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Feb 15, 2016 - MTI

Halting Population Decline Is One of the Most Important Issues

In Parliament on Monday Prime Minister Viktor Orbán highlighted halting the decline in the Hungarian population as one of the most important tasks for the future. Mr. Orbán also stated that teachers are asking for an 18% pay increase, which is currently impossible.

In reply to comments from MPs on his speech prior to scheduled procedure, Mr. Orbán thanked the KDNP for wanting to combat population reduction through family support measures and not through immigration or “trickery”. The Prime Minister said that reducing population decline will be one of the most important issues for the next fifteen years, which if handled incorrectly could have tragic repercussions. Speaking about halting population decline, he declared that “We may not be able to halt it, but until there is proof to the contrary, we must continue this policy”.

In reaction to criticism from the leader of the opposition LMP parliamentary group, the Prime Minister said that migrants are “kicking down our door” and the problem needs an immediate solution; he pointed out that “making the global world order fair is an important objective, but until it is achieved problems must be handled in other ways”.

Continuing his replies, he said that “Without exports, Hungary could not maintain even its current standard of living, and a country which is compelled to being export-oriented cannot afford to make a stand against free trade”; he noted that “while the LMP regards free trade as a bad thing, the Cabinet differentiates between well- and badly-regulated free trade”. Mr. Orbán compared this to a mosquito net, “which lets in what is needed, but keeps out what isn’t”.

On the subject of concrete negotiations between the United States and the European Union, the Prime Minister said that they include dangers which make signing the agreement impossible, citing the fact that if countries the size of Hungary must forego the right to hear cases in their own courts, it would reduce the chance of fair verdicts; he noted that negotiations on a proposed agreement with Canada are also expected to founder for this same reason. However, the Prime Minister said that the question of what quotas the proposed free trade agreement should include was a subject which could be negotiated.

The Prime Minister also stated that, given the country’s current level of capital supply, it needs foreign investment, because during the forty years of communism the accumulation of capital was impossible. The production capacities which the opposition refers to as “assembly plants” are also bringing into the country a host of research capacities, and accordingly he would rather support foreign investors. Mr. Orbán denied that such enterprises are “closer to the hearts of decision makers” than their domestic counterparts, however, pointing out as an example the fact that over the next six years 60% of economic development funding will be injected into the small and medium-sized enterprise sector.

Mr. Orbán also rejected claims of a policy of cheap labour, pointing out that pay rises are being provided in both the private and public sectors.
“There is also significant funding available for research and development in the future”, declared Mr. Orbán, who refuted claims that funding for healthcare and education was continuously decreasing. According to the Prime Minister, the figures show exactly the opposite, and the only room for debate is with regard to internal frameworks.

“There is no danger of a return to a single-party state”, the Prime Minister said in reaction to a comment from Jobbik. During the Prime Minister’s reply, on several occasions Speaker of the House László Kövér was forced to call the opposition to order. Several people on his side of the political divide had entered politics precisely to put an end to the single-party system and to allow people to live freely, Mr. Orbán stressed.

On the subject of corruption and the abuse of power, the Prime Minister reminded Parliament about Jobbik’s standpoint, according to which it is a political crime for an MP to receive salaries from more than one source. “You would do well to rethink that standpoint, now that you have begun to govern in Ózd, for instance, where the Mayor receives a salary from four of five different places”, he said. Anyone who wants to gain significant experience on the abuse of power could do so by taking a look at Jobbik in local government, the Prime Minister stated.

On the subject of the terrorist threat, Mr. Orbán referred to France and Slovakia, where the constitutions have been amended to allow for involvement of the military in anti-terrorist activities; he asked MPs to accept the Hungarian government’s wish to be able to act similarly.

Replying to a comment by the MSZP parliamentary group leader, the Prime Minister stated that “bearing in mind the fact that the country’s hospitals and schools were bankrupt in 2010, as an MSZP politician it is no easy task to speak about the education and healthcare systems. […] Because if the maintainer is bankrupt, then the institutions it maintains are also bankrupt”.  He pointed out that his government has had to spend HUF 1,200 billion (EUR 3.87bn) on bailing out local governments.

Mr. Orbán also informed Parliament that the average primary school teacher now earns 40% more than in 2010, while secondary school teachers have received a total pay rise of some 27%. He added that he sees calling these facts into question as unfair to Hungarian society, which works to provide the financial backing for these pay increases.

Speaking about ongoing negotiations with teachers, the Prime Minister declared that he is fully in favour of the roundtable discussions, because the Government believes in open governance. However, teachers’ demands include an 18% pay increase, “which is currently impossible”, he stated. The Prime Minister asked teachers to wait until the Government has completed implementing pay increases for the police, healthcare and public sector workers, and “not place the Government under pay pressure” for the moment.

Reacting to comments by the MSZP in support of teachers, Mr. Orbán said that he feels it is very instructive to note that when any kind of movement develops among people who are dissatisfied with a government, “the starting point is that they want nothing to do with your party”.

The Prime Minister also declared that both he and the Government will take full responsibility for all government decisions.