In the wake of the prime minister’s announcement of hard times to come, left-wing commentators demand that the government takes a long hard look at its own policies, while right-wing analysts are divided on the necessity of swift policy changes.
Addressing the annual meeting of Hungary’s ambassadors summoned from around the world for this occasion, PM Viktor Orbán said the Euro-zone will be in difficulty and consequently under constant speculative attack for the next 8 to 10 years. In consequence, it would be imperative for Hungary to keep its public deficit low, in order to avoid “drifting onto the Greek course.” In order to keep that promise, he told the ambassadors, it would not be sufficient to cut back on certain expenses by 2 to 3 per cent. “We will have to decide in next year’s budget which are the areas the state must withdraw from,” the Prime Minister said, adding that “without questioning our transatlantic commitment, we must seek intense economic co-operation with Russia, China, the Arab world and emerging Central Asia.”
Népszabadság carries two commentaries on the Prime Minister’s speech, both urging the government to face up to its mistakes. Zoltán F. Baka contends that “Orbán and Co. should first of all make up their own minds, whether a radical turn in economic policies is unavoidable.” Critical remarks now coming even from right-wing quarters, continue to fall on deaf ears in governing circles, he warns. Endre Aczél deplores the fact that the Prime Minister did not react to analyses by conservative economists questioning the validity of the flat income tax introduced last summer. The veteran left-wing commentator argues that it would be futile to expect self-criticism from the Prime Minister.
Magyar Hírlap publishes an extensive summary of ideas raised by conservative economists who suggest tax increases amounting to a retreat from the government’s original economic strategy. Csaba Szajlai, the right-wing daily’s leading business commentator, who urged a return to progressive taxation a week ago (BudaPost, August 24th), remarks that the Prime Minister has had the courage to ‘look into the the mirror’ (meaning to listen to the opinions of his friendly critics), and indeed, his words have had a cooling effect on the markets. “We can only hope,” he continues “that the decisions affecting the national economy will be taken on the basis of a consensus among experts.”
In an editorial in Magyar Nemzet, Gyula Jámbor points out that Europe, the community Hungary joined in the last decade, is becoming less and less attractive and stable. “The Euro is in trouble, Europe is in trouble, and if we don’t want to be even deeper in trouble, we must keep pursuing a rigorous fiscal policy.”