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26th January, 2023

Inquiry finds more foreign funding of opposition parties

The secret services and other bodies investigating foreign financial support given to the opposition election campaign last year have found that a further Ft 887 million was transferred via a Swiss foundation for this purpose.

The sum was transferred to Oraculum 2020, publisher of the website Ez a lenyeg, which actively campaigned for the opposition, HVG writes.

This is in addition to some Ft 3.2 billion sent directly to the Everybody’s Hungary Movement (MMM) led by Peter Marki-Zay, by the US-based Action for Democracy (AFD).

The latest summary by the National Information Centre (NIK) – the new super-secret service under Cabinet Office chief Antal Rogan – drawing on ongoing investigations by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Tax and Customs Office, shows that 58% of the money from AFD ended up with the MMM, a smaller part with the Edemocracy Workshop Association, and the rest with five companies.

Regarding the Swiss foundation, the NIK said “no information accessible from an open source can be found about the activity of the foundation”.

The composition of the about Ft 4 billion in foreign funds according to the Hungarian addresses is as follows

- Oraculum 2020 Ft 2 billion in ten transfers

- MMM: Ft 1.8 billion in eight transfers

- DatAdat Ft 148 million in one transfer

- Super Future Ft 59.1 billion in three transfers - Edemocracy Workshop Association Ft 18.1 billion in one transfer

- Gemius Hungary Ft 13.3 million in three transfers

- Laokoon Cinema Ft 4.2 million in one transfer.

The report states that “persons directly connected to the US Democratic Party” are behind the AFD.

The report, signed by NIK chief Zoltan Kovacs, concludes that “the support transferred to Hungary by the foreign political organisation during the Hungarian elections served to influence the Hungarian elections. This is a clear violation of Hungary’s sovereignty and raises suspicions of a violation of the relevant Hungarian legislation.”

Marki-Zay maintains that there is no scandal, as the MMM did not spend money on the opposition parties’ campaigns. (hvg.hu; rtl.hu; 444.hu; blikk.hu; origo.hu)
26th January, 2023

Teachers strike losing momentum

Participants in the teachers’ strike have experienced that fewer and fewer of their colleagues are taking part, RTL reports.

The striking teachers say many people have been emotionally drained, while others do not join the weeklong nationwide strike due to financial considerations or fear.

The organisers expect a major demonstration on January 31, the last day of the strike. (rtl.hu)
26th January, 2023

Fewer interested in teacher career

Half as many students applied for teacher training courses in 2022 as in 2016, according to a summary compiled by the website hrportal.hu.

There was a decline earlier, in 2004-08, when the number of potential teachers fell. However, after a low point, the number applying for teacher training rose dynamically until 2016.

However, only about half of applicants are admitted to teachers training colleges from year to year. In 2016 a total of 10,167 students of the more than 20,000 applicants were admitted.

In 2022, fewer than 6,500 students were admitted to colleges and universities.

Meanwhile, the Teachers’ Union says the shortage of educators in schools is more and more acute.

Union president Zsuzsa Szabo told InfoRadio that there are many settlements in Hungary where no special subjects can be taught due to the absence of specialist teachers.

Moreover, one in five teachers in primary schools have no teaching qualifications, according to the union. (hrportal.hu; infostart.hu)
26th January, 2023

Two parties initiate referendum on battery factory in Debrecen

The Momentum and Mi Hazank parties are separately initiating a local referendum on the electric vehicle battery factory to be built near Debrecen by Chinese company CATL.

Momentum local councillor Laszlo Mandi on Monday submitted the referendum question to the local election committee for validation.

Momentum says the proposed factory to be built would place an enormous strain on local water resources and would pollute the environment.

“Decisions about the future of more than 200,000 people may not be made behind closed doors,” Momentum declared.

Mi Hazank MP Istvan Apati told Telex that his party will not work with other opposition parties, but with the citizens of Debrecen.

He said more than 250 people had responded by Tuesday evening to the far-right party’s call for activists to collect signatures in Debrecen.

If the proposed referendum question is approved by the local election committee, organisers must collect signatures from at least 20% of citizens of voting age within 30 days. In Debrecen, this means more than 33,000 valid signatures.

LMP also initiated a local referendum about the battery factory on Monday, but the party’s officials did not collect the nomination sheets.

They told Telex that they had changed their mind, but others say the party leaders realised that they will not be able to collect the necessary signatures in support of the referendum. (telex.hu; telex.hu; blikk.hu; hang.hu; rtl.hu; mandiner.hu)
26th January, 2023

MP acts to dissolve Fidesz chapter

Jaszsag region Fidesz MP Janos Pocs announced yesterday that he will initiate the dissolution and reorganisation of the Fidesz chapter in Jaszbereny after the party’s representation on the town council was almost wiped out in a by-election on January 15.

The Jobbik mayoral candidate running as the candidate of the In Unison for Jaszbereny alliance won more than two-thirds of votes on turnout of 60%.

With the notable absence of the Democratic Coalition, most opposition parties joined the In Unison for Jaszbereny alliance. Candidates from Jobbik, the Socialist Party, Momentum and the Everybody’s Hungary Movement won seats on the local council as representatives of the alliance.

Opposition candidates won ten out of the ten directly elected seats on the city council, leaving Fidesz with four compensation seats on the 15-member body.

Pocs said he had made his decision by “taking the voters’ will into account”. (telex.hu; rtl.hu; magyarnarancs.hu; atv.hu; hvg.hu; 444.hu)
26th January, 2023

City to help renovate flats

Budapest city council unanimously decided to invite bids for renovating empty flats, to ensure long-term affordable accommodation for homeless people, in a Wednesday vote.

The city will provide Ft 50 million for the tender, with a maximum of Ft 5 million available per flat.

Fidesz representative Zsofia Hassay argued that the Ft 5 million sum is inadequate.

The city council passed a decree with a vast majority allocating Ft 232 billion to the city’s districts and Ft 273 billion to city hall.

The decree on the distribution of funds was passed with 26 affirmative votes, one dissension and three abstentions. (infostart.hu)
26th January, 2023

Inflation eating into real wage growth

The average gross wage of full-time employees was up 16.8% year-on-year to Ft 563,600 in November, while the average net earnings, taking into account discounts and allowances, were 17.6% higher at Ft 387,800, the statistics office KSH reports.

The net median wage, which presents a more accurate picture of the wage dynamics, was Ft 305,800 in November, up 19.2% from the same period of 2021.

The increase in wages was driven by the increase in the statutory minimum wage and to companies raising salaries during the year to keep pace with inflation, the KSH said.

Real earnings fell by 4.7% as consumer prices were up 22.5%, year-on-year in November.

Gross wages increased by 17.5% year-on-year in January-November, rising 3.4% in real terms, the Economy Ministry said.

Wage growth in earnings is set to continue in 2023, as the minimum wage has gone up by 16% and the guaranteed minimum wage by 14%, the ministry added.

Wage growth in the public sector, at 10.5% year-on-year, was the slowest pace since December 2021, ING Bank analyst Peter Virovacz observed. Given the unfolding wage-price spiral, there is a risk that inflation may be sustained, he added. (nepszava.hu; rtl.hu; napi.hu; forbes.hu; hvg.hu; hirado.hu)
26th January, 2023

Energy infrastructure investments to rise fivefold by 2030

The government is planning to increase infrastructure investments by five-fold by 2030 compared to the previous seven years, Energy Minister Csaba Lantos told Index in an interview.

Investments would focus on renewable energy resources, network development and infrastructure upgrades to increase flexibility, he added.

Ensuring the security of supply, affordability and sustainability are the most important challenges facing the sector, said Lantos.

Electricity consumption in Hungary came to 44Twh last year, of which roughly 70% was produced in Hungary, but the country is largely dependent on imports.

The government calculates that demand will shoot up to 68Twh by 2030, a 55% increase.

Consumers have adapted to rising prices by cutting usage, Lantos observed.

Domestic gas consumption fell by 17% last year, and in December alone households and companies used 25% less gas than one year earlier.

Lantos said the gas price formula for retail clients for consumption above the average will be reviewed by April 30. (azuzlet.hu; index.hu; infostart.hu; portfolio.hu; hvg.hu; 24.hu)
26th January, 2023

Rents lower in December

Home rental rates in Hungary fell for the first time in two years on a monthly basis in December, down 0.7% at a national level and sinking by 0.9% in Budapest, according to data compiled by the Central Statistics Office from listings site Ingatlan.com.

On an annual basis, rents were up 20% on average in December and were 22% higher in Budapest.

The monthly rental rate in the capital was in the Ft 140,000-250,000 range, with an average of Ft 200,000.

Outside Budapest, monthly rental rates were highest in Gyor, Szekesfehervar, Tatabanya and Veszprem at Ft 150,000 and lowest in Salgotarjan and Bekescsaba at Ft 90,000.

Nominal rents were still much higher than a year earlier, but in real terms they have been falling since August, leading to a 13% drop nationally and a 15% decline in Budapest compared to the pre-pandemic peak in January 2020, Ingatlan.com analyst Laszlo Balogh pointed out.

The number of ads has fallen significantly, down by more than 20% from both 2020 and 2021. (novekedes.hu; profitline.hu; napi.hu; portfolio.hu; hirado.hu; 24.hu)
26th January, 2023

AKK sells Ft 15bn of six-month T-bills

State debt manager AKK sold Ft 15 billion of discount six-month T-bills at Wednesday’s auction, Ft 5 billion less than planned, after receiving Ft 31.4 billion in bids.

The average yield fell by eight basis points to 13.99% from the previous auction a week ago, but was 41 basis points above the secondary market benchmark yield. (tozsdeforum.hu)
26th January, 2023

Wizz Air expects record year in 2023

Hungarian low-fare airline Wizz Air carried a record 3.7 million passengers to and from Budapest last year and it expects traffic to rise to 4.8 million in 2023, the company announced.

The airline more than doubled its passenger numbers globally to 45.6 million last year, exceeding the record figures set in 2019 by 14% as it benefited from a strong post-pandemic recovery.

The company will add a new Airbus A321neo aircraft at the Budapest base, bringing its fleet here to 13.

The average age of the company’s 117-large fleet is 4.6 years, compared to the sector average of 10.

Wizz Air will operate flights to 64 destinations in 30 countries from Budapest and Debrecen this summer, as one-third of the company’s seat capacity will be available in Hungary in the April-October period.

In the first half of the airline’s business year ending in September, the load factor rose from 75.3% to 86.9%. Ebidta grew from €164.3 million to €217.8 million, and revenues rose from €880.4 million to €2.2 billion. (novekedes.hu; napi.hu; hvg.hu; 24.hu; forbes.hu)
26th January, 2023

Solar begins Ft 3bn expansion

Solar FM, which designs and builds solar parks, is investing close to Ft 3 billion to add the production of solar panel mounting systems at its base in Komlo in Baranya county.

The project includes the renovation of the company’s production hall, the purchase and installation of technological and IT equipment and the installation of a heat pump.

The company received Ft 1.5 billion in EU grants for the investment, which will be completed by the end of 2023.

Solar recorded a Ft 165 million net profit in 2021, down from Ft 440 million a year earlier. Revenues fell to Ft 716 million from Ft 837 million in the same period. (profitline.hu; hirado.hu)
26th January, 2023

Fotaxi reports on robust year

Fotaxi, one of the leading taxi firms, reported an outstanding year in 2022 as its fleet of 1,500 vehicles covered 36 million kilometres, the company announced.

The lifting of pandemic restrictions and the rebound in tourism helped traffic, it added.

Airport and corporate traffic accounted for 33% and 10% of total mileage, respectively, and night trips were up 44%.

Company orders rose by 33% from 2021 and exceeded the 2019 record.

The company booked a Ft 8.8 million profit in 2021, its last completed business year, bouncing back from a Ft 218 million loss a year earlier. Net revenue edged up by Ft 10 million to Ft 1.29 billion. (napi.hu; infostart.hu; portfolio.hu)
26th January, 2023

Budapest taxi fares to rise by 10%

Budapest city council yesterday voted to raise regulated taxi fares in the city by 10% from March 6.

The base fare will increase from Ft 1,000 to Ft 1,100, and rates will go up from Ft 400 per kilometre to Ft 440 and from Ft 100 per minute to Ft 110.

City leaders argued that higher fuel prices after the cancellation of the price cap in early December warranted the move. Fidesz council members abstained from the vote.

Taxi fares were last raised on May 9, 2022, by 33%, when the basic fare rose from Ft 700 to Ft 1,000, the fare per kilometre from Ft 300 to Ft 400 and the fare per minute from Ft 75 to Ft 100.

Taxi companies and the Budapest Chamber of Commerce asked the government to maintain regulated prices on the taxi market, arguing that the abolition of regulated prices would lead to unfair competition that would be detrimental to both customers and service operators. (forbes.hu; klubradio.hu; hirado.hu; origo.hu; hvg.hu)
26th January, 2023

Head doctor accused of accepting bribes

A head doctor at a Debrecen-based hospital is suspected of accepting “gratitude money” from patients for preferential treatment, police reported on Wednesday.

The doctor allegedly took the money from four patients between October, 2021 and January, 2022. In one case the doctor’s assistant also received some of the money.

The doctor was questioned on four counts of taking a bribe. The doctor did not make a substantial confession, but the assistant acknowledged committing a crime.

Proceedings were also launched against the patients on suspicion of bribery. (police.hu; nepszava.hu; hvg.hu; 24.hu)

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