There is ongoing interest in the wage support programme; as many as 125,853 persons have applied together with their employers, the Parliamentary and Strategic State Secretary of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology said at the Tuesday online press conference of the Operational Group responsible for the containment of the coronavirus epidemic.

Tamás Schanda said those may avail themselves of this option whose working hours have been reduced by their employers since the state of danger was declared. However, thanks to the wage support, workers receive a salary not only for their reduced working hours; they have access to additional funds which could amount to more than HUF 100,000 a month.

There is also steady interest in the special research, development and innovation pay support which has been requested so far for 10,335 engineers and researchers, he added.

The State Secretary highlighted in justification of the need for these measures that while thanks to the timely decisions of the Operational Group and the government and the disciplined and law-abiding conduct of members of the public, Hungary “has not succumbed to” the coronavirus epidemic and life is beginning to restart, “we have come to a temporary halt” and this is also reflected in the latest economic indicators.

Mr Schanda said they will not depart from the policy pursued in the past ten years; they continue to regard jobs as the basis of the economy. If there are jobs, we have everything: Parents are able to set a good example for their children, they can achieve results every day, and they can also appreciate that they contribute to the strengthening of the country, he said.

He stressed that in the situation that had developed due to the epidemic, they were doing everything they could to protect jobs. At the same time, they will create at least as many jobs as will have been destroyed by the virus.

He highlighted that another programme of the economy protection action plan, the job creation wage support scheme had been launched last week. As part of this, they are helping approximately 70,000 registered job-seekers to find employment from an allocation worth HUF 80 billion. The support could amount to as much as HUF 200,000 per worker and per month; the number of applicants is rising significantly day after day.

He said they are also assisting businesses with a call for proposals worth HUF 50 billion aimed at the enhancement of efficiency and the retention of jobs. The call for proposals which is designed to boost employment and efficiency was released a few days ago.

The government is not changing its earlier goals and the tried and tested directions. Therefore, this arrangement, too, is Hungarian, high-tech and green. It is designed to help mostly Hungarian businesses to access cutting-edge technologies, and to make their operations more energy-efficient and greener, he said.

The State Secretary observed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, too, is playing an enormous role in the protection of jobs. So far, 625 applications have been received in response to the programme supporting the enhancement of competitiveness, thereby protecting 111,000 jobs.

As part of the economy protection action plan, they are now providing some kind of assistance or support for more than 1 million persons, he stressed.

Mr Schanda said parallel with the protection of jobs, they also want to protect Hungarian-owned businesses; these businesses are priority partners in the reinforcement of the country’s economy. Therefore, we cannot allow foreign companies to acquire stakes in these businesses, taking advantage of the crisis. This is not only an economic issue, but also an issue of sovereignty, he stated. In his words, “if we allow foreigners to acquire stakes in these businesses, we may well find that the interests of the Hungarian economy and the Hungarian people will become a secondary consideration, and making a quick and easy profit will become the number one priority”.

Naturally, foreign owners can also be good owners, and so the government cannot and indeed should not prohibit them from acquiring stakes in Hungarian businesses from time to time, he said. He indicated that it is in light of this consideration that they have drafted a government decree which allows foreign actors to acquire stakes in Hungarian strategic businesses up to the end of 2020 only with the minister’s permission.

In practice, this means that in some sectors transactions of certain types and sizes will have to be reported to the Minister for Innovation and Technology who is also responsible for the internal economy. The minister has 45 days to decide whether to acknowledge or to prohibit the transaction, he added. According to his information, the decree relates to important sectors such as the chemical industry, health care, the defence industry and the food industry.

Mr Schanda spoke about the work of Hungarian researchers and engineers in words of praise. He said they proved also now, at the time of the coronavirus epidemic that they are among the best in the world. He highlighted that as we have a high level of expertise and adequate infrastructure at our disposal, they have made available an allocation worth HUF 3 billion to finance projects related to the virus and the epidemic.

The goal is to make Hungary self-sufficient in the production of the equipment necessary for the containment effort, to have adequate feedback systems which provide accurate information about the rate of infection among the population and the line of the spread of the virus, and to prepare ourselves for similar situations in the future, the State Secretary said.