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Government accused of corruption

February 1st, 2016

Commenting on Transparency International’s recent Corruption Perception Index and the selling of state-owned farmland, both a left-wing and a conservative columnist accuse the government of corruption.

In Transparency Internationals latest Corruption Perceptions Index, published last week, Hungary has slipped three places since 2014. The report, which claims to be the most comprehensive corruption ranking aggregates and standardizes analyses from 12 international organizations which measure the subjective perception of corruption rather than actual corruption. Most of the original data is non-representative and is based on expert reports and interviews.

Népszabadság in a front page editorial takes Transparency International’s report as evidence of the growth of corruption in Hungary. The leading left-wing daily finds it disappointing that the report features Hungary as one of the most corrupt countries in the region. Népszabadság accuses Fidesz of allocating lucrative deals to its own logistical hinterland. The daily goes on to claim that as the government becomes increasingly corrupt, public services including education and health care deteriorate in the absence of proper state funding.

In a similar vein, Népszava’s Miklós Bonta interprets the report as proof of the Fidesz government’s efforts to channel vast amounts of public funds to its allies. The left-wing analyst suspects that the government wants to create a wealthy pro-government oligarchy in order to entrench its own power and stifle all opposition to its policies. As the pro-government allies become richer and richer, Hungary is becoming poorer and poorer, Bonta concludes.

According to the calculations of Benedek Sallai, MP of the LMP party, one third of the 130 thousand hectares of public farmland sold through public auctions so far (see BudaPost through 2012) have been purchased by those whom Sallai identifies as allies of Fidesz, including family members of government politicians and MPs.

Népszabadság‘s front page editorial claims that Sallai’s numbers prove the fears of opposition parties that the government wants to sell public farmland in order to help its hinterland. In light of Sallai’s calculation, Népszabadság contends that the government’s real intention was not to protect Hungarian land from foreign investors or help small farmers, as it initially claimed. The leading left-wing daily adds that many of the successful bidders have no record of being involved in farming.

By delivering vast farmlands into the hands of relatives and political allies, the Orbán government wants to strengthen its own loyal oligarchs, István Elek writes in Heti Világgazdaság (print edition). The former MDF and then LMP politician thinks that by maximizing the size of farmland that could be purchased by individuals but not by families, the government favoured wealthy investors rather than small farmers who want to earn their living by farming.

A second round of auctions has been scheduled to start on March 1st, the Public Farmland Fund announced, after 46 per cent of the land offered for auction was not sold. Sándor Fazekas, the Minister of Agriculture wrote on the Fund’s internet site that rather than large estates, the government intends to promote family scale farming in Hungary.

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