Four parties in search of consensus with a portion of sneers - in front of multinationals' reps.
Something is brewing in Hungary's reform kitchen - this is what the leaders of the parliamentary parties could unanimously convince the representatives of multinational companies at a forum yesterday.
Though a bit surprisingly, the politicians of various colours sat at the same table and conducted a discussion to the point with business people. The FIDESZ - Vice-President Mihály Varga as a proxy of Orbán could only repeat some of the campaign slogans, because the official party program will be revealed on 19th March only. Thus dramatic news were not really disclosed at the joint Forum of AmCham, DUIHK and the Joint Venture Association (JVSZ). However, the Forum could still not be ticked off as just another mile stone of the campaign, because the host associations represent after all companies with a total of 600.000 workers, they produce three quarters of Hungarian GDP, and account for 80% of exports and FDI. The hosts formulated their questions in four groups: public service reform, tax system, employment and transparency in economy and politics - with corruption in the focus.
In his presentation: "Now or Never", György Mosonyi, JVSZ President, highlighted that enterprises are for reforms, they demand an efficient, decentralised, reasonably regulated, servicing style public service, because an over-administered, inefficient public service is an obstacle to competitiveness in business. László Némethy, AmCham President though confirming the reduction of corporation tax and ÁFA in the last four years, would however like to see more progress in abolishment of the industry tax, reduction of labour costs; in his view also "eva" needs to be revised. Elek Straub, DUIHK Chairman pointed out that the symptom of joblessness runs parallel with the shortage of skilled labour, due to latter investments fall out, this calls for urgent changes is education and training. Endre Mécs, AmCham, urged more transparency in decision-making.
The response of the parties was in fact quite in line: all would improve on competitiveness, modernise the tax system, they would unanimously create a more efficient and performance oriented public service, and would all promote employment, etc. The socialist István Hiller, the free-democrat Gábor Kuncze, Ibolya Dávid of MDF and Mihály Varga of Fidesz even agreed that the political division prevailing during the past four, eight or rather fifteen years has seriously injured competitiveness. Hiller wants cooperation, Varga cohesion.
The participants' questions: may three-third majority decisions in Parliament be anticipated after the election; is the state and local governments really going to cheaper, etc. were answered by promises mixed with sneers. According to Ibolya Dávid - advocate of the "clean hands" campaign - only a grand coalition is able to launch reforms, this however involves the risk of misusing power. She thinks that there is more of the confrontation of parties than that of programmes.
There was full agreement in regard to reducing the budget deficit, efforts made for converting to the euro, making the most EU aid, etc. SZDSZ and MDF want the single rate personal income tax, MSZP und FIDESZ refuse. FIDESZ wants to reduce the labour cost drastically, thus promote employment, others and lots of experts have their doubts about this.
Finally Mosonyi, Straub and Némethy, could conclude that something was brewing in the Hungarian reform kitchen. Representatives of the business sphere drew the conclusion of the surprisingly professional debate, that the majority of the differences between party strategies are mostly tactical ones. (Miklós Blahó)