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Divergent takes on positive growth indicators

September 5th, 2014

The leading left-wing daily accuses the government of tinkering with key economic indicators in order to suggest that the economy is growing rather than stagnating. A conservative analyst finds the Left guilty of claiming that the Hungarian economy is in bad shape, despite sizeable increases in most key indicators.

The Hungarian economy grew 3.9 year-on-year, in the second quarter, which is the fastest growth in eight years and the highest among all EU member states (see BudaPost August 25). According to the flash estimate of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, the volume of retail sales rose year-on-year 2.3 per cent in July.

In a front page editorial, Népszabadság accuses the government of tinkering with (if not outright falsifying) key indicators in order to claim that its economic path has been a success. The daily suggests that the surge in retail sales does not reflect actual growth in demand, but rather is the result of introducing mandatory online cash-registers in the retail sector. As all sales entered into the online cash-registers are automatically registered by the authorities, it is now more difficult for retailers to hide their sales, Népszabadság points out. The rise in declared sales therefore does not reflect increased spending, so the GDP growth data calculated accordingly is also “distorted”, Népszabadság adds. The daily claims that despite official statistics showing 3.9 per cent growth, the Hungarian economy is stagnating.

Although most key indicators suggest an economic boom, the Left tries desperately to paint a dark picture of Hungary’s prospects, or claim that growth is due to EU cohesion support alone, Gergely Kiss writes in Magyar Nemzet. The pro-government analyst acknowledges that EU funds do “help the Hungarian economy”, but notes that the volume of agricultural and industrial output, as well as the construction industry, have also been rising. Kiss believes that retail sales increased due to higher household spending. He notes that faster GDP growth is not the result of increased government spending, since the deficit is below the 3 per cent threshold. Hungary still has to improve its competiveness and do its best to minimize the impact of the Ukraine crisis, but key indicators clearly suggest that the Hungarian economy is on a good path, Kiss concludes.

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