How nationalist Viktor Orban brought Hungary’s economy under his control

May 2010. When Viktor Orban becomes Prime Minister of Hungary, following the victory of his party, Fidesz, in the general elections in April, the country is on the brink of suffocation. Les prix s’envolent, la monnaie – le forint – s’effondre, l’economie a plongé de 6.8% l’année précédente, déclenchant l’envolée du chômage, et le Fonds monétaire international (FMI) est appelé à l ‘Aid…

However, in 2004, at the time of its entry into the European Union, economists praised the strength of the “Hungarian Miracle”. After the fall of the Soviet bloc, Budapest privatized its economic fabric and its pensions at all costs, opened its banks to foreign capital and multiplied measures to attract foreign direct investment, which accounted for up to… 51.8% of gross domestic product (GDP). ), in 2007. A world record.

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This openness greatly boosted growth in the early 2000s, but it backfired on the country with the 2008 financial crisis, when Westerners suddenly withdrew their money. Thousands of Hungarians indebted in Swiss francs are then ruined by the collapse of their currency. “Mr. Orban was elected on a promise to make the cost of the crisis borne by foreign investors, not citizens.remembers the Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev. Correcting the excesses of privatization was a good idea. But to make sure he stayed in his place, he gradually concentrated all the powers and undid the rule of law. »

Contradiction

At first, he kicked out the IMF and its austerity cures. His government launched an unorthodox policy of supporting the economy. It helps households pay off their loans, it restructures public debt, which is now held mainly in forints rather than foreign currency.

In addition, it reduces excessive reliance on foreign investment – ​​the share of foreign capital in banks thus fell from more than 85% to 55% in 2015 – while continuing to roll out the red carpet for job-creating automakers, They don’t need to be asked to set up their factories in the country: Audi, BMW, Opel… “It displays both a neoliberal discourse with certain European investors and a nationalist discourse internally”, analyzes Dominik Owczarek of the Institute of Public Affairs, an independent think tank, in Warsaw.

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And Mr. Orban is not a contradiction. If he leads a violent fight against immigration, he nevertheless accepted, in September 2021, a decree authorizing the temporary arrival of “guest workers”particularly from Indonesia and Vietnam, to compensate for the lack of manpower.

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