Every week, there are several news stories that are of interest (to me at least) but for which I never seem to find enough time to write about. I thought it might be worth experimenting with a new series, and a new format: The Contrarian Hungarian’s “Hungarian News Digest,” which would present brief summaries of the news from Hungary. Here’s the first batch.
Forex Loan Repayment Bill Needs Modification Only A Week After It Is Passed into Law
It was only a week ago that the Hungarian parliament passed into law the program that essentially amounts to a 20% loan forgiveness opportunity on certain foreign exchange loans, though only for those who can afford to pay the entire balance of their mortgage within the next few months. But modifications to the contents of the law are already in front of the Hungarian parliament. The bill currently contains provisions “opposite of the legislative intention” said Antal Rogán, author of the bill, which, given the rush in the legislative work, is certainly not surprising. Specifically, Rogán forgot to provide requisite tax exclusions for some participants of the program, without which they would be taxed once at the rate of 16%, and another time 10%, on any gains from the program.
Rogán’s attention to detail does not extend however to another provision missing from the bill. János Lázár, leader of Fidesz’ parliamentary caucus was at first enthusiastic about the idea that no member of parliament should be able to participate in the program, but the text of the bill makes no mention of this. The blog Pusztaranger has the full list of those members of parliament who were personally invested in passing this arrangement through the parliament (along with amount of the total amount of various loans they hold and type of currency). The gains made by the program’s participants are widely considered to be paid for eventually by the Hungarian taxpayers: since the law calls for the retroactive modification of contracts between banks and private individuals, the loan institutions will very likely recover their losses from the Hungarian government.
New Mandatory Public Work Project in Dombrád Employs 120 for Three Months
120 men are employed at the mandatory work project to fortify 2.1 km (1.3 miles) of an already existing dam and to build an asphalt roadway on top of it, which would be restricted to use by bikes and bicycles except in emergencies. The idea is the same as the two other ”model public work programs” we know of so far in Gyöngyöspata and Gyöngyösoroszi: instead of machinery, the men use manual labor to accomplish the project.
Official press releases also emphasize the fact that funds for the project were obtained from the government’s “Start program,” a government initiative ”to integrate at least 300,000 persons in the middle classes”, which, due to an agreement between the Hungarian government and the Fidesz-affiliated Roma organization ORÖ must include at least 100,000 Roma. All three of these programs are being studied for “understanding how to organize the work more efficiently,” government officials at the site said. One of the lessons learnt thus far seems to be related to wages: the current pay of the workers is 68,000 HUF a month (316 USD, or 234 EUR), but the government already decreased this same pay category to only 48,000 (223 USD, or 165 EUR) starting next year; after all, workers can refuse these jobs only at the cost of losing their eligibility for social benefits.
Pál Schmitt in the UN
Pál Schmitt is working hard in New York on behalf of Hungary’s bid to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. MTI, the Hungarian Press Agency reports that Schmitt is courting the African, the Caribbean and the Oceanian vote. Hungary is one of three candidates for the spot reserved for Eastern-European countries, besides Slovenia and Azerbaijan. To be sure, it is not an impossible goal: Muammar Gaddafi’s Lybia also had non-permanent membership in the Security Council as recently as 2008-2009.
Violence Breaks out Among Far-Right Groups
Előd Novák, Jobbik member of parliament and founder and chief editor of Kurucinfo, the internet portal that serves as the party’s main propaganda arm, claims that he was hit on the face by Zsolt Tyirityán, one of the leaders of the far-right paramilitary group Betyársereg (of ”shooting anyone with a shade of skin color” speech fame).
According to Novák, Tyirityán approached him to inquire why Novák had called him a jail-bird (börtöntörtelék; prison material). He answered that he merely denounces the tendency in Betyársereg to cast the time their members spend in jail as if it were some kind of a virtue, and Tyirityán slapped him so hard that his glasses fell off and his lips were torn inside, Novák told the press. Next, a brawl ensued, during which a member of Betyársereg hit someone in the stomach and this person suffered a broken rib. I would include a picture were any visuals of this affair available, unfortunately there aren’t.
If you know of English-language coverage of these stories, or of other news stories you find interesting, feel free to add those as links in the comments.