Orbán is resorting to something he had never done before.
Apart from dealing astrological sums to his cronies and loyalists Orbán is emptying the budget in yet another way: by taking on record debt, cutting taxes, returning last years’ taxes to parents and good old-fashioned handouts to pensioners.
During previous elections it used to be free potatoes.
Before the April 2022 elections it is:
- 13th month pension to be sent out in February
- One-off, lump sum pension bonus of HUF 80000 (sent in November)
- Covid-induced general debt moratorium extended until next election
- Fuel price control (that also served to play fuel stations in to the hands of a crony and squeeze out foreign players)
- Utility price control (since 2014) remains in place despite the price increase
- After a decade of frozen wages 15+15% wage increase promised to academics
- 21% to nurses
- 10% to teachers
- 20% to nursery workers, etc.
Orbán even advertises this on his own, personal Facebook that is usually reserved to ooze statesmanship and being above politics.
- Police is weirdly left out (for now) despite their dire situation. (UPDATE December 2021 – 10% promised to police)
- Minimal wage by 20% to 550 euros (before taxes)
- Families with children get their 2021 income taxes back in a lump sum before the 2022 elections. (They don’t even have to apply for it!)
- People under 25 won’t have to pay income taxes.
- Free money for home owners to renovate – causing price hikes and more price controls following free money to buy (also causing price hikes and not much more).
- Tax cuts to companies
- UPDATE Orbán unilaterally announces that mortgage interest rates will remain frozen at their October 2021 levels until after the elections (to temporarily detach 400k mortgage payers from the inevitable interest rate hikes, until after the elections). They will first pay a lower installment in February.
- UPDATE 20 Dec 2021: Orbán announces that soldiers and policemen get a one-off payment worth 6 months of their salaries (only if they get vaccinated) in February 2022 – timed before the elections.
- UPDATE Christmas Eve 2021: Orbán personally announced that non-cash vouchers can be used to buy food, not just overpriced and unnecessary domestic holidays, from February 2022 until after the elections (Read more)
(The list is updated as new spending is announced and is definitely still missing elements. These are just the most written-about and spectacular spending items.)
The spending bonanza hit a hole on the budget and brought on record-setting new debt but it is dismissed as economic stimulus for those who want to believe it. All this during massively overheating inflation that can be barely concealed by the official inflation statistics.
It is now a race against time for Orbán. Does the next economic downturn catch up with him before the election – or can he deny it long enough to win four more years of immunity and enrichment opportunities?
Apart from buying votes the spending is also useful to enrich cronies even more and to empty the budget and tie the hands of whoever follows Orbán in power.
It will also raise the question – can welfare populism save an ailing autocrat, or does the thawing bring forth more discontent? If fear and dependence are not sufficient any more and he needs to entice voters as well as intimidate them- does it mean the end of an era?