Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the annual meeting of the Hungarian Seniors’ Council
1 October 2019, Budapest
It is our custom for this circle to gather together on the International Day of Older Persons. This gives us the opportunity to do two things. On the one hand, through you the Government can respectfully thank older people for the efforts they have made during their lives in the country’s interest, and – to put it this way among us – in the interest of their children and grandchildren – who are us. And it is also an opportunity for the Government to provide an overview of what has happened and what can be expected in the period ahead. So I suggest that today we follow this procedure as usual.
It is an honour for me to welcome you all. We also have here representatives of the Government who have powers, rights and obligations related to affairs concerning senior citizens. Naturally the most important person never occupies the presidential pulpit, but always takes a seat on the side. Furthermore, we not only have one important person here, but two. One of them is Jóska [Mészáros], who’s responsible for ensuring that payments always reach pensioners in a timely and orderly fashion. Then there is Minister of State Banai, who always disappears at times like this, although it’s his prerogative and duty to tell us how much money we have for what, and what shape the economy is in. But they’re both here with us today. And we also have Kata [Novák], too, so everyone in the Government dealing with issues of interest to you is here among us.
If you will allow me, in addition to expressing our respect and appreciation, I’d just briefly like to say that over the past year the economy has performed in line with our expectations – or even slightly above them. This is important, and it’s not only good news for those who are active in the labour market, but also for pensioners. In past years pensioners sometimes received benefits in the form of Erzsébet Vouchers. I think it’s important that we’ve managed to overcome the problem created by the phasing out of these vouchers. Hungarians are particularly sensitive to bad news, and so the end of Erzsébet Vouchers has created the impression that any benefits of this nature have also probably come to an end. But luckily the Government’s creative staff have found a legal method for channelling financial assistance to you, even without Erzsébet Vouchers. This has led to the design of a new construction of vouchers for household utilities costs, and this was introduced for the first time this year. It’s also important that this year we’ve launched the Family Protection Action Plan. And, however strange it may sound, within the Family Protection Action plan grandparents have a special responsibility and opportunity. One of them is that from 1 January – is that right Kata? – grandparents will have the option of staying at home with grandchildren; we can call this childcare allowance. I’m cautious about using these legal terms. So grandparents will also be able to act in the same way as parents, and the state will recognise this role just as it recognises the role of parents. In the past few years we’ve also learnt – from everyday life, but now confirmed for us in a survey – the importance for young people starting a family of grandparents being around, and of being able to count on the assistance of grandparents. Through their research institute, Kata and her team have recently released a survey which concludes that there is a close correlation: when deciding to have children and start a family, young people tend to feel safer and more confident if they know that there are grandparents behind them whom they can rely on, should they need to. This is an important thing, which isn’t readily recognised in the world of modern ideologies, and it’s especially not rewarded financially. I’m pleased that in Hungary we recognise this fact, and we are happy that this is the situation. And we are also pleased to say that – through all kinds of cunning financial schemes which the Government receives from Kata’s workshop – we’re striving to promote and strengthen this relationship between younger and older people.
While the press is still here, let me take advantage of the opportunity to talk about figures. For pensioners the end of the year is stocktaking time. I don’t want to reduce the affairs of older people to mere money and pensions, as I’m getting older, and I increasingly appreciate that here the problem is much greater than that. As one gets older, one has to find a place in the world of young people – and this is not so easy. As the number of one’s grandchildren increases, one increasingly feels that one must work hard to be able to remain in their lives – particularly when, due to advancing technology, the lives of young people are changing as rapidly as they are today. So when we talk about the subjects of interest for the Seniors’ Council, we’re looking at far more than simply pensions and money. Naturally, money enables one to live, and we must also talk about that. I have full authorisation from the Ministry of Finance – which in such cases is not only necessary but mandatory – to inform you that the growth of the Hungarian economy will certainly be above 4 per cent. We have cautious estimates, and it may be as high as 4.6 per cent. If I remember well, Benő [Banai], last year it was 4.1 per cent. The actual final figure was 5.1 per cent, and this year it will be as high as 4.6 per cent. This means that we are above the growth rate which allows us to pay pensioners a pension premium. From a philosophical point of view, the system works like this: pensioners pay pension contributions, we take their money, and then governments which keep their word guarantee the value of those pensions; while under governments which fail to keep their word their value tends to depreciate. But the minimum that a government must undertake to do is to preserve the real value of the money it has collected from pensioners; this means preservation of the real value of pensions. And we have an agreement that if the economy does well, then annually – subject to the performance of the economy – we are able to provide another one-off payment. We call this a pension premium. According to our latest calculations, this means that this year the average amount of the pension premium will be – and I underline the word “average”, meaning that some will receive more, others less – 20,160 forints. And we also have another agreement. Pensions must be adjusted in advance by the rate of inflation, so that pensioners receive a higher pension throughout the year. But sometimes it’s possible to gauge the rate of inflation accurately, and sometimes not; so if inflation is higher than predicted, then we pay a pension supplement at the end of the year. Incidentally there’s some more good news: if our inflation forecast turns out to be too high, we won’t take any money back. But if we underestimate it, then – in the spirit of “fair accounting, lasting friendships” – we pay a pension supplement. The Ministry of Finance now says that this year the average amount of this pension supplement will be 11,000 forints. So there’s a pension premium of 20,160 forints, and an average pension supplement of 11,000 forints. This is the additional amount that pensioners can expect this year. And our friend Minister of State Jóska Mészáros pledged that we would send this to you in one package in November. Is that true? Everyone’s heard that, and from now on the Government’s responsibility lies with Jóska. We thank those in charge of the social security funds for doing this job. Well then, this is the situation for this year.
As regards next year, it’s difficult to say anything for certain, although we’ve already completed the budget for next year, and our view is that while the prospects for the European economy will be more limited next year than they have been this year, the Hungarian economy will not suffer as a consequence. We will be able to launch mechanisms designed to maintain growth which will also permit a high growth rate in Hungary next year. Without quoting specific figures, we can safely say, Minister of State, that the growth rate in the second half of the year means that we can expect there to be a pension premium payment in 2020 as well. There are conditions attached to this, but our concepts and plans suggest that the Hungarian economy will be able to perform well enough to enable us to make such a payment. This is how our finances stand, Ladies and Gentlemen. I thank every pensioner for their patience, and for accepting a system which enables the Government to make adjustments of this nature in November.