In his address at the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (MKIK) annual event, “Opening the Economic Year,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán began by presenting some of the key achievements of Hungary’s ground-breaking Economy Protection Action Plan, designed to counter the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We began 2020 with great hopes, as we’d been able to break records in 2019,” PM Orbán said, adding that in 2019, Hungary’s budget deficit was low, state debt was well under control and employment was at a record high. Along with these positive figures, poverty decreased while the country ranked among the top performers in Europe in attracting investment.
“2020 didn’t turn out to be a continuation of 2019,” the prime minister noted. But still, the coronavirus “could not break the economy, as it was faced with a vigorous Hungarian economy.” According to PM Orbán, while the pandemic did put us in a bit of a “hog-tie” and “landed a couple of punches,” the economy managed to stay on its feet.
Selecting one significant statistic to summarize the results of the government’s economic protection efforts, the prime minister said that “the same number of people were employed in December 2020 as in 2019, before the coronavirus crisis hit.” The Hungarian Government has contributed to protecting more than 280,000 jobs while creating several tens of thousands of new ones.
“Even despite the crisis,” the PM continued, “Hungary has maintained its stellar performance: Unemployment, for example, is still the third lowest among EU countries.” He added that while it is “a little bit disturbing” that the Czechs have surpassed us, the government is working on reclaiming the lead. Hence, Hungary has effectively “countered the temptation to return to a subsidy-based economy.”
Speaking about Hungary’s plan to restart the economy, PM Orbán noted that the economy’s future success depends on the removal of restrictive measures. In order to assess the opinion of Hungarian people about lifting the current restrictions, the government will begin an online consultation process, starting in mid-February. Based on the outcome of this survey, the government will decide on next possible steps.
“If there is a vaccine, there is vaccination. If there is vaccination, there is protection. If there is protection, then there is economic reopening,” Prime Minister Orbán explained. He reiterated that for the government, the vaccine is not a political question. “We don’t care whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches the mouse,” the PM said.
The Action Plan to Reboot the Economy, according to the premier, will take place in three stages, with the first one already underway, which will last until April 1. In this first stage, businesses will have the opportunity to take out loans of up to HUF 10 million for a period of 10 years with zero interest.
The second stage, between April 1 and July 1, will focus on higher education, and the third stage, from July until October, will cover the green economy, the circular economy and digitalization.
Coming to his closing remarks, the prime minister posed the question: “What does the success of the Hungarian economy depend upon?”
“The success of the Hungarian economy,” PM Orbán concluded, “depends on the quality of three things: our workers, our entrepreneurs and our economic decision-makers.” Once these three requirements are in place, then “the prime minister must not ruin it,” PM Orbán said jokingly. He then added soberly that “the prime minister will not ruin it but only if he listens to those who are smarter than him. This is why we are here today at the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.”