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A Hungarian tragedy: common property

October 11th, 2011

Twenty years after the regime change, Hungarians still do not care much for public property. A left-wing columnist blames the lack of public concern for public goods on the still prevailing heritage of “state socialism”.

The country needs an overhaul. Small parts are replaced or revamped, but there are less and less opening ceremonies, so there are more and more obsolete, old, decayed, rusty vehicles, machines and buildings,” Ervin Tamás writes sadly in Népszabadság.

On October 4 an elderly woman suffered serious injuries after falling out of a moving bus in Budapest. The doors of the bus opened without any reason. Earlier in July a similar accident happened on another line as a result of another malfunctioning door. During the hot summer, several  public transport vehicles, including buses and metro cars burst into flames.

According to the bus drivers of the Budapest public transportation company, what is really surprising is that such accidents are relatively rare. The disheartening situation is not the unique concern of the city transport company, Tamás contends.

As a rule, public or common property is neglected in Hungary. Even shortly after they are renovated, public parks are run-down and covered with litter. The grass is left uncut, the walls spray-painted with graffiti, windows are broken, the lights are out of order and the benches broken.

The problems get publicity only after accidents take place, but even then the roots of the problems are not discussed. “The basic issue is not raised – that property should be taken care of.”

All this is result of the long heritage of “state socialism”, Tamás suggests. “One of the biggest failures of Socialist community building was the complete disrespect for public property, which still haunts us.”  And it will not go away until public morals change and ignorance vanishes, he concludes. But the author makes no suggestion as to how this might come about.

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