, respectively. Six defendants were handed suspended prison sentences in the case, in which 17 suspects were believed to have demanded kickbacks from companies providing services to the military between 2002 and 2010. Four others have appealed to the supreme court against the appeals court decision.


Family policy 'failure'

A Socialist politician has asserted that the government's attempts to boost the population by helping families are failing. Ildikó Bangóné Borbély said 2019 was the worst year of the past six for the declining birth rate. The population fell 40,400 last year as a result of 89,200 live births and 129,600 deaths, the Central Statistical Office had reported. Borbély said Fidesz's overhaul of family policy starting in 2014 had only led to the rich getting even richer and the poor getting poorer. "In the meantime the birth rate has been declining," she added. The essence of right-wing family policymaking was "get married, earn well, have at least three children, and then you'll receive state support".


# Pygmy hippopotamus born in Szeged Wildlife Park


Ratings upgraded

The Japan Credit Rating Agency (JCR) has upgraded Hungary's foreign currency long-term issuer rating to 'A-' from 'BBB+' with a 'stable' outlook. It also upgraded Hungary's local currency long-term issuer rating to 'A' from 'A-' with a 'stable' outlook. The foreign currency long-term issuer and the local currency long-term issuer ratings are four and five notches, respectively, over the investment grade threshold. "The upgraded ratings reflect the country's strengthened economic base resulting from the effective economic policies taken by the government and the central bank, improved public finance brought by a stabilising revenue base, and shrinking government and external debts in terms of GDP," JCR said.


MPs back Szekler bid

Hungary's Parliament has approved a resolution to support a European initiative by the Szekler National Council on the protection of national regions. The proposal by green opposition LMP, supported by the ruling parties, opposition Jobbik and the Socialists, was approved unanimously with 158 votes. The decision has symbolic significance given 2020 has been declared a year of national cohesion 100 years after the Trianon Treaty, the resolution states. The Szekler National Council fought for six years to achieve a European court ruling that obliged the European Commission to consider a proposal submitted for the initiative. In line with the resolution, parliament welcomes the initiative dubbed European Citizens' Initiative for the Equality of the Regions and Sustainability of the Regional Cultures, which aims to convince the European Union to pay special attention to regions whose national, cultural, religious and ethnic characteristics are different from those of the surrounding regions. Parliament has called on Hungarians inside and outside Hungary to support the initiative. It was launched on May 7 last year, and to be successful at least one million supporting signatures are needed from seven member states by May 7 this year.


# State railway MÁV's self-developed IC trains start service


Work on Roman sites

The Hungarian National Museum is heading a project to set up an archaeological park and information centre on two sites along the Roman Empire's border line. The remains of the Campona Castellum on the southern edge of Budapest and the port fortress in Verőce, on the Danube in northern Hungary, will be the focus of the new project. The museum's deputy head, Gábor Rezi Kató, said the aim is to develop the sites, which are vying for the UNESCO world heritage status, into a thematic network and to make them attractive to tourists. Participants in the project include the local authority of Verőce and the Museum of Applied Arts.


Jobless rate 3.4pc

Hungary's three-month rolling average jobless rate reached 3.4 percent in January, up 0.1 percentage point from December but 0.3 percentage point lower than 12 months earlier, the Central Statistical Office has said. The rate covers unemployment among those aged between 15 and 74 years. In absolute terms, there were 160,300 unemployed, 5100 more than in December and down 9500 from a year earlier.


Base rate stays put

Rate-setters at the National Bank have left the base rate unchanged at 0.90 percent and the central bank O/N deposit rate at -0.05 percent. The Monetary Council has not changed the base rate since May 2016, though it has tweaked monetary policy on a quarterly basis, coinciding with the publication of the central bank's Inflation Report. The council said it will continue to decide on adjustments to monetary policy on a quarterly basis, and would make a "comprehensive assessment of macroeconomic developments" in the next Inflation Report, due when the rate-setters meet in March. The council reiterated that it expects CPI to "return to the [+/- 1pp] tolerance band by the end of the first quarter of 2020, and to stabilise at the 3 percent inflation target in the second half of the forecast horizon".


'Think again' on Liget

László Baán, the commissioner in charge transforming Budapest's City Park (Liget) into a cultural venue, has asked Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony to withdraw a proposed ban on the construction of buildings that have not yet received a construction permit. Baán said that as the law stands, the ban would end up curtailing green developments such as the refurbishment and expansion of park areas. "Not a single tree or bush would be planted and not a single square metre of green space could be refurbished" under the ban, he said. Baán criticised the metropolitan council leadership for failing to discuss the impact of the proposal with the asset manager designated in the law on City Park or with Városliget, the state-owned company in charge of the project. It was "rather absurd" that "after declaring absolute priority for green developments" the Budapest leadership, "right in the middle of a climate emergency", had submitted a proposal that would result in a ban on mainly green developments. Baán asked Karácsony to provide an opportunity for "proper talks" on the project.


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