The action plan would be implemented in three stages. "We have already taken the first step involving the reduction in social security payments, help offered to those paying KATA simplified business tax and the suspension of bank loan repayments," Orbán said.

The next step would comprise five measures. The entire plan would involve reshuffling 18-20 percent of GDP, including schemes launched by the central bank. The government must deviate from the 2020 budget under the changed circumstances and raise the budget deficit from 1 percent to 2.7 percent of GDP this year, the prime minister said. A resolution would be published.

The first of five measures currently introduced aims at preserving jobs, he said. The government would subsidise the wages of employees whose working hours were cut, representing a special Hungarian form of wage support.

As part of a family and pension protection scheme, the government would reintroduce in four phased steps the granting of a 13th-month's pension to seniors. Orbán said seniors will receive an extra week's pension in February 2021, then the same amounts in 2022, 2023 and 2024. "Now we must save jobs but we cannot forget about pensioners: our parents and grandparents, who are the most vulnerable in the current situation," he said.

Under another programme, companies in key sectors of the national economy would be provided loans with interest subsidies or state guarantees worth a combined HUF 2000 billion under the government's protection plan. The measure would benefit businesses in tourism, health, food production, agriculture, construction, logistics, transport and creative industries.

Additionally, the government would provide HUF 450 billion of support for investments. "After ten years of hard and persistent work, Hungary was just on the right track when the coronavirus epidemic arrived in Europe and threatened everything we have worked for," Orbán said.

Hungary had dedicated itself to financial stability and responsible fiscal management ten years ago, and this would not change now.

Innovation and Technology Minister László Palkovics will coordinate the economic protection programme, and Minister for National Assets Andrea Máger will be in charge of inducting state-owned companies into the scheme.

Orbán said Finance Minister Mihály Varga is expected to raise the funds for the scheme while also ensuring fiscal discipline.

Hungary's opposition parties slammed the measures as inadequate and weak. At a press conference held by the Socialists, the Democratic Coalition (DK), Jobbik, Párbeszéd, LMP and Momentum, Jobbik's György László Lukács said Hungarians' interests would be best served if parliament passed legislation only related to protection efforts, "for example laws making face masks mandatory [in public] and providing the necessary supplies".

Lukács said the bill before parliament "contains legislation that has nothing to do with protection efforts". He decried government legislative attempts to make "a major investment confidential and help oligarchs expand their estates". Lukács said Orbán’s measures are a "PR move", not a solution.

Socialist leader Bertalan Tóth welcomed the HUF 500,000 bonus for health-care workers but said social workers, post office and retail employees also deserved protective gear and financial recognition. Tóth insisted Orbán is "exploiting the tragic situation" to give "land, money and privileges to his oligarchs".

Gergely Arató, DK's deputy group leader, called on the government to accept the European Union's financial help and channel it towards protection efforts and helping those in difficulty.

Párbeszéd's Bence Tordai accused Orbán of "playing the dictator" and "throwing the constitution and the EU's basic treaty under the bus" to deflect from the "small and weak" protection plan. The priority should be to ease the suffering of the sick and those losing their jobs, he said, calling for the introduction of a basic income during states of emergency.

LMP's Antal Csárdi said "weakening local authorities on the frontline of protection efforts" worked against the response efforts to the virus. Local authorities are using their own resources to take care of the elderly, patients in quarantine and potential virus carriers, he said, accusing the government of failure to provide funds.

Momentum spokesman Miklós Hajnal warned that the fate of those losing their jobs due to the epidemic remains uncertain, as is compensation for those losing most or all of their income.

Independent lawmaker Bernadett Szél called for a solidarity tax on people who profited from their connections to the government. She wants large investments to be halted and for the practice of "siphoning monies from the economy" and "government propaganda" to cease.


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