Entries RSS Feed Share Send to Facebook Tweet This Accessible version

Diverging targets

September 1st, 2011

Wednesday’s daily papers illustrate how left and right in Hungary hold diametrically opposed opinions, not only on the main issues, but even on what the main issues are. Both conservative and left-wing papers comment on the decision by the Constitutional Court to postpone a ruling on the nationalisation of compulsory pension funds, while the two right wing dailies carry editorials on an apparently arrogant private comment made by the liberal President of the National Bank three years ago.

Writing in Népszava, Zoltán Simon contends that the Court has shown its subservience to the government by postponing its ruling on the pension funds issue. The judges have had a full year to make up their minds, he remarks, and further delay suggests they must be playing a political game that will leave an ugly stain on their prestige.

Last year Parliament nationalised most of the assets of the so-called compulsory pension funds, which collected 25 per cent of the pension contributions from gross wages. It was decided that those opting to keep their accounts in the private funds would not be entitled to enjoy retirement subsidies from the public fund (receiving 75 per cent of contributions). The constitutional court discussed the issue on Monday but postponed its ruling to a later session. Meanwhile on September 1st, five new judges elected by the right-wing parliamentary majority will take their seats in the Court.

In Népszabadság, Károly Lencsés suggests that the Constitutional Court might be waiting for the arrival of its five new members, before ruling on the delicate issue of the pension funds.  He admits that the decision is not an easy one, since public finances would suffer a severe blow if hordes of citizens could return to the private pension funds with their money.

In Magyar Hírlap, Zsolt Bayer wonders how the Socialist opposition will react to an earlier statement by the President of the National Bank, András Simor, contained in the latest batch of Hungary-related Wikileaks revelations. Mr Simor told American diplomats in 2008 that people indebted in foreign currencies should not be rescued by the government, “because if they are, they will never learn that there is no such thing as a free lunch.” The left-wing opposition consistently accuses the current government of not doing enough to alleviate the difficulties of those same debtors. At the same time, the Socialists stalwartly defend the  President of the National Bank, who was appointed during their own time in office, and is a frequent target nowadays of right-wing criticism.

Mr Simor’s statement was quoted in a telegram from the US Ambassador to the State Department, released by Wikileaks last week. In Magyar Nemzet, Zsuzsanna Körmendy comments that far from enjoying free lunches, the debtors are paying for increasingly expensive lunches every month, as instalments on their debts continue to rise due to the runaway gains of the Swiss Franc against the Forint. Körmendy condemns Mr Simor’s  statement on behalf of “those who have set their houses on fire before they could be seized, and those who have put a rope around their necks.”

Tags: , ,