Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (l) - Photo: PMO

Orbán: Top priorities are job protection, curbing inflation, wages

Protecting jobs, curbing inflation and bumping up wages are vitally important for the economy, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public radio on Friday.

The European and Hungarian economies are now being determined by the war in Ukraine, Orbán said, adding that both would perform much better if the conflict were to come to an end. He said “the root of the problem, the war, cannot be remedied; while there’s no peace, the war economy will be here to stay.”

“Brussels bureaucrats won’t end the sanctions” even though Hungary had been urging it to do so, he said. Ending the war would change the environment for the European economy overnight, he said. “Peace is the only politically and ethically right approach,” he added.

The government, Orbán said, was focusing on protecting jobs, noting 70,000-80,000 job vacancies in the country. He said the Hungarian economy was geared towards providing employment to Hungarians” and the government is in the position “to offer work to anyone who wants it”.

The prime minister also referred to the government’s “radical measures” to combat inflation, which had put a lid on price gouging.

He noted the government’s inflation target of 6 percent for 2024, adding that the figure could be as low as 5 percent”. By the end of August the consensus would be that inflation will be in single digits by the end of the year, he said.

Orbán said price hikes had arisen because of the war and sanctions, though retail prices “rose higher than the economic situation justified”, he said, adding: “This is called speculation and multinationals were at the forefront.” “Nobody has anything against a fair profit … but enough is enough.”

Regarding “the fight for growth”, he said economic expansion “must be linked to pay rises”. Protection against high prices can happen in two ways, he said: by suppressing inflation and by raising wages, adding that the government was intent on protecting families.

It is important that the economy should recover “from the shock of the war” to a growth path, which is expected to happen in the third and fourth quarters this year, he said.

Orbán said the third quarter was “tangibly better” than the second, adding that by the end of the year pay rises planned for the second half of 2023 would have “counterbalanced all the bad things that happened in the first half”.

Orbán said the first quarter of 2023 had been “difficult for everybody” but the Hungarian economy had “stood its ground” without any rise in unemployment.

Meanwhile, Orbán said the World Athletics Championships and other similar top sporting events sent a message to the world that Budapest is “must-visit” city.

He said sports events were a boon economically but more importantly focused the world’s attention on the host country.

The prime minister noted that he will host a dozen official bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the athletics championships and the August 20 national holiday, referring to meetings with the Turkish president, the Serbian president and the Emir of Qatar and “political friends” from Central Asia region such as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Meetings will also take place with business representatives from all over the world, largely from western Europe and China, he said.

Meanwhile, referring to the recent inauguration of the Rheinmetall factory in Zalaegerszeg, the prime minister said that without its own defence industry, Hungary would not be able to develop armed forces capable of defending the country. “By manufacturing weapons, you’re strong, and peace requires strength,” he said. “We want to live in peace . but there’ll never be peace unless peace can be defended.”

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