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Budapest projects in limbo

June 16th, 2014

The leading left-wing daily contends that the government wants to punish the left- and liberal leaning capital city by redirecting structural development funds to its core constituencies in the countryside. The main pro-government daily is convinced that infrastructural projects will not grind to a halt in Budapest.

On Thursday, Index reported that János Lázár, Chief of the Prime Minister’s Office has revised the government’s public transport strategic development plans and go the effect that no projects in Budapest will be financed from EU funds during the next six years, so that more money can be spent on less developped regions. According to Index, the decision implies that Budapest will lose access to hundreds of billion forints and several major development and maintenance projects in the capital will be cancelled. Budapest Mayor István Tarlós (Fidesz) has said that if the capital does not get the necessary funds for renovation, he will have to stop the worn-out Metro line 3. In a press release, János Lázár announced that the government will guarantee the necessary funds for the renewal of Metro 3, whereupon the Mayor said he was convinced that a solution will be found.

The government wants to punish Budapest, Népszabadság writes in a front page editorial. The leading left-wing daily suspects that the government wants to further polarize the country through the urban-rural divide, and redirect funds to its core constituency in the countryside at the expense of the capital.

In her Népszabadság op-ed piece, Anna Szalai contends that the government is out to penalize the inhabitants of Budapest for their anti-government sentiments. (Budapest was dominantly left-liberal for the first decade after the régime change, but at present most districts and the capital as a whole are run by conservative mayors.) She recalls that the Fidesz government has cut the statutory government contribution to the expenses of the capital by forty per cent (although the government took over health care and educational expenses at the same time), and more recently PM Orbán has proposed that ministries should be moved to other towns in Hungary (see BudaPost June 9).  In an aside, Szalai remarks that Minister Lázár may also be motivated by an “inferiority complex”. In conclusion, she suggests that the government wants to force Budapest into submission through bleeding the capital dry financially.

In Magyar Nemzet, Zsolt Szabó quotes unnamed sources who believe that the minister will have to re-consider the matter, otherwise the development of city public transport will be frozen and the capital may ultimately be paralysed. He believes the announcement to halt EU financed project in Budapest was hasty and based on erroneous calculations.

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