The Hungarian state does take care of itself, that’s for sure. To the tune of 8.2% of GDP, to be precise.
When it comes to guessing which bureaucracy is the most expensive and self-loving, France always jumps to mind. And it might be true in the sense of total spending on bureaucrats, but Hungary beats France by a mile if we compare spending on the state as a percentage of GDP.
Actually, France is below the EU-average in this metric.
According to the official explanation, the 2019 growth came from shoveling even more money into state companies and raising salaries in the public sector like there’s no tomorrow. Well, certain parts of it. Actual people working for the public like police and healthcare can not get higher salaries – ministry bureaucrats, an avalanche of state secretaries, and of course the button-pushing MPs had massive salary increases in this period. (The alleged increase of doctors’ salaries that will slowly kick in in exchange for signing a military contract and abandoning their public employee status is yet to be seen in 2022 – that is not in the 2019 statistics.)
Compare that with Orbán’s gloating that he wants a small and cheap state. For a decade, I have been shut down abroad when mentioning that he is not actually doing that. He may have reduced the number of ministries to the point where no one really knows what field belongs where – like, who is the finance minister? Who is responsible for healthcare? (The answer to the ladder seems to be the defence ministry.) But the number of loyalists working at ministries has skyrocketed. Just take the insane amount of state secretaries.
Another field that Hungary has a tragic lead in Europe is how much Orbán spends on “the economy”. Which is money directed at loyalists and their companies. You or I could never become deserving of that largesse, just like we could never win EU-money for our projects. All of it is reserved to loyalists and it is a political imperative that non-loyalists are the enemy and they must not eat. Not even a little. Not even for show. Not even by accident. Opposition must not get anything, on any level. No public sectro jobs, no jobs at companies that get public money, no EU-funds, no pandemic aid.
And that is not just educated guesswork, it is the proud and explicit policy of Orbánism. So the above mentioned state largesse on bureaucracy is not just the usual inefficiency issue. It is not just Max Weber in action, where the bureaucrats always make more work for themselves. It is a political agenda, demonstrating itself – in this case – in state spending on itself.
This also adds to a sick mentality where state jobs are the juicy ones and the private sector is the hated foster child in the family. The most ambitious young people who decide not to emigrate turn to the state for getting rich quickly. Not just to public sector jobs, but to public sector corruption opportunities. Even the much-touted startup mentality only exist on the level of rhetoric here. Startup money also tends to go to the younger members of loyalists families – presumably because the youngsters understand this computer thing and you can use them to hang the startup capital on them. It would look odd if it was also won by the nation’s gas repairman.