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Political projects to fight poverty (or the lack thereof)

June 21st, 2014

A left-wing blogger accuses the government of adopting the social policies of the extreme Right, but also blames wthe Left for its inability to address the issue of poverty. A pro-government columnist accuses the opposition of hypocrisy.

On Kettős Mérce, Ferenc Szekeres claims that the government basically adopts the social philosophy of the Far Right, by dividing Hungarian society into ‘useful producers’ (carrying the entire country on their shoulders) and ‘the needy’ (stricken either by poverty of their own making or as a matter of fate). He bases that opinion on the announcement that welfare and family subsidies will be supervised by two separate state secretaries within the Ministry of Human Resources. He accuses Cabinet Minister Zoltán Balog and Fidesz in general of segregationist, socially insensitive politics. At the same time, the New Left blogger, also reprimands the parties of the traditional Left, for embracing neoliberal social policies that curtail redistribution and cut welfare expenditures. Both are therefore guilty, he concludes, of being unwilling and unable to improve the condition of the poor. What the country really needs, he suggests, is a “domestic Marshall-plan” to revitalise underprivileged regions and fight poverty, even at the cost of increasing public debt.

In Magyar Nemzet (print edition), Anna Szabó flays the left-wing opposition for hypocrisy on the same matter. She cites studies by sociologist Zsuzsa Ferge, who concludes that the appalling level of underdevelopment and poverty is a long-term phenomenon caused partially by the welfare cuts implemented while the Left were in power. Their neoliberal orientation, their lack of political will, and the blind adoption of measures promoted by the International Monetary Fund conspired to prevent the adoption of a broad anti-poverty strategy during their terms on office, Szabó writes. She concludes from this that the concern they now show for the condition of the poor is completely dishonest.