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Mar 19, 2020

Extraordinary announcement by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

18 March 2020, Budapest

Good afternoon,

This is the Carmelite Monastery, and I’m speaking to you during a break in our Cabinet meeting. We’ve made important decisions, and I’m not exaggerating when I describe these decisions as vital. For the sake of accuracy I’ve written them down, so I’ll steal a glance at my notes. This is the seventh day. In the seven days since declaration of the “state of danger”, we have organised Hungary’s collective self-defence, our communal defence against the global pandemic. We have been continuously informing you of health decisions and epidemiological decisions, and we will continue to do so. The Operational Group, action groups and epidemiologists are working, making decisions and issuing information around the clock. At today’s Cabinet meeting, from which I’ve just come, we’ve taken a step forward by dealing with economic issues. We have made such decisions because we believe that the time has come to take decisions on economic matters in addition to those on epidemiological and health matters. We also know that the pandemic is not only endangering human health, although that is its first and most important effect; it is also endangering work and people’s jobs. Therefore today we discussed issues and adopted decisions which we expect will protect jobs; because over the past ten years we have learnt that if there is work, there is everything.

I would now like to inform you about the decisions we adopted. Let me make it clear that these are only our first, most urgent decisions, and they will be followed by others. Every day you can expect a number of new decisions aimed at relaunching the economy. So our first decision was that we will suspend, until the end of the year, obligations for payment of the principal and interest on loans taken out to date by private individuals and businesses – by every private individual and every business. Secondly, short-term business loans will be extended until 30 June. Thirdly, we have set a new upper limit on the annual percentage rate, the APR, on all new consumer loans taken out from tomorrow onwards: the maximum rate will be 5 per cent above the Central Bank’s base rate. Fourthly, you will be aware that some sectors of our economy are already experiencing major difficulties. We have been in continuous consultation with them, and we have received their initial proposals. Sectors struggling with such serious difficulties include tourism, catering, the entertainment industry, sport, cultural services and passenger transport, or the work of taxi drivers.In these sectors employers’ contributions will be reduced to zero, and employees’ contributions will also be significantly reduced: they will not be required to pay pension contributions, and their health insurance contributions will be reduced to the statutory minimum. At present these measures are planned to remain in place until 30 June. We are suspending the flat-rate Small Businesses Tax [KATA] obligations of taxi drivers until 30 June. In these sectors the termination of rental agreements and rent increases will not be allowed. We are also suspending payment requirements for the Tourism Development Contribution until 30 June. Fifthly, we have adopted decisions in order to make employment rules more flexible; the goal is to make it easier for employers and employees to finalise agreements. 

I have tried to be as accurate as possible. These are complex and difficult issues. The general decree which I have just described to you will be published today, while the detailed rules will be made available tomorrow. Meanwhile the Government will continue its work.