The Prime Minister highlighted that economic growth required credit with lower interest rates; lower credit interest rates will in turn “boost the engine of the economy.” We will be able to see a “prelude” to that already in the third and fourth quarters, but a genuine boost can only be expected in 2024, he added.
He said, at the same time, the issue of jobs – that every Hungarian in Hungary should be able to work – is a general criterion beyond all other considerations, including the issues of inflation and economic growth. We need a workfare economy, he stressed, one in which every Hungarian who wants to work is able to do so. He added that today 4,800,000 people have jobs; one million more than in 2010.
Mr Orbán said August will be the month when we can expect a change in the value of real wages as pay rises could reach or exceed inflation expected to be around 16 per cent.
We are working tirelessly – pulling inflation down and pushing wages up – in order for wages to catch up with the pace of price rises after August, he said. “We will have a tough autumn,” he observed, adding that it is to be hoped that by December the two values will be close to equal.
The Prime Minister recalled that Hungary had a historical handicap when it came to wages, given that in 1990 “when we finally managed to send the communists packing” and to bring the state economy to an end, salaries stood at a low level.
He also said for two years after 2010, the government “cleared the rubble away;” however, from 2012 the economy switched to stable operations. Since then, there had not been a year or even a quarter when prices had increased more than wages. There had been no fall in real wages for ten-something years, he pointed out.
However, a fall started in the first half of the year, he continued. This “took its toll on the budgets of families,” and caused a difficult situation. The first half of the year was very difficult, and therefore it is important that the second half of the year should compensate for the first, he said.
Using a football analogy in the context of pay rises, he said “more, more more, we want more.” At the same time, employers and workers must come to an agreement – the government can only facilitate these negotiations – as ill-timed pay rises can cause unemployment, he stressed.
The Prime Minister said a part of recent price rises was indeed caused by the significant increase in energy prices and the Brussels sanctions. He added at the same time that some of the price rises experienced in recent months had not been justified, in particular, in the case of multinational supermarket chains. They kept the price level much higher than would have been acceptable based on the consideration of a fair profit, he said, adding that this is why he calls them price speculators.
We must defend ourselves against this, he highlighted. “Here, the government must show teeth, strength, fangs,” he said, adding that they had experienced some shocking practices.
He said therefore the competition authority will maintain an ongoing presence in trade also in the future; it will continue to have at its disposal the measures with which it has succeeded in curbing inflation.
Regarding the reduction of household energy bills, Mr Orbán recalled that in the first seven months of the year, the government had given families HUF 1,078 billion in the form of the reduction of household energy bills. Every Hungarian family receives HUF 181,000 every month over and above their salaries as this is by how much their energy bills would be higher in the absence of the reduction of household energy bills.
The Prime Minister said Brussels finds the Hungarian reduction of household energy bills excessive; in their opinion, Hungarian families should pay more and “they want to force this on us.”
In his view, the “Brusselites” are “picking on” the Hungarian system because in a European comparison, people in Hungary pay the lowest electricity and gas prices despite the fact that, in contrast to a number of EU countries whose politicians charge their citizens more for energy, Hungary has no oil or gas fields of its own. At the same time, people call their politicians to account over the fact that if Hungary is able to reduce household energy bills, why can’t they? In response to this, Brussels “attacks us,” claiming that the Hungarians are not doing the right thing.
“I understand what their problem is, but we cannot have regard for that, we must defend the Hungarian reduction of household energy bills against Brussels,” he said.
Mr Orbán highlighted that in order to be able to talk about the price of energy and household energy bills in a sensible and meaningful manner, we first need energy. If there is no energy, the country, the economy and families come to a halt, he laid down.
He highlighted that the security of supply was paramount. The minister of foreign trade is responsible for the procurement of energy and the relevant international negotiations; “so far he has done an excellent job of it,” he observed.
He said due to the sanctions imposed on the Russians, Hungary was compelled to seek exemptions which would have to be maintained for several more years. The Ukrainians “hung up their boots,” from there gas is coming in much smaller quantities than before, and now they say that in 2024 no gas will be coming from them at all.
He observed that earlier gas had also come via the Nord Stream pipeline, but it had been blown up, thereby preventing the importation of energy in large quantities from Russia to Europe.
As we continue to procure gas from imports, we had to find an alternative route that comes from the South, he indicated. Hence the diplomatic top gear experienced in the last few days, taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by the World Athletics Championships.
From the respect of the country’s future energy supply, the Prime Minister described Turkey as a key player. He highlighted that today the tap is controlled by Turkey and President Erdogan.
All the gas that we are able to import from the South comes via Turkey, “if the tap is turned off, there is no gas, if it’s turned on, there is gas,” the Prime Minister said, adding that therefore we must under any circumstances come to an agreement and maintain good relations with the Turks, we must give them the respect they deserve and must cooperate with them in other areas as well if we want an energy treatment that favours us. A part of the energy comes to Turkey from Azerbaijan, the President of Azerbaijan, too, came to Hungary, and Hungary also buys gas from them.
He also said Turkmenistan has one of the world’s largest gas reserves. They want to export gas to Europe at present; this is a good opportunity for us as we need gas.
Mr Orbán further spoke about the overarching programme currently in the making, as part of which enormous quantities of electricity would be generated in Azerbaijan. Some of this electricity would be conveyed to Hungary via a submarine pipeline that would traverse Georgia and Romania. With this project, we would be able to import cheap electricity through the cooperation of four countries, he said.
He further spoke about the negotiations conducted with Qatar which seek to enable European states to purchase gas conveyed to the region in tankers. He, too, had talks about this possibility in three rounds, he indicated. He recalled that he had had talks about this with the Emir also during the FIFA World Cup. The Emir of Qatar now returned his earlier visit and they agreed on the technicalities of the importation of gas from Qatar in tankers via Croatia.
Mr Orbán said “a country the size of Hungary cannot afford to be foolish, and neither can it afford to choose foolish leaders.” The strength of a country the size of Hungary lies in its intelligence as intelligence means foresight and speed, and those who see sooner what is about to happen, make plans sooner and adapt sooner, will obtain a competitive advantage, he said.
He highlighted that Central Asia is now beginning to gain in importance; in the coming decade, this region will play a key role. As Hungary has been building amicable relations in this region for more than a decade, based on our common roots and common past – meaning culturally well-founded relations – these efforts are now beginning to pay off, he stated.
He stressed that “we are ahead of others by a good few years, or an entire decade even,” and from this speed and foresight we are deriving major economic benefits.
He said the same is true of the arms industry; they have just inaugurated a large modern factory in Hungary. “We didn’t start developing the arms industry when the war broke out,” meaning that speed and understanding the future are key factors, he added.
Mr Orbán said those who have the desire to understand the world are able to take part in the discourse which helps to understand the opportunities Hungary is facing. If “the opposition helps us” to good quality debates – “I would rather not say just now whether this is materialising, but if it were” – that would on the whole benefit the country, he added.
The Prime Minister said the facility hosting the World Athletics Championships is fantastic and friendly. Both the audience and athletes find themselves in a world of fairness, a world of gentlemen’s generosity where “we are happy about the achievements of others, but naturally, about our own as well,” he said.
He observed that the present world championships are proof of the fact that sport can beneficially contribute to man’s quality of life, not only as far as health is concerned, but also on the spiritual and psychological side because it builds communities and creates shared experiences.
He said the events of the World Athletics Championship and the stadium are among the world’s best.
The Prime Minister highlighted that athletes carry Hungary’s good reputation around the world, “the athletes themselves talk about Budapest and the Hungarian people in words of the highest praise.” Foreigners now say that “we are good hosts, this is a decent country where everyone is welcome, a friendly country, and we have every reason to say, a country where the Christian roots of love still exist,” he pointed out.
He also said, in the meantime, “in these facilities, life beyond sports continues as well.” This year, the Puskás Arena has hosted more concerts than football matches, “meaning that all the cawing that this is a waste of money, that it’s only about sport, that this is only the hobby of a few people, including the prime minister” is quite simply not true because these communal spaces “serve every well-meaning Hungarian, regardless of sport, providing a venue for cultural events, conferences, large-scale programmes,” he stressed.
He added that “the flow of the western world’s cultural productions doesn’t stop at Vienna, it now comes all the way to Budapest.”