How the nationalist Viktor Orban brought the Hungarian economy under control

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

In 2004, at the time of its entry into the European Union, economists nevertheless praised its strength “Hungarian miracle”. After the fall of the Soviet bloc, Budapest privatized its economic fabric and pensions at all costs, opened its banks to external capital and multiplied the measures to attract foreign direct investment, which represented up to … 51, 8% of the gross domestic product (GDP), in 2007. A world record.

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This opening up hugely stimulated growth in the early 2000s, but turned against the country with the 2008 financial crisis, when Westerners suddenly withdrew their money. Thousands of Hungarians indebted to Swiss francs are then ruined by the collapse of their currency. “Mr. Orban was elected with a promise to make foreign investors pay the cost of the crisis, not citizensrecalls 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 powers and undermined the rule of law. “

Contradiction

At first he drove out the IMF and its austerity cures. His government has launched an unorthodox policy of supporting the economy. He helps families to repay loans, restructures public debt, now mostly held in guilders rather than foreign currencies.

It also reduces over-reliance on outside investment – the share of foreign capital in banks has therefore dropped from more than 85% to 55% in 2015 – by continuing to roll out the red carpet for carmakers who create jobs. , that they do not need to be asked to set up their own factories in the country: Audi, BMW, Opel … “It unfolds both a neoliberal discourse with some 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 in contradiction. If he wages a violent fight against immigration, he has nevertheless accepted, in September 2021, a decree authorizing the temporary arrival of “Guest workers”in particular from Indonesia and Vietnam, to make up for the lack of manpower.

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