Birthing babies for money is considered a nasty business. Except when the state pays for them because then it’s just glorious policy.
When a politician gets to the point in life when he has too little counterweights and too much power, he usually raises his eyes to history. He either wants to write his little name into the history books or leave his mark on everything. And once you have meddled in the living, schooling, working and economic options of your peasants, what else is left than meddling with their private lives. For Orbán, this moment arrived when he cemented himself in power with another 2/3 supermajority and without any institutional counterweights. So he turned his little attention to breeding his flock.
In his post-election glow he announced to embark upon what he calls “demographic governance”. Since non-Hungarians are not good enough and he made immigration a toxic issue for generations to come, it largely means the breeding of purebred Hungarians by state measures. Which is ironic because that would be the only kind of governance he had done since 2010. Ever since his return to power, every measure his government took was either serving communication or corruption purposes. His neglect for policy went as far as to drop election programs altogether and push xenophobic fear-mongering instead on every possible medium. So it was only after the elections when we learned that we were about to be bred.
To be fair, the breeding effort has already started when the distasteful loans-for-babies program was announced, out of the blue as usual, promising a few thousand euros in heavy-strings-attached subsidies and loans in exchange for a pledge from couples to produce up to three new taxpayers each. The bombshell announcement came after weeks of women-bashing rhetoric, when leading Fidesz politicians kept raising a stakes on who can send women back to the kitchen harder. The whole thing smacked from communist family central planning. And of course, it wasn’t thought through.
For the next couple of weeks they kept changing the conditions of the loans that promised up to 70 thousand euros, for 3 children produced in 10 years. In the meantime, the already overheated property market priced in the new loans and cancelled out any advantage the meager loan would have brought to the unfortunate recipients.
Two days ago the only other form of home saving, the home savings accounts have been abruptly abolished, sending a shock wave through society and leaving aspiring home buyers with only the baby-pledge option. Which is naturally not an option for single or childless people, older humans or housing communities that enjoyed the benefits of such account for decades and built it into their renovation plans. But the government is full of itself.
Since the announcement of the baby-loan 45 thousand new babies have been pledged and 90 thousand families received the loans (existing children were also allowed to be counted in).
The recklessness of these promises is even more obvious when we look at the consequences of not delivering on the pledges.
Couples who fail to deliver the required number of new taxpayers within the allotted time will have to repay the loans and subsidies with penalty rates of up to 5 times the central bank rate.
On top of the family bankruptcies, the failure to deliver on these promises might also bring forth a banking crisis, since the state stands before banks in line to rip the troubled couples apart when something goes wrong, and these people also need hefty mortgages to buy their homes. 70 thousand is peanuts. Families who have already overstretched themselves bringing more children to life than they could have and pledging all sorts of things to both banks and the pushy government will be hard pressed to repay all the loans.
Excuses for not delivering the promised children on time: death or incapacity of one of the parents, still birth (so humane), if the first (two) children were born with disabilities, or if the couple was in an IVF program or there is a medical reason why they cannot have the promised number of kids. One can already see a thriving black market in doctor’s notes building up. Bringing ultrasound images to banks and bureaucrats is already regarded as perfectly normal in this country, just to prove eligibility of various benefits.
In the meantime no word is spoken how the famously low salaries will allow for spending on children amidst galloping housing and fuel costs. Every third Hungarian child lives in poverty and the top poverty risk in Hungary is having a child.