Orbán has barely finished watching his team of spectacularly overpaid football imitators losing against Uruguay at the grand opening of Puskás Aréna, Hungary’s new Death Star of a stadium, he already had a great, and totally novel idea. Let’s spend more on football and let’s centralize it further.
Problem is, he had already spent eye-watering sums on his little hobby, out of our pockets. So mfor.hu decided to take a shot at the impossible. No one can tell how many oversized and overpriced stadiums have been built in Hungary under Orbán’s reign, but recently journalists have pried some data out of authorities’ hands and now we have some idea how much is spent on academies and footballers (minus the monster stadiums, no one knows how much those cost).
Turns out, the number is a mind-numbing 2,6 billion euros. (Yes, euros. I didn’t make a conversion mistake with decimal places. It is HUF 791 billion – that’s 791 000 000 000 Hungarian forints.) In 8 years between 2011-18. Out of our pockets.
800 billion in 8 years is 100 billion annually. For comparison that is:
- 25% more that the annual spending on unemployment and job seeking.
- Roughly the amount spent on sick leaves in the entire work force annually.
- 3 times the amount spent on youth, mothers and child protection.
- One third of what’s missing from the healthcare budget every year – just to avoid further deterioration and pay the meager wages without increase.
- The entire annual GDP in 2018 was 42 thousand billion HUF.
Orbán came back into power and his current illiberal reign started in 2010. He had immediately started pouring public money into football, but that was just the beginning. He didn’t waste time and in 2011 he rerouted part of the corporate income tax into ‘spectator sports’. They insisted it was totally not public money, but some unruly court ruled in 2014 that it is. (Wonder why courts are under attack?) But that didn’t change anything.
And all this gut-wrenching waste brought was an ever-more embarrassing football scene, with astronomically paid idiots who trip over a ball, lose against Andorra (and other amateur teams who play football next to their civilian jobs – unthinkable for Hungary’s little national football treasures) and a lot of nationalism.
But the potbellied illiberal is still convinced that he has something to do with sports, so he wants to spend more and plan even harder – the only two policy instinct he has, worthy of any old communist comrade.
And for the record, even if his team became the best in the world, it would be no excuse for starving vital services such as health care, not paying salaries and overtime in law enforcement, letting hospitals rot and try to work without employees or equipment – and no, the comparison is not demagogy. It is spent from the very same pocket (ours) and the lack of above services is killing citizens. It would probably be more obvious is the ruler’s hobby was butterflies or archaeology – why is everyone digging, why is every child trained to dig holes? – but football somehow clouds the mind and blocks rational thinking. Certainly his.
Don’t ever become so exposed to the obsession of just one guy. Autocracy is not a healthy state of mind, folks.