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16th January, 2020

Compensation for dire prison conditions suspended

Payment of court-ordered compensation to convicts for poor prison conditions has been suspended, because NGOs are making a business of this issue, Cabinet Office state secretary Bence Tuzson announced yesterday on HirTV.

The Helsinki Committee strongly denied this claim, saying that NGOs represent prisoners free of charge.

Tuzson said the cabinet will discuss whether convicted people are eligible for such compensation at the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.

The European Court of Human Rights has often awarded compensation to convicted criminals for the dire conditions in Hungarian prisons.

Tuzson said about 12,000 such proceedings involve compensation.

He asserted that NGOs that represent prisoners have turned compensation lawsuits into a business.

The government has made similar accusations against NGOs that represent asylum-seekers.

“As soon as these people are imprisoned, somebody appears, some kind of an organisation with a lawyer on his side shows that a business can be made of this,” he said, adding, “it is common knowledge that lawsuits were won on a conveyor belt”.

The Helsinki Committee rejected this as “a blatant lie,” pointing out that the cabinet banned NGOs from prisons in 2017.

Tuzson said an end must be put to the practice whereby the Hungarian state pays money to criminals, while the victims do not receive the proper compensation from the criminals.

The compensation payments are distributed to the victims of the crimes or their families, 444 writes. A decision by the cabinet not to pay compensation would have the effect of cutting off compensation for victims, the website adds.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said last week that he had told the Justice Minister not to pay one forint of such compensation, as “we have been harshly penalised. I said let us take up this dispute, because this is an impossible state of affairs.”

The European Court of Human Rights declared in 2015 that there was a systemic problem in the Hungarian prison sector, as conditions were so bad that they constituted “inhumane or degrading treatment,” HVG reports. (hirtv.hu; hvg.hu; atv.hu; nepszava.hu; 24.hu; 444.hu; mandiner.hu)
16th January, 2020

NGO says Tuzson is lying

The Helsinki Committee declared on Wednesday that to the best of its knowledge not a single NGO has received money for representing prisoners in 12,000 cases, and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee definitely did not receive any money.

“We help our clients for free,” the NGO said, adding that it represented only two such cases last year.

“It is a blatant lie that NGOs go to prison with lawyers,” the statement said, as the cabinet banned NGOs from prisons in 2017.

Convicts can claim compensation because they are often kept imprisoned for years in conditions “unfit for dogs,” the NGO added.

“Just because it is bad for them inside, it does not make it any better for us outside.”

The statement points out that the system of compensation now deemed unacceptable was created by the Fidesz government.

The Helsinki Committee added that where binding verdicts based on the law may be ignored on orders of a politician, it is not the rule of law that prevails, but the arbitrary rule of a politician. (atv.hu; merce.hu; 444.hu; hvg.hu)
16th January, 2020

Only electric buses may be procured from 2022 – Palkovics

The government will insist that towns of 25,000 residents or more buy only electric buses from 2022, as part of the cabinet’s climate protection efforts, Innovation and Technology Minister Laszlo Palkovics confirmed on Inforadio yesterday.

Palkovics added that Prime Minister Viktor Orban will outline other prominent projects of the climate protection strategy in February.

One pre-condition for the switch to electric buses is the existence of a network of filling stations and another is a battery of sufficient capacity to ensures the daylong operation of a bus, he said.

Palkovics stressed that Hungarian bus production continues to be a priority.

On another issue, he said a government authority will be created by the middle of the year to work with citizens on finding a solution to the elimination of illegal waste dumps.

The cabinet counts on local councils in this work, as their co-operation is needed to make these dumps disappear, he continued, but the main goal is to ensure that new ones do not come into being.

“Deterrence is necessary,” Palkovics said, “we shall find the person who took the rubbish there and we shall punish him or try to make him understand that plastic bottles are not thrown out of cars.”

He also spoke of the introduction of a Ft 25 fee for plastic bottles, based on the German example. (infostart.hu; portfolio.hu)
16th January, 2020

New education undersecretary named

Laszlo Kisfaludy has replaced Zoltan Maruzsa in the post of undersecretary for education at the Human Resources Ministry, effective January 15.

Maruzsa was in the position for less than five months, since September 1, 2019.

Kisfaludy has taught history at the Budapest University Catholic High School since 1999 and has public administrative experience, having worked at the Education Ministry, the Education Office, and the former Ministry of Public Administration and Justice.

Kisfaludy considers the development of the professional evaluation and support system and the renewal of refresher courses for teachers as prominent tasks.

No reason for Maruzsa’s departure was provided. (infostart.hu; hirado.hu; hirtv.hu; magyarnemzet.hu; mandiner.hu)
16th January, 2020

AKK debuts new 20-year bond today

State debt manager AKK will launch a new 20-year bond targeted at retail investors on Thursday, Portfolio reports.

The role of the bond, Hungary’s longest maturity instrument, will be symbolic, but it may be an important step towards extending the overall maturity of the debt stock, the website adds.

The new government security, to be auctioned every eight weeks, was unveiled with the AKK’s financing plan in December.

The new 20-year bond will be the fifth bond in addition to three-, five-, ten- and 15-year papers.

Total gross sales of forint-denominated government bonds are projected to reach Ft 2 trillion in 2020, down by 41% from 2019.

Proceeds from the 20-year bond are expected to reach Ft 121 billion this year, or 6% of the total, as the AKK expects to sell an average of Ft 20 billion of the bond in each of six auctions scheduled for this year.

Portfolio sees the average yield of the new bond at 2.5-3%. (portfolio.hu)
16th January, 2020

Bird flu appears in Hajdu-Bihar

The food safety authority Nebih identified the H5N8 strain of the bird flu virus on a second farm within three days on Wednesday.

The Nebih laboratory verified the presence of the disease at the Letavertes duck farm in Hajdu-Bihar county on Tuesday.

Officials began to kill the 115,000 ducks that may be infected with the virus.

Producers are afraid that many Asian countries will reject Hungarian goods, so they have to be sold somewhere in the EU at depressed prices.

The United Arab Emirates has banned imports of poultry and related products from Hungary and Slovakia.

The disease has also been discovered in Poland and Romania.

Wild migrating birds visiting a nearby lake may have been responsible for the appearance of the disease in Hajdu-Bihar.

The national head veterinarian ordered the slaughter of 53,000 turkeys and the quarantining of poultry throughout Hungary on Monday after bird flu was detected in a turkey farm in Komarom county. (hvg.hu; agroforum.hu; hirtv.hu; profitline.hu; napi.hu; origo.hu; index.hu)
16th January, 2020

Construction growth decelerates

Growth in construction sector output stood at 6.8% year-on-year in November, slowing down from 20.5% in October, the Central Statistics Office announced yesterday.

The monthly figure showed a 4.5% drop from October.

Over the first 11 months of 2019, construction output grew by 24.4%, as output reached Ft 4 trillion in absolute terms.

Construction of buildings was up 8% in November, lifted by construction of residential, cultural and industrial structures.

Civil engineering output was up by 5.7%, mainly in the form of road and railway developments.

Hungary’s construction sector showed stellar growth in the first half, but the second half produced a steady deceleration, which suggests that the sector is past its peak, Portfolio observes. This is reflected in the stock of orders, which was down by 8.3% in November, as many projects had been completed recently, the website adds.

The stock of new orders expanded by 24.7%, including 36% for civil engineering orders and 9% for construction of buildings. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu; tozsdeforum.hu; hvg.hu; mfor.hu; profitline.hu)
16th January, 2020

Foreigners boost November hotel data

The number of guest nights at Hungarian hotels with at least three stars was up 4.8% year-on-year to 2.1 million in November, the Central Statistics Office reports.

Overnight stays by foreign visitors increased by 8.7% to 1.1 million, while guest nights spent by Hungarians were up by 0.8% at 995,000.

The number of foreign tourists increased by 6.6% to 448,000, while domestic arrivals edged up 2.9% to 473,000 in November.

Hungarian hotels operated with a 60.5% occupancy rate, up from 58.1% one year earlier.

Revenue at commercial accommodations was up 10% to Ft 41.4 billion, including Ft 23 billon from room revenue.

Hungarians used Szechenyi recreational voucher cards to pay for Ft 2.2 billion of products and services at commercial accommodation in November, a 63% annual increase.

In the January-November period, total guest nights were up 8.3% at 29.3 million, split equally between domestic and foreign guests.

During that period, hotel revenue grew by 8.3% year-on-year to Ft 513 billion. (napi.hu)
16th January, 2020

Otthon Centrum lists cheapest and most expensive home sales

Although the property market showed signs of slowing down at the end of 2019, many records were broken last year, Portfolio reports, as real estate agency Otthon Centrum unveiled its list of the most extreme transactions for 2019 in terms of price or size.

The smallest flat sold by the company was a 6m˛ property, which was bought for Ft 6.8 million.

The largest property was a mansion covering more than 700m˛ in a village near Pecs, which cost less than Ft 24 million.

Price records were also broken last year. The most expensive family house was a 550m˛ dwelling with a 1,300m˛ garden in the Second District’s elite area. The price tag was Ft 750 million.

In Pest, a 101m˛ residence near St. Stephen’s Basilica sold for Ft 237 million.

Budapest’s 13th District has become a popular destination for home buyers. An 80m2 prefabricated flat near the Danube was sold for Ft 56 million.

The highest price per square metre was also registered in this district, when a residential property built in 2007 was bought for Ft 2.5 million per square metre.

The cheapest home sold was a 51m˛ flat in Ozd, Hungary’s least developed region, selling for Ft 415,000. (portfolio.hu)
16th January, 2020

Record year for Audi Hungaria

German car maker Audi manufactured a record 164,817 vehicles and some 2 million engines at its Gyor factory in 2019, it was announced on Wednesday.

The number of cars that rolled off the production lines increased by 64,817 last year. The numbers include 120,230 Audi Q3 models and 15,300 Audi Q3 Sportback models, as well as 11,791 TT Coupes, 3,208 TT Roadsters, 7,302 A3 Cabriolets and 6,986 A3 Sedans.

Audi Hungaria began production of the electric version of Q3 models last summer and manufactured 90,000 electric engines.

Chairman Alfons Dintner praised the company’s performance during a transformation period marked by digitalisation, electromobility and sustainability.

The number of employees declined by 1,000 during the year to 12,800 at the end of December. (profitline.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu; portfolio.hu; azenpenzem.hu; origo.hu)
16th January, 2020

GVH investigating Master Good takeover of Saga Foods

The Competition Authority (GVH) has opened an inquiry into the takeover of Saga Foods by Master Good, as the GVH found contradictory information regarding the market concentration of the companies.

The GVH said information provided to it by the companies differs from statements made by Master Good on Monday when it announced that it had purchased a 100% stake in Saga Foods from British company Boparan Holdings.

Kisvarda-based Master Good accounts for more than 40% of chicken production and processing in Hungary, but described Saga as Hungary’s leading poultry processor in its announcement.

However, the companies gave different data to the GVH about their market size.

The GVH gave Master Good 60 days to clarify the discrepancies between information in the press release and the application sent to GVH for approval of the transaction. (index.hu; portfolio.hu; hvg.hu; napi.hu; tozsdeforum.hu)
16th January, 2020

MVM opens solar park in Veszprem

State energy company MVM opened a Ft 6 billion solar power plant in Veszprem, MVM Zold Generacio CEO Laszlo Varga announced on Wednesday.

The facility is part of a network of 21 units that will provide the electricity needs of 100,000 people annually.

The small-scale power plants each have a capacity of 0.5MW and a working life of 25 years, he added.

MVM plans to build 110 photovoltaic power plants across Hungary, of which 94 have been completed so far.

Their combined capacity will reach 100MW and the plants will produce more than 110GWh of electricity each year.

The total cost of the projects will be Ft 48 billion, said Varga. (portfolio.hu; napi.hu; hirado.hu)
16th January, 2020

Hungarian wins €30mn lottery prize

A Hungarian won €30 million in the Europe-wide Eurojackpot lottery on November 22, state gambling company Szerencsejatek announced on Wednesday.

The winner had to report to the company to collect his winnings within 90 days of the date of the draw, and he did so a few days ago.

The winner, a resident of the countryside, said in an anonymous questionnaire for jackpot winners that he plays the Eurojackpot every week but never previously won a large sum.

His said he learned at a lottery kiosk that he had hit the jackpot and he immediately notified his wife.

The winner said he will now be able to afford travel, a car and a flat, but will also contribute to charity and investments, for which he will consult a financial investor.

He said he will continue to buy lottery tickets. (24.hu; mnarancs.hu; gazdport.hu; napi.hu; index.hu)

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