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Apr 22, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

Budapest embarking on a new era

Thanks in no small part to healthy FDI in recent years, Hungary has been in a prime position to invest in renovation and infrastructure.

This financial boost – FDI reached 4.62 billion and 4.01 billion USD in 2013 and 2014, respectively – to an economy that was teetering on the brink before 2010, has helped put Hungary back on the world stage and contributed to a growing reputation in the international community of a country rich with ideas, opportunity and resources. Hungary, not without effort, has become a player viewed as leading the race in central Europe, and somewhere international investors can safely take refuge without fear of an uncertain economic landscape.

This is all part of the Orbán Government’s ambitious program of renewal. It got under way in 2010 and has had far-reaching impact, changing the domestic labor market, the tax system, the public and private debt burden, and much more. But renewal has also changed the way Hungary looks, and our beautiful capital, Budapest, is a terrific example of how the Orbán Government’s emphasis on renovation and infrastructure are making a big difference.

In a move to further bolster our growing international profile and to drive economic growth, Hungary is investing heavily in the sporting sector not only to drive up GDP and FDI but also to create an international face to be proud of.

Budapest will play host to the 2017 FINA Championships, and the government’s decision to bid for the right to host the 2024 Olympic Games has Budapest competing among the final four cities.

Following the announcement that Budapest will host FINA’s international swimming championships in 2017, plans are already underway to improve facilities that will cater to a world-class aquatics event, the international media, spectators, visitors, VIPs and, of course, the infrastructure needed to hold events of this magnitude.

Two new aquatic center complexes are under construction on Margaret Island, water polo will be held at Alfred Hajos National Swimming Stadium along with open water swimming and diving events at Lake Balaton. What’s more, plans to reuse these venues (and all that comes with them) are figured into Budapest’s 2024 Olympic Games bid.

For anyone who has had the chance to visit Budapest recently – especially anyone who could compare it to the way it looked just seven years ago -- the results of renewal are clearly evident as you navigate yourself around the city. Roads, buses, new trams, subways, tramlines, and cycle paths have all been restructured, redeveloped and improved.

The Parliament building and square famously went through a complete renovation and regeneration project. The expansion of the Museum of Fine Arts is already under construction. Major reconstruction to the wharf along the shores of the Danube in downtown will bring another jewel to a tourism industry enjoying impressive growth.

Hungary’s first subway system, the first one built on the continent of Europe, will also be renovated along with several metro lines and their cars. Eiffel Hall is set to receive 14.5 billion HUF in financial contributions to renovate the complex, along with hundreds of billions invested in other reconstruction projects across Budapest and Hungary.

During a conference organised by the American Chamber of Commerce to discuss the economic importance of holding the Olympics in Hungary recently, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjárto explained that if the Games were to be held in Budapest it would mean the entire central European region would benefit along with Hungary.

Not only would the global event create more than 100 thousand new jobs and generate 3.7 billion EUR in revenue for Hungary but would also contribute 0.3 percent to economic growth and would very likely give an extended boost to tourism.

Budapest enjoyed a golden era over a hundred years ago, at the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th. Today, many of the city’s gems, architectural and otherwise, come from that great period. But then came two World Wars and the Communists. Prior to 1990, the Soviet-inspired leaders of the People’s Republic saw Budapest’s glory as part of a royal or bourgeois past and allowed it to dilapidate. Little happened in the twenty years that followed the democratic changes.

But today, as the government’s project of renewal bears fruit, it’s exciting to watch Budapest re-capture its glory, building on an important past while adding a dynamic, innovative flare for the future.