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Opposition presents plans for economic policy

Parties of the united opposition presented their ideas concerning a possible introduction of the euro, taxes, inflation, job creation and budget management at a roundtable organised by the Civitas Institute on Thursday.

Parbeszed MP Tamas Mellar said the opposition’s plans to introduce the European single currency were “very good”, but added that the programme would take at least five years to complete. Hungary could not at present meet the Maastricht criteria for the introduction of the euro, but aspirants are expected to present a “credible programme” outlining a schedule, he said. Mellar insisted that the current policy of currency devaluation could not be maintained and suggested that the exchange rate of the forint should be kept within “a very narrow” band.

Democratic Coalition MP Laszlo Varju added that “there has been no political will” to join the euro zone in the past ten years despite “there being opportunities”.

LMP’s Antal Csardi called for a progressive personal income tax to replace the single bracket system, adding that minimum wages should be exempted from tax.

Participants in the roundtable also agreed that the VAT system should be changed, and said it was “not without precedent” in Europe to have multiple VAT brackets. Daniel Z. Karpat of Jobbik said Hungary had the highest VAT rate in Europe on products for children.

Zoltan Vajda, representing the Socialist Party and the Everybody’s Hungary Movement, said the central bank’s policies were “irresponsible”, and criticised the bank’s purchases of government securities as well as the fact that it runs foundations. He insisted that the central bank’s continual base rate hikes were ineffective and had failed to strengthen the national currency.

Marton Ilyes of the Momentum party said that a labour shortage in the country was the result of increasing emigration, especially when it came to the health, construction, and farming sectors. He criticised the government for “wasting exorbitant funds” on “attracting companies to Hungary offering similar types of jobs” rather than making efforts to create increasingly higher quality jobs.

Meanwhile, Varju called the 2022 budget “impracticable” and called for a new one. He insisted that transparency of the budget was a pillar of the rule of law. He also called for health services to be made free of charge.

Ruling Fidesz said in response that former prime ministers Ferenc Gyurcsany and Gordon Bajnai, “the same people who already destroyed the country once and ran it according to the financial interests of foreign speculators”, were still in charge of Hungarian left-wing economic policy.

“Under successive left-wing governments, Hungary gave up its economic and financial sovereignty, allowed multinationals and speculators to make out-sized profits at the expense of the Hungarian people and Hungarian businesses, created mass unemployment, and heavily taxed the economy and wages.”

Fidesz added the left wing and its prime ministerial candidate were planning to impose on Hungary the same ill-fated economic policy it had already pursued while winding up the current tax regime “which ensures Hungarian businesses the lowest tax in Europe and Hungarian workers the third lowest”, it added.

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