A left-wing and a centrist columnist criticize an amendment to the National Bank Act which removes from the realm of public funds the money offered by the National Bank to its own foundations – thereby allowing the Bank to treat that information as private.
The amendment approved by Parliament on Tuesday stipulates that foundations established and financed by the National Bank can withhold information about their finances. The foundations used the 250 billion Forints (€800 million) they received from the National Bank to launch PhD programmes, and purchased buildings and paintings. According to the new law, the money turned over by the National Bank to its foundations can no longer be considered as public money. Opposition parties, as well as Attila Péterfalvi, head of the National Data Protection Office say that the new rules violate the Constitution. Several Fidesz politicians, including House Speaker László Kövér, have also criticized the law and said that the money offered by the National Bank to its own foundations is still public money. According to press reports, President János Áder may decide not to sign the law and return it to the Parliament for reconsideration. Alternatively, he may refer it to the Constitutional Court.
In Népszabadság Péter Pető fulminates against the National Bank and accuses it of not serving the Hungarian national interest. If the money turned over by the National Bank to its own foundations is no longer public money, he argues, then the National Bank does not serve the public interest. Pető suggests that the amendment legalizes the channelling of public funds to the hinterland of the governing party.
In Magyar Nemzet, Albert Gazda finds it peculiar that the National Bank’s funds become private money once transferred to the National Bank’s foundations. One example he describes as ‘absurd’ is a plan by one of the foundations to open a restaurant and wine shop in the Budapest castle district. Gazda wonders when Fidesz luminaries will revolt against such legislation.